Day Six: The Northwestern Fjord Tour

July 2, 2008 - Seward, Alaska, United States

We signed up for a 9.5 hour cruise around the Kenai Fjords National Park.  We can thank Jimmy Carter for this gem as he set aside the area to be preserved for our enjoyment.  Our little boat, the Chugach, stopped at Fox Island where we did a drop off, pick up.  During NWF trip.jpgThe boat was pretty full by the time we were really out of Resurrection Bay.  It was a beautiful sunny day!  In fact, we heard later that on this very day Anchorage and scored the first temperature in the 70s.  Bill and I spent the majority of the day on deck at the bow.  There were times when it was just frigid but we did our best to tough it out.  We had not arrived in time to access the “good seats” in the front of the boat with 3 sides open to breeze-protecting windows.  What really amazed both of us, was the number of people in those seats who were sleeping every time we looked.  The best I could figure was perhaps they had O.D-ed on motion sickness medicine because they were certainly without much motion!NW F Tour.jpg

Our first excitement of the day was announced by the captain, “Thar she blows!”  Sure enough we had encountered a humpback whale.  This was something I’d hoped to see but is certainly not a guarantee.  Like so many of adventures thus far, it’s almost surreal to see the sites I’ve only seen on television before.  I reminded myself to smell the clear ocean breeze, to feel it on my face, to listen to the whale “blowing”.  Yep.  It’s real.  Amazing.  By the time we actually reached the Northwestern Fjord itself, we had enjoyed watching 5 different whales.Waving Good-by.jpg  Three of which included a baby, mom, and what our captain called an “escort”.  The escort may or may not be related to the other two.  By the time we arrived back in Seward we had actually seen 9 – 10 whales.  Whoa.  Kelliam on NWF tour.jpg

We passed by a several small groups of Stellar Sea Lions.  At one point a large male on the rocks decided to bellow out his opinions for everyone to hear.  When we reached the Northwestern Glacier there was a little harbor seal swimming about there as well. Stellar SeaLions.jpg The glacier itself has receded tremendously; about 7 miles in the past 100 years.  The captain killed the motor and we hunkered down, hoping to witness a major calving (chunk of ice falling from the glacier’s face).  He also told us that it was more important to constantly scanned for calving rather than waiting for the sound because it does take sound some time to travel.

It was really cold there.  Even with the sun there’s something about being surround by enormous chunks of ice that is reminiscent of a large refrigerator.  We were not fortune to see any major cracking but did see a few ice waterfalls cascading down the mountains.  The ice waterfalls look like regular waterfalls but if you look closely you realize that its just small marbles or chunks of ice that have come loose and are traveling downward.  I must say the small amounts of glacier we saw breaking off where not that impressive.  What was impressive was the noise the glacier made. NWFjord Glacier.jpg Even when we could see nothing coming apart, the glacier talked the whole time we were there.  As the ice shifts and loosens, there are loud cracking noises, kind of like when bowling balls hit the pins; or when someone breaks the rack in a game of pool. 

We cruised up into a little cove as we headed back to Seward.  Our captain is apparently quite adept at piloting his ship.  We cruised up close enough to the falls that people got wet.  And did I mention puffins? puffins on a rock.jpg There were puffins everywhere.  They are a riot to watch because they can barely lift off from the water.  They had stubby little white faces trimmed in orange.  We passed by nesting ground both in rock cracks as well as dirt burrows were the puffins hatch their eggs and raise their young.  If the boat got too close for them, they would just dive under the water.  They are adorable.  If only I could have convinced a few more to pose for pictures.

As we neared Seward, I looked out towards the front side of boat and just as my brain was confirming what I thought I saw, the captain announced, “And what you’ve all been waiting for – Orcas!”  A pod of Orca whales (the “Free Whilly”, black and white member of the porpoise famility) headed right toward our boat.  Orcas 2.jpgThe males have the very large back fin and something about seeing that baby cut through the water toward your boat is just stunning.  Our pod consisted of 4 members although the males were the easiest to see.

We had left the harbor around 9:30 a.m. and we arrived back to the dock at 6:00 p.m.  We hiked back to the luxury accommodations at the American Legion before heading down to the Alaskan SeaView in to try out the internet there.  I had no success trying to update the travel blog because the speed was just too darn slow.  Greg did however, load me up with a large bear roast to take home.  Of course, it has occurred to me since then that it would have to endure at least 24 hours without refrigeration.  I’ll have to give Bill approaching Seward.jpgthat a iittle more thought.

Seward has a very healthy population of domestic rabbits roaming the streets.  It’s the oddest thing to walk down a sidewalk or look out you window and there’s a lovely butterscotch colored rabbit, or three.  There must be a story about that somewhere.  We did not find out before we left. 

Bill is still under-the-weather and I’m thinking the frigid boat ride was not so good for him.   


Pictures

A glacier NW trip.jpg
Waving Good-by.jpg
During NWF trip.jpg
fishermen in Seward.jpg
 
 

1 Comment

Jessica:
July 7, 2008
Hi Kelly,
I'm enjoy your adventure so much. The pictures are so beautiful; I'm saving some as wallpaper for my computers. I've actually had bear meat before. It was abear roast. I remember the meat was very dark (compared to beef) but it was tender and absolutely delicious. Jessica
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