Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Lady Ice, a revisit to the Northwest Fjord

By now I am sure everyone knows one of my favorite things to do on my time off is go out on one of our Wildlife Cruise trips. Last week I revisited my favorite place in the Kenai Fjords, The Northwest Glacier. The trip takes you 150 miles round trip from Seward out Resurrection Bay into the gulf of Alaska, around the Cape Aialik to granite Pass and Harris Bay. This area is one of amazing beauty, carved out by glaciers millions of years ago you feel yourself stepping onto another planet at times. All of the glaciers in Kenai Fjords descend down from the Harding Icefield, one of the largest icefields in the world, since I do not yet have a photo of the icefield I will have to find one that really shows the vast somewhat endless and immense stretch of ice anywhere.

Once again, captain Bob was at the helm and I really enjoy his trips. His narration is easy to understand and he is really passionate about what he does. We were also very lucky to encounter an incredibly calm day on the water, I barely even realized we had gone around the cape, which has a conversion and the water can go off in many different directions. Today however it was like glass. One of the sweet features of this area is that there are multiple tidewater glaciers in the fjord. Unlike the other trips which go to one glacier, usually the Aialik, the largest one in the park. Here you have several, and also hanging glaciers which appear to cling to dear life over the tops of the cliffs. At the entrance to the Northwest Glacier, Harbor Seals spend their summer here hauled out with their pups on icebergs. Here they are free from danger and predators do not come up this channel due to lack of other food source. So, they are very shy of boats and usually dive into the water if they sense you are too close. I still managed to capture a couple of photos that were decent. We spent time observing the glacier calve a bit, then we headed out to do some more exploring. We pulled up into Cataract Cove which has an amazing amount of waterfalls that cascade down the cliffs like something out of a fairy tale novel. Bob did a Pierette or 360 so everyone had their video settings on their cameras so we could get a panorama, he also did this at the glacier. It was very magical the whole experience.

By now the sun was really beginning to reveal itself and the day was gorgeous. We still had a few hours to go, so with the calm seas we headed out to the Chiswell Islands which are part of the Alaska Maritime Wildlife Refuge. Here Pelagic Birds number over the thousands, and my little black and white friends, the puffins were everywhere.
After our tour around the Islands, we went a bit further out and to our amazement we spotted a group of several Fin Whales spread out on the east side of the islands. My first time seeing these amazing giants, the second largest mammal on this earth. Wow what an experience. They are not fond of boats and are much shyer than Humpbacks, so mostly you see them spouting, however as we spent several minutes in the area hoping for a closer look they seemed to be spreading out more. Also, they move very quickly and be gone quicker than the eye can spot them. We were about to give up, when suddenly one popped up pretty close to the boat, that was a thrill and I captured a pretty good photo. Anyway, the day really did turn out amazing and now with our weather turning to drippy droppy everyday, I feel pretty lucky that we had such awesome weather. So another amazing day on the chilly waters of Kenai fjords is memorable. Photo of harding icefield borrowed from stock photo online.. all other photos are mine...

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