On the Road Adventures

Saturday, July 11, 2009

July 10 - Kenai Fjords National Park

We booked a boat trip to the Kenai Fjords National Park for today. The sky was grey from a thick marine layer overhead, but the forecast said it wouldn’t rain, so we dressed in layers and took all the cameras and binoculars. The boat was a catamaran called Glacier Explorer, and the Captain was magic at finding wildlife. Just outside the harbor, a pod of Dall porpoises came to play tag. They look like miniature orcas and they were so fast there wasn’t a prayer of getting any pictures, so I just enjoyed watching them. Then we pulled into a cove where there were sea otters, some sleeping and two having a little snack of starfish. Then we headed back out into the Gulf of Alaska, where the show of the day awaited us. Two humpback whales, a mama and baby, were in the mood to play for us, and they stayed right beside the boat and entertained us with leaps and splashes and fin waving for a very long time.

The next leg of the trip was out in the Gulf and around a point to a fjord with glaciers. It got a little choppy during that bit, but once we turned up into the fjord, the water was like glass again. We lingered at a Steller sea lion colony, and then went on to the face of the glacier.

Wow! Portage glacier was an ice cube compared to this one – a mile wide and 400’ high and it looked like it came out of the clouds like a great white carpet leading to heaven. The Captain got everyone to be quiet and for 20 minutes we floated there a few hundred feet from the face of this immense wall of ice and listened to the water fizzing from the ancient air escaping from the little chunks of ice in the water, and the growling and creaking and shotgun bangs from the ice face as it shifted. Off to one side we could see a group of kayakers. I can only imagine how intense an experience this glacier would be from their viewpoint – it was pretty impressive from ours.

On the cruise back in, we saw more sea lions, another humpback (who was much grumpier and declined to play), more Dall porpoises zipping back and forth, a colony of black-legged kittiwakes, gulls, cormorants and puffins.

We had seen puffins in the water or flying, pumping their wings almost like hummingbirds. Flying is a struggle for them, they are so fat and round. When they come out of their nesting areas they just leap off the cliff, and plummet down until their frantic flapping finally gets them enough lift that they can kind of control their landing in the water.

The day certainly got a Gold Star on our calendars!

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