Resurrection Bay and Kenai Fjords Nat'l Park
Aug 30, 2005
|Tuesday, August 30
What a day in Resurrection Bay and the 600,000 acre Kenai Fjords National Park! Leaving Seward harbor on the tour boat, we motored out into the bay just before noon, on another beautiful day. Sun and clouds all day with no rain, and calm seas. The forecast called for 8 foot seas, but luckily they never appeared. We were reminded again, by the ranger, that these days are unusual, seeing that Seward is in a rain forest. Salmon were still jumping in the bay, the last of the fish to spawn. Resurrection Bay, a year-round ice-free harbor, made Seward an important cargo and fishing port as well as a strategic military post during WWII. It was named in 1791 by Russian fur trader and explorer Alexander Baranof. While sailing from Kodiak to Yakkutat, he found unexpected shelter in this bay from a storm, and so named the bay Resurrection because it was the Russian Sunday of the Resurrection (Easter). It, like all fjords, was carved by ice. When the glacier receded and sea levels rose, the u-shaped valley became a steep-sided bay. It is a gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park.
Majestic mountains were on all sides of the boat with ice and snow on some peaks, and in the valleys. Sea otters, bald eagles and a black bear sow and cub were the first wildlife to see, plus the various sea birds. The sow was looking for, and caught a salmon in a creek. The cub was amusing to watch tail behind mom, and then run to catch up. They have a great abundance of black bears in this region.
Once outside the harbor, we were bundled up for the cold, in our coats, hats and even gloves at times. We could have sat inside in the heated dining room, at tables, but no way were Dad/Ed and I going to miss anything out there!
The water depths were 400-500 feet most often. Many Puffins were seen in the water, and in the air occasionally. They become so full of small fish, such as herring, that they cannot fly well until they digest the food. They are extremely agile in the water, diving up to 300 feet. When we were at the Sea Life Center, we watched them in a large water tank, speeding thru the water, using their wings to 'fly under water"as if they were in the air. It was fascinating! The area has 2 species of puffins - the horned and the tufted. Such amusing faces on both species!
Sea birds viewed were murres, pigeon guillemots, kittiwakes, and glaucous gulls. A surprise, even for "Ranger Susie" was the sight of 3 Orca Whales. They are not very often seen in the area, and we were told their numbers are declining, so we felt very fortunate to be amongst them.
Dinner was served at 1:30, an "all you can eat" buffet which consisted of baked salmon, prime rib, rice and beans, and salad. Coffee and tea was available at all times. A bar with cocoa, beer, wine and other liquor was available for a fee.
We passed by small glaciers, with the ranger explaining the various types, and the reason they were formed in that particular way. The Harding Icefield which we passed, is the largest icefield located entirely within the US, and one of the main reasons the park was established. Estimates suggest the icefield receives about 400-600 inches of snow a year.
A enormous Steller sea lion bull was lying on a large rock. An average bull grows to 8 feet long and weighs about 1500 pounds!
Arriving at the awesome Holgate Glacier, which reaches the water, we were truly amazed at its beauty and size. The boat captain shut down the engines, so that we could hear the sounds of the glacier. The ranger described it as "like Rice Krispies - snap, crackle and pop". It surely did, but louder than I expected. Occasionally, a louder crack would occur, and we would see small pieces of the glacier fall into the water. When a large one does this, it is call, "calving". Again, as with much scenery here, the photos will never show the beauty.
Female Stellar sea lions (the western population is classified as endangered), and their pups lounged on the rocks, and a Humped Back Whale was feeding by the Chiswell Islands, part of the Chiswell National wildlife Refuge. The roar of the lions and the pups could be heard from some distance.
Dessert was served on the return trip - cheesecake, brownies, and carrot cake with coffee and tea. We watched Sea Otters swimming and fishing as we neared Resurrection Bay again at 7:00 PM. The otters are great fun to watch, especially when they are lying on their back, holding and eating their food. We call them "cute" all the time, but really the otter is about 70 pounds and reaches five feet in length! A great and informative trip!
The office of the Major Marine Tours advertised that they had free wireless internet. After a quick snack in the camper, we drove the truck to the office. The parking spot available was too far from the office, so we sat on a picnic table near-by, in the center of Seward. We had been told that we must be about 30 yards from the office. The wireless internet worked well, and I managed to send most of the past journal pages. I was working on adding photos, but the battery was low on the computer. I will send more later, as we have good digitals of the remainder of the boat trip with Jens, and of the halibut fishing trip. Good night.