Friday, August 2, 2013

We have been in Seward for a week. When we first got here Jim, Jimmy and Sherry visited Exit Glacier. This glacier is called a drive up glacier (sort of like Mickey D’s.) It’s the only car accessible glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park. Exit Glacier is part of the Harding Ice Field, which measures 1,100 square miles. A ½ mile somewhat strenuous walk brings you to the terminus of the glacier. The photos do not do the glacier justice. It’s HUGE, towering over visitors as it grinds, cracks and booms its way down the valley. The Harding Ice Field receives 400 inches of snow a year, but some of its glaciers, like Exit Glacier are still receding. And no, global warming is not always the culprit. Apparently, glaciers are very complex and what affects one might not affect another. 



Seward is home base for exploring Kenai Fjords National Park which boasts abundant wildlife, alpine and tidewater glaciers and breathtaking scenery. Sherry and I took the Kenai Fjords Northwestern Glacier 9 hour cruise to visit the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge in the Gulf of Alaska, home to teeming seabird rookeries and numerous glaciers. The park contains the Harding Ice Field, which contributes 40 glaciers that spill down the mountains into the fjords and valleys of the Kenai Peninsula.
The cruise was pretty cool. Dall Porpoise flew beneath our bow, zig zagging back and forth racing the boat.
 There were loads of Hump Back Whales doing Pec Slaps, Tail Slaps, Blows, Fluke Up Dives and one Breach

We saw lots of Stellar Sea Lions hauled out on the rocky shore noisily sunning themselves. The Captain told us that Bulls stake out a prime piece of property up high on the shore above the water line. For the cows who will calve, the higher the better. If the pups roll into the sea they are done for. 

Around the Chiswell Islands we saw many birds; Murres, Puffins, Auklets, Murrelets, Gulls, Cormorants, Shearwaters, etc. It was a birders Paradise!

Deep in the Northwestern Fjord we saw Harbor Seals warming themselves on the ice flows safe from Sea Lions and Orcas. Does that make sense to you, lying on ice to get warm?


Sailing through Harris Bay and Northwestern Fjord we passed Eastern Glacier, Red Stone Glacier, Western Glacier and Sunlight Glacier before finally arriving at Northwestern Glacier. We stop a safe ½ mile away from the glacier. Even from ½ a mile away the glacier is IMMENSE and noisy. You can hear ice grinding over rock, ice cracking and ice falling into the water with a sound like artillery shelling. We were all holding our breath hoping for a BIG CHUNK of ice to split off and calve into the bay. But no such luck.
Lots of "little" chunks fall off, but nothing spectacular. The splash in the photo is 40 feet high. Eventually we turned for home and as we did you could hear the floating ice in Northwestern Fjord banging into the hull of the ship. I am thinking it’s a good thing I paid attention to the demonstration on how to find and put on your Personal Flotation Device.  After all, it’s probably better to freeze to death than drown (or be eaten by an Orca.)

On the return trip we saw Moon Jelly Fish swimming together in HUGE numbers. This behavior is called a Smack, Swarm or Bloom of Jelly Fish. There are so many Jelly Fish they actually change the color of the water and make it glow. A Smack is pretty cool when you consider that Jelly Fish can’t actually swim. They have some propulsion but are really at the mercy of currents to move them around. Makes you wonder how they know to meet up. Do they Twitter Flash Mob invites?
Behind our campground is Bear Creek. It has a privately owned fish weir and hatchery located about a ¼ mile upstream from us. Right now they are catching the salmon, removing the roe and then offering the salmon to folks so the fish doesn’t go to waste. Here are some pics of pink salmon swimming below the hatchery. We were told black and brown bears usually visit at night so Sherry and I went down and waited in the car for a glimpse of the bears (and waited and waited.) I was hoping Sherry would get one last look at bears before they headed home, but no such luck. Oh well, that’s the way it is in Alaska. Sometimes you see them and sometimes you don't.

From the campground it’s a short drive into Seward. Along the way we spotted a Bald Eagle nest close to the road. Imagine our surprise when we saw three fledglings stand up! They are almost ready to fly. We keep seeing them hopping in the air, spreading their wings, testing their buoyancy as the wind gives them a little lift. It won’t be long before they leave the nest. Their poor parents will continue to feed the full grown hungry chicks for a while longer. Then they’ll learn to hunt and be on their own by winter. Here's Mom with two of the fledglings.
Took Jimmy and Sherry to the airport in Anchorage. They went home to 100 degree weather (YUCK.) Glad we get to stay here for a while longer.

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