Prince William Sound, a Sound you won’t forget – Valdez pt. 2

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Prince William Sound is ringed by the coastal mountains of the Chugach Range, and situated in the midst of the Chugach National Forest.  Within its 2,700 miles of coastline lies Valdez at the north shore edge.  When hearing reference to Prince William Sound, the Exxon Valdez oil spill disaster most likely comes to mind.  Today the port waters have recovered and wildlife flourishes.

Valdez,AK

That’s Val DEEZ

Prince William Sound

Shimmering beauty

The Sound is a premier fishing destination for Salmon and Halibut, and in fact the Women’s Silver Salmon Derby was underway during our visit.  The winner was a tourist from Anderson, California, and she took home $1,000 for her 15.22-pound Silver Salmon!

One way to enjoy and be amazed by the Sound’s shimmering beauty is to take a guided tour.  We can’t seem to get enough of glaciers, so we booked the Meares Glacier excursion. It wasn’t so much the destination we were seeking, but rather being able to smell the sea air and get another vantage point for viewing mountains, glaciers and wildlife.

Valdez, Alaska

Leaving Valdez

Otters in Alaska

A group of otters is called a “raft”. This is probably the largest raft of otters we have seen, and it’s a good sign that the otter population is doing well after almost being wiped out by hunters years ago

Since we had been on a similar cruise at Kenai Fjords National Park, we can’t help but compare the calving activity of the glaciers.  We were fortunate to see plenty of calving of the Aialik Glacier during our Kenai Fjords tour.  However, the wildlife that make Prince William Sound their home are abundant and the scenery is without equal.  It was quite a challenge going through hundreds of pictures to pick the right ones – they were all beautiful!

Sealed with a kiss

Talk about a wet kiss!

Humpback Whale

A rare “fluke shot” of a Humpback Whale’s tail as it does a “deep dive”, which means it will be submerged for at least several minutes.

Seal near Meares Glacier

You talking’ to me?

Meares Glacier

We were interested to learn that fairly large icebergs completely melt in only a day or two. With that in mind you get an idea of how fast the glacier is dropping all of this ice into the ocean

Female Harbor Seals resting on ice

Female Harbor Seals resting on ice

A closer look at the Kittiwakes

A closer look at the Kittiwakes

Steller Sea Lions

Steller Sea Lions

Columbia Glacie

Columbia Glacier is the second-largest tidewater glacier in America. It has been retreating since 1980 and in 2002 it had retreated 7.5 miles

Meares glacier

The Meares glacier is about 6 miles long and 1 mile wide where it meets the water. The face is approximately 250 feet high

Black -Legged Kittiwakes hanging out on ice

Black -Legged Kittiwakes hanging out on ice

For those who are fans of the documentary/Real TV series “Deadliest Catch“, two of the fishing vessels featured there – the Kodiak and the Cornelia Marie – were docked at the Sound for the summer.  It’s off-season for the Alaskan crab fishermen, and during this time they are contracted to buy fish from small operations and take them to commercial plants for processing.

Valdez, Alaska

Cornelia Marie, one of the fishing vessels featured on “Deadliest Catch”

In our opinion, a visit to Alaska just isn’t complete without a trip to Valdez to enjoy the gorgeous calm waters and wildlife of Prince William Sound!



 

Water music – Seward adventure part 2

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One morning in Seward we woke up with a surprise, the sun showed up!  When we reserved for the Kenai Fjords National Park tour, we were expecting rain and so were happy the sun chose to come out this day.  We took a 7-hour cruise tour of the Kenai Fjords National Park and on board was a knowledgeable national park ranger to point out interesting wildlife and answer questions from the passengers.  This tour also offered a prime rib and salmon lunch buffet that is actually very good.

Tour route

Seward Harbor

Clear sunny day at the Seward Harbor

We  saw  a lot of water wildlife on this tour, including humpback whales, sea otters, puffins, eagles and a bunch of dall porpoises that gave us a great show right next to the boat.

Raft of Sea Otters

Raft of Sea Otters

Otter

Isn’t the otter cute?

humpback whale

Our first humpback whale sighting

humpback whale

Here is a rare photo of a humpback whale fluke breeching the water. You normally only see this when the whale is doing a deep dive.

Steller Seal lions

Steller Seal lions

Steller Seal lions

Cute Steller sea lion

Dall Porpoises

Dall Porpoises

Puffins

Puffins

Kittiwakes

Kittiwakes, called as such due to their rhythmic calls of their names: kitty-weeeeik…it was really fun to listen.  Kittiwake is just a fancy name for a seagull…

Chiswell Islands

Chiswell Islands, where we heard harmonious singing from the sea birds

We learned how the fjords have been created as two tectonic plates collide and sea water fills in the glacier-carved valleys.  We really enjoyed hearing and watching the Holgate and Aialik glaciers calving, as we were able to get very close with the small boat and then sit there and experience them.  Very cool!

The many glaciers in the Kenai Fjords Park are spawn from  the Harding Icefield, named after Pres Harding. This icefield  is the largest icefield contained entirely within the United States and one of the reasons the park was established. Both Holgate and Aialik glaciers that we approached  are tidewater glaciers terminating at sea level and calves directly into the ocean.

Holgate Glacier

Holgate Glacier, has a face of 400 to 600 ft

Icebergs

Icebergs

Kayakers

Kayakers

Harbor Seals

Harbor Seals basking in the sun

Aialik Glacier

Aialik Glacier, where we saw and heard a lot of calvings, awesome!

Aialik Glacier

Calving at Aialik Glacier

Aialik Glacier

For perspective, check how small the tour boat is.

Aialik Glacie

Colorful kayakers with Aialik Glacier as the background

Although there were some swells as we crossed into the Gulf of Alaska (where Deadly Catch is filmed), it was a great tour and a great day.  We heard different voices from the moaning of the Murres, to the grumble of Puffins and chirping of the Gull chicks.  Not to be outdone, we heard the growling of the Steller sea lions and the slap of flukes of the Humpback whales and splashes of the playful Dall porpoises.

We recommend this tour (Major Tour Co)to everyone going to this part of Alaska!