August 11, 2011 Seward, Alaska - Pt. 2
Glacier and Wildlife Watching Cruise - Seward Alaska
My second adventure in Seward was a morning glacier and wildlife watching cruise. The boat left the dock at 8:00am and with about 50-75 people aboard. I, of course, perched myself at the very front of the boat with both cameras in hand ready for action. We started to pull out of the harbor and I see a huge cruise ship, Radiance of the Seas, docked at the harbor. Many cruise ships dock here in Seward and provide day trips inland.
Even before we left the harbor, we spotted 4 bald eagles! Two of the bald eagles were perched on the breakwall just chilling out. At that point, I knew this was an omen for good things to come!
Of course I did not have to wait long for my first whale sighting, a humpback whale. The captain of the boat seemed to know exactly where the whales were and could even tell how many times it would surface before diving down and showing its tail. He was like the "Whale Whisperer"!
We sailed out of the Seward Harbor into the Pacific Ocean and spotted whale after whale, it was absolutely amazing. At one point we had 2 pairs of mother and baby humpback whales and about 10-15 Dalls Porpoises surrounding the boat. I didn't know where to look; it was sensory overload! Spotting the whales and watching them went on for about 2.5 hours; I had to have watched over 12 humpback whales during that time. Incredible!
After the whale watching we sailed on to the glacier. I spotted the glacier from a few nautical miles away as this thing was HUGE!
The captain navigated the ice field around the end of the glacier. When we finally got close to the glacier I looked up at over 200 feet of ice above me! It was beautiful!
The boat provided lunch and I sat there for a long time under the glacier just mesmerized by its shear size. I was pulled out of my trance by a loud popping and banging sound coming from the glacier. Pieces of the glacier were breaking off and falling into the water. I could not believe how loud the sounds were! Some of the sounds were like a gun or small cannon had been shot off.
The crew brought up pieces of the glacier that had broken off and I was able to hold it while they took my picture. It was very surreal holding a piece of ice that was probably hundreds of years old.
One of the things I noticed while I was sitting there was a rushing of water coming out of the base of the glacier. I had heard about these rivers of water that flow under the glaciers because they actually lessen the friction between the glacier and the mountain and cause the glacier to move downhill faster to where it breaks up and falls into the Ocean.
The site of the glacier was very peaceful (except for the occasional huge noises as the pieces were breaking off) and was an ideal place to go kayaking and as we sailed away from the glacier we passed several kayakers making their way towards the glacier.
The rest of the cruise the captain took us on a marine mammal and bird watching cruise. A few minutes after leaving the glacier I spotted numerous logs on top of the water. When we got close, I noticed them moving and disappearing beneath the surface of the water. They weren't logs, they were sea otters!!! We passed numerous "rafts" of sea otters lying on their backs.
I didn't realize how big the sea otters actually were until I saw them today. Some of the sea otters were almost 5 feet long! I wish I could have watched them longer, but we had a schedule to keep.
A little while later I got to watch stellar seals basking in the sun on an outcropping of rocks. They were so noisy and almost sounded like they were barking at one another. The stellar seals can get to be quite large like the one in the Alaska SeaLife Center that weighed at one point over 2200 pounds! None of the ones I saw today were that large, I would say some of them tipped the scales at a few hundred pounds but not too much larger.
On the cruise I was also able to watch 4 more bald eagles and one juvenile bald eagle still in its nest. The juvenile was hard to see as bald eagles do not get their signature white head until at least 3 years of age.
We also got to see a rookery (nesting colony) of puffins and murres, birds that are sometimes called the penguins of the North (as there are no penguins here in the Arctic). The murres lay their eggs on the rock surfaces and use their bodies to incubate the eggs. The eggs are more of an oblong shape so they roll more in a circle and do not roll off the cliffs as easily.
The final moments of our cruise were the absolute highlight of the day. I noticed another wildlife cruise watching a whale nearby. Our captain directed our boat towards the final way of the day. As I was watching, the whale flew out of the water (or what they call a breach). I had been only hoping beyond hope to see a whale breach and I did! I was not to be disappointed either as the whale breached 2 more times! The last time the whale breached it was no more than 100 feet from our boat and I got a picture of the 20+ ton animal flying out of the water. I was so excited! The cruise lasted 6 hours and was definitely well worth the money. The only bad thing about the cruise, and this is stretching it as a bad thing, was that they were all humpback whales. I was really looking forward to seeing all different types of whales. Overall, the cruise was amazing.
Fact of the Day
Today's Fact of the Day Question: What is the official name for the Northern Lights?
Yesterday's Fact of the Day Answer: What is the state gem?? Hint - can be a girl's name!! Alaska's state gem is Jade
Inuit Word of the Day
Yesterday's Word: qaniq = Mouth Hint: Sometimes you put your foot here - and it's not a good thing (haha)!!! Did you get it right?
Today's word: Namiippunga - Hint: You will probably ask this if you are lost. What is the word of the day?
Please take 2 seconds and reply with your guesses to the fact of the day or Inuit word of the day in the "Ask the Team" section link below:
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