Thursday, June 3, 2010

Surprise, Surprise (Glacier that is)

Life is a Surprise and I was prompted to titled this post Surprise, since on Tuesday a number of us from work visited the Surprise Glacier in Prince William Sound. Mind you this was a training trip for work, to be able to call a Cruise on the Majestic Prince William Sound work is probably baffling to most. Departing Seward in the Early morning in route to Whittier just a hop, skip and a jump from Anchorage. Here you go through a 2.5 mile tunnel that opens and closes every fifteen minutes, and historically has even had cave In's. A bit mind boggling to even fathom going through such a thing. In some ways it reminded me of a hike I did when I worked in Glacier National Park called the Ptarmigan Tunnel. Entering on one side a very specific type of environment and literally coming through and seeing the light of a different world. Our driver was very nervous, as he kept telling us that our allot ed time for getting there was too short and we probably would not make the 10:30 tunnel opening.,, I had no time for such pessimism and kept visualizing us gliding through the tunnel and cruising through the sound. Lo and behold we made it as I had seen.. and the day was amazing. Though the sound has less Wildlife than where I am in Kenai Fjords, the scenery was much more dramatic. Cruising through here is so placid, and the water is like a jewel that glistens in the dim light. The entire way you cruise through small passages and are surrounded by dense Rainforest's of Hemlock and Sitka Spruce. Along the way we passed a few Sea Otter Rafts where the cuddly little critters were hurdled together in groups of 4 or more on icebergs floating in the sound. Here in Prince William Sound the Sea Otter's are much more skittish and as soon as they hear the boat they dive down. We tried to be quiet when we neared them, and we did have a couple of good sightings. We also got very lucky through one of the passages and spotted a Humpback Whale very close to the shoreline who graced us with visions of her fluke and made a few appearances.

The Wilderness Explorer as the journey is named is definitely a pristine wilderness. We reached our destination of Surprise Glacier after about 4 hours of cruising. Several Tidewater glaciers are in this area with Surprise being the largest. We stayed there for awhile waiting for the glacier to calve, listening to the eminent sounds of thunder coming from it's core. The day was a memorable one and I still find it hard to believe I was paid to go on this trip. I feel pretty grateful for this job and the perks I have.

After the day was over, in a last minute decision I decided to go to Anchorage for the night and have a taste of big city for a bit. The ride to Anchorage from Whittier follows the Turnagin Arm which extends out from Cook Inlet. It was a time of day and the light was reflecting through the clouds and it was a beautiful ride into the city. Turnagin Arm has two low tides a day, and it was a low tide when we passed by. I had been hoping for a high tide since this is when the Beluga head out from Cook Inlet down the arm to follow the traveling herring. I love them and had really hoped to catch a glimpse, hopefully someday I will.

After spending the night in Anchorage, going out for a meal and running errands the following morning, I took an afternoon shuttle back down to Seward. This was the first time ever that I had been on this road when the sun was shining and there was blue skies. Mostly it has been great, so I felt pretty lucky to see it in a totally different light. The scenery once again was magical and I kept snapping away on my camera. The tide was still a bit low and was slowly starting it's journey back out. The driver even mentioned the possibility of seeing Belugas which would of been awesome. It would of been perfect as the sea was so jewel like and calm and it would of been easy to spot them. Just to let you know the Cook Inlet sub species of Belugas are on the endangered list after a long battle with federal bureaucracy they won their rightful spot on the list. Their population has dwindled dramatically since the 70's even when sustenance hunting was halted. Once numbering in the thousands, they are down to barely 300. Their waters need to be cleaned up some of the officials are still fighting the battle of wanting to drill in the inlet... thankfully this has not yet happened.

So this was another beautiful weekend for me. Gorgeous scenery and the blessings of being in a magical place.

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