I’d have posted this yesterday, but we didn’t get back to our room until 9:30 PM and I was really exhausted.
We took a tour yesterday – a 6 hour cruise into the Kenai Fjords National Park. It was done by a company called Kenai Fjords Tours and left from the small boat harbor, perhaps a block from our hotel. Our tour, called the National Park Cruise, left port at 3 PM. It included dinner and was to last 6 hours.
The captain was also our tour guide. The boat was far from full since we were going out on the Wednesday before the July 4th holiday weekend. From our perspective, that was a good thing. As we sailed out of the harbor, the captain gave us some historical information on Seward, Alaska. We had not known about the strategic part played by Seward in WW II or about the fort built above it. We sailed through Resurrection Bay, heading for for the Harding Gateway – the entrance to the Bay from the Gulf of Alaska in the North Pacific Ocean. The scenery was stunning and the captain pointed out places of interest as we passed.
Then we found him/her! A northern Pacific Humpback Whale. We have seen humpbacks in New England waters when we have taken whale watch tours, but they are always amazing. Such huge animals. In the Pacific, as we learned, they spend the summer in the north, feeding almost non-stop. They winter in the waters that surround the Hawaiian Islands or Baja California. When they are in the south, they have their calves. They fast the whole time they are in southern waters because there is so little food for them in those waters. No wonder they gorge themselves when they come north, where food is abundant!
We made a stop at Fox Island in Resurrection Bay to pick up our food. No – not nuts and berries. The cruise company owns property on the island and runs a little resort there, complete with chefs who cook all the meals. So we put into dock to pick up our dinners, then sailed away – the stop took perhaps 2 minutes.
Back in the Bay, we passed Rugged Island and made our way into the Gulf of Alaska. As we moved out of the Bay, we encountered clouds that made it gray but were high enough that they didn’t interfere with wildlife viewing. (It had been sunny in the harbor.) It was very cold outside the cabin, but since it’s also very difficult to use the camera with gloves on, I ended up with REALLY cold hands. I took so many pictures, I wore down the camera batteries!
Dinner was served in the upper and lower cabins. Salad (iceburg lettuce, really), rice pilaf, half an ear of corn, a piece of tender, well-cooked prime rib (had to be with the plastic knife and fork), 2 small slices of salmon filet, roll with butter and lemonade or ice water. You could purchase wine or beer. My husband added an Alaska Beer Amber, which was quite good.
While cruising, we saw many birds, sea lions and whales. I’ll give you a list of everything I recall at the end of this post. The end of our journey away from Seward was the Holgate Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park. The captain told us he would shut down a quarter mile out from the glacier, but it seemed closer to us. As we drifted there, we listened to the noise coming from the glacier. Because the glacier moves, you hear it as it creeps forward and overcomes snags. It isn’t just a bit of crackling, like your bowl of Rice Krispies. The sounds are more like cracks of thunder or the report of guns. Loud. Sudden and unexpected. Occasionally pieces of glacier would come loose and fall into the water. This ancient piece of ice silenced all on board in wonder.
We hated to leave, but we were running late – not that anyone really cared. We got in about 9:15 PM although the sun was still high enough to be seen over the mountains. The fresh air and cold had been envigorating, the wildlife plentiful and the food was good.
So — what did we see? Birds included (but weren’t limited to) Double Crested Cormorants, Bald Eagles, Black Oystercatchers, Common Murres, Horned Puffins, Sooty Shearwaters, Surf Scoters and Glaucous-Winged Gulls. Animals included Stellar Sea Lions, Humpback Whales and Dall Porpoises. Sadly for me, no Orcas. I really had hoped to see one.
A word or two about the porpoises and whales. Dall Porpoises look like mini-Orcas and are actually related to them. They are some of the fastest animals in the water and like to play in the boat wake. They were a lot of fun.
We didn’t just see a few whales. We actually saw 19 humpbacks!!! Some were feeding, others playing. It was astounding.
What a great tour! We highly recommend it if you are ever in Seward.