Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Alaska's Glacier Country: Kenai Peninsula and Resurrection Bay

Two years ago this month I took a trip to Alaska. When my son Alastair got a job there, my other son Colin and I decided to take up his offer to visit him. Colin flew there from his home in Charleston, SC, and I from mine in London. 

It was the longest journey I have ever made. After more than 24 hours of flying and airport delays, I arrived in Anchorage, where I met up with Colin and his friend Morgan.

The following day we made our way to Seward, a small but bustling tourist destination on the Kenai Peninsula, fronting the deep waters of Resurrection Bay. The drive was our introduction to a fabulous landscape. 

The photo below is of Beluga Point, south of Anchorage. The tracks are those of the Alaska Railroad, which runs from Seward all the way to Fairbanks.

We spent the afternoon and evening exploring Seward and recovering from our travels. The next day we took a long boat tour of Kenai Fjords National Park, which included breakfast and lunch. We were blessed with fine sunny weather and a high about 60F (16C). 

We were to soon find out that the air on Resurrection Bay and vicinity could be quite a bit colder, especially when the boat was moving fast. Below is a picture of our tour boat, Alaska Explorer -- not taken by me, obviously.

Cold or not, we and many others braved the bow of the boat much of the time, hoping to glimpse as much wildlife as possible. We had hardly left the dock when we were greeted by sea otters, including this little guy enjoying the fine day.

The mist was rising from the surrounding mountains as we went along, making them look like erupting volcanoes. Crew members told us they had never seen anything like it before.

About the same time, we were passing Bear Glacier, one of forty glaciers that descend from the vast Harding Ice Field. The Harding is more than 700 square miles (777 sq. km) in size. Alaska, by the way, is home to 15 percent of the world's glaciers. 

Soon, we were passing harbor seals lolling on the shore, and Steller's Sea Lions on rocky islands. We saw the spouts of fin whales, but they eluded our attempts to get closer. Fin whales are the second largest animals on earth, next to blue whales. 

We also saw lots of sea birds, including horned and tufted puffins, murres, auklets, and shearwaters. And some eagles.

Soon, we passed Aialik Bay and entered Harris Bay, home of several large glaciers, noably Northwestern Glacier, shown in the last four photos.

On our return trip we ran into a pod of orcas, often called killer whales, an unfortunate name.  We also glimpsed a humpback whale, which waved to us with his tail as it dove. 

After a long and eventful day, we returned to port in Seward, and a well earned seafood dinner. 

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