Smile, you're on Pelicam

Posted: Sunday, May 14, 2000

Phil Miller keeps his camera trained on Pelican, at least when the weather's nice.

He sets the Quickcam up outside his window, connected to an Internet Web site,, so people around the world can check out the action on the boardwalk or harbor in Pelican in real time.

The camera was programmed to take photos every two minutes, but Miller is considering switching to every two hours or so.

``The weather changes, but nothing else in the town really does,'' 17-year-old Miller said. Sometimes Pelicam-watchers can see a boat going by the fishing town about 75 miles west of Juneau.

The Pelicam Web site gets about 15 visitors every day. Some are regulars, such as a Sitka woman who had visited Pelican during a totem-raising last spring.

``She likes the place a lot and when I told her I had a camera pointed out over the town, she loved it, as long as she could see the town.''

The Pelican Visitor Center Web site also links browsers to Pelicam.

Miller originally set up the camera because his many Internet friends around the world didn't believe he lived in such a tiny town.

``I tell them it's small,'' Miller said. ``I say `There's 100 people here.' They say `You left a zero off.' I said `No, I didn't. It's 100 people.' They didn't believe me.''

So he hooked up the camera to prove it. He was surprised by all the interest in the camera, especially from some of the pilots who started checking it before they flew.

``It's the ideal place for a camera. You can see the entire town and the weather,'' said Miller, who sometimes points the camera down Lisianski Inlet as well.

But Pelicam is not completely reliable. When it rains or snows, Miller has to bring the camera inside. He's considered getting an outdoor camera or building it a shelter, and at one time Alaska Seaplane Services offered to pay for it. Until that happens, Pelicam is a fair-weather site.

Pelicam is only one of Miller's five Web sites, which include a shopping portal,, that he started in October. He said he took to the Internet because it was more exciting than life in his small town.

``I've got more friends on the Internet than people in this town,'' Miller said. ``This town's got 120 people and I've got 400 friends on the Internet.''

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