Thursday, August 12, 2010

Sacred Waters Of Kenai Fjords

A fair bit of time has past since my last post, mostly I have been busy working, then on my time off I go out on the boats and have not been pouring much energy into writing lately. As much as I enjoy it, sometimes I just prefer to be still and reflect.

My summer here in Seward is slowly coming to a close and I am taking full advantage of my time off and just enjoying the beautiful surroundings. The ocean here is teeming with so many wonderful things, and the diversity of life is incredible that I just want to jump in and embrace every moment of my time off. Yesterday could not of been a more amazing day out on the waters. The day began with two Sea Otters lazily floating around in the bay enjoying their feast of some tasty crustacean. I adore these guys and the fact they have bounced back from near extinction here in Alaska is remarkable. During the days of Russian Influence, the fur traders literally took thousands and nobody thought they would recover from this. Yet they have and that is something we need to be grateful for. As we headed out further into the bay and then into the chilly waters of the Gulf of Alaska we encountered a group of Dalls Porpoise, the smaller black and white cousins to our larger friends the Orca. Dalls are very social Porpoises and they often just love to ride the bows of boats. This group however was in feeding mode so we decided to leave them alone. Soon after that on the Northern side of Cheval Island one of the islands near the entrance to Aialik Bay we spotted a Mother Humpback Cow and her Calf. We stayed with them for quite awhile while they fed and stayed closed to the surface. The Echo from their blows was mesmerizing and I just enjoyed listening to them. After we left the Humpbacks and continued our journey towards Granite Pass and Harris Bay, we spotted a pod of Orcas on the outside of Cheval Island. Mostly they were porpoising which is a funny term considering they are the largest member of the Dolphin family and not a porpoise, yet that is the term that is used when they are only jumping out of the water a bit and traveling. I was excited when I spotted a newborn calf which still showed it's fetal fode and the orangie color of his/her blubber indicating it was a newborn. The calf actually was quite exuberant and did a breach for us leaping out of the water. I quietly observed and opted out of any attempted photographing. They are just to difficult to photograph anyway. We stayed with the Orcas for quite some time,yet we still had to make into Harris Bay to get to the Northwest Glacier before lunch which we did successfully. When we arrived at the glacier we encountered more ice than I have seen all summer so obviously the glacier had been quite active during the night yet it still put on a show for us and did some big time calving. After our stay we continued on into Cataract Cove which is a popular spot teeming with several waterfalls and an abundance of Lion's Head jellyfish in the water. The waterfalls are so refreshing to stay with for awhile and just stare at the beauty which we did. All in all the day was truly spectacular so far and continued to be that way throughout the afternoon.

After lunch and our time with the glacier we headed west and into the Chiswell Islands. These islands are not part of the Kenai Fjords National Park, yet are part of the Alaskan Maritime Wildlife Refuge. A heaven for many pelagic seabirds and also the location of a Steller Sea Lion rookery. Today the air at Big Hive Island was extremely active with Puffins everywhere. I have never seen so many flying and looking like little bees in the sky with their stubby wings, hence the name Hive Island. Today we were able to spot also some of the Kittiwakes Chicks and a few Horned Puffins in their little cliff burrows who more shy than their tufted puffin cousins. I feel pretty blessed to be able to go out on our boats regularly to be able to see this. After spending some quality time with our winged friends, we continued our journey towards home via the Gulf of Alaska. We were lucky for a relatively calm day on the seas so it made it easy for viewing today. Not too long after we left the Chiswells I noticed some very tall spouts coming out in the distance. Could it be for the second lucky week in a row the Second Largest animal on the planet, the Fin Whale. The Captain headed in their direction, yet Fin whales are definitely a challenge to watch, it is more like Whale Waiting and you need patience. Fin Whale down time can be up to 45 minutes so we didn't hold our breath (no pun intended) for a closer viewing. However, we got lucky and soon after that we noticed a Mother and Calf right next to us. Wow so incredibly huge it was a very special sighting for all and I am happy everyone got to see that. The day just couldn't of been better. I have had two weeks in a row with some amazing time out there and feel very lucky. Anyway, I will do my best to be more up to date with postings, only a month and half more to go and I will let you know what is next when it gets closer. Stayed tune for more to come form South Central Alaska.

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