Sunday, August 22, 2010

Cruising Kenai Fjords

Two days in a row without rain was, apparently, too much to ask. It began raining once again shortly after leaving Homer on Sunday morning. We drove about 180 miles, north then east, to the seaside town of Seward on the northeast side of the Kenai Peninsula. The skies cleared a little towards evening, as it had done the previous few days, but the rain continued.

And yet another rainy day dawned on Monday (August 16th). We drove the short distance to the Seward Small Boat Harbor - on the agenda for the day was a cruise through the Kenai Fjords and a portion of the Kenai Fjords National Park, which is mostly inaccessible by land.

We occasionally moved in close to shore looking for otters, seals, whales and puffins.

The fog and clouds provided an eery aspect to the landscape.

For me, the highlight of the cruise was seeing Aialik Glacier, the largest tidewater glacier in Alaska. It is a mile wide and extends four miles back to the Harding Ice Fields. At least I think that is what the captain of our cruise ship said. He was providing so much information that it was not easily absorbed if you weren't paying close attention, which I wasn't always doing! At this point we were still quite a ways away. The top of the glacier was hidden by the clouds and fog and chunks of ice were not yet visible in the water.

This little boat was about half a mile away from the glacier, along it's left side.

The Kenai Star was similar to the cruise ship Tanaina, which we were on. The smaller boat on the right is the same one as in the previous photo only it has now moved across to the right side of the glacier.

Towards the end of our short stay, the fog lifted briefly so that we could actually see the top of the glacier. Quite a few chunks of ice fell off (calved) while we were there. The sound when they broke away was awesome, rather like really loud, close thunderclaps. Not rolling thunder, but quick, short bursts. And it was pure luck if you got a good shot of the glacier calving (I didn't).

The Kenai Star is pulling away from the glacier. It is difficult to comprehend the massiveness of this glacier, even with boats in the picture.

Despite the rain and cloudy, foggy, overcast skies, the cruise was quite enjoyable. We saw several Sea Otters leisurely floating on the surface of the water, as well as some Harbor Seals and Steller Sea Lions. Several Humpback Whales were sighted and I saw one of them spouting water and got a glimpse of its body and tail fin as it was diving below the surface. There was also a mountain goat high up on a mountainside. Pictures were taken but most of them are either out of focus or so far away that the subject can't be distinguished from the water! Weather conditions were horrible!

Steller Sea Lions resting on the rocks.

We saw this black bear on the beach, not far from where a group of campers had their tents set up. They hadn't yet noticed the bear and one of the campers was waving back at us while we were trying to point out the bear to him.

The camper didn't have a clue there was any danger until one of the other campers finally saw the bear when it crossed over the top of the rocks. Luckily, for the campers, it headed straight into the forest.

Yes, the weather was awful (Have I said that before?), but our table-mates were a nice couple from Massachusetts and we had a good time talking with them and sharing adventures during the 8.5 hour cruise. The tour included a dinner of grilled Salmon and Prime Rib at Fox Island, and that was pretty good too!

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