Thursday, 19 May 2016

Alaskan Journal: Part 4

A change of pace today as we took a 6 hour National Park boat trip out of Seward. The route was down through Resurrection Bay, out into a little of the Gulf of Alaska and then up the Aialik Bay to the Aialik Glacier at the top of it. Then back, of course, but with a slightly different course. We expected wildlife, glaciers, mountains and seascapes and it delivered on all of these. An excellent day out with a very professional organisation.

What did we see? Orca (Killer Whale), Humpback Whale and Northern Whale. Harbour seal, Steller sea lions and sea otters. Puffins (Horned and Tufted), Cormorants (Pelagic and Red Faced), Bald Eagle, Common Murre, Artic Tern, Black-Legged Kittiwake .. and many others.

The photographs will give a flavour of the day but there were times when I watched rather than snapped. Some things were just good to miss.

The view from our queue to get on our boat.
A colony of Steller Sea Lions. For an animal with flippers, they are doing a good job of hanging on the wave-swept rock. These are an endangered species, apparently, and are nocturnal hunters.
Pelagic Comorants. They look like 'our' cormorants but have red at the base of their beaks.
We passed lots of colonies of various cliff dwelling sea birds. These are Arctic Terns and certainly like being close to each other.
Lots of sightings of a pod of Killer Whales but they were not that easy to photograph. Either they were there and gone before I was camera ready or I was camera ready but elected to watch them rather than fiddle around with the focus.
But this is the best shot I got of a female Killer Whale as she came up from under the boat.
It was even more difficult to get a shot of a Humpback Whale and this is as good as they got. The whales refused to breach and only surfaced briefly.
The Aialik Glacier which, like the Exit Glacier, flows from the Harding Icefield. With the boat's engines switched off, we could hear the creaks and groans of the ice as it gradually sloughed off the body of the glacier. At its edge the glacier was about 150 feet tall and 1/2 wide.
Double ditto as we started our return journey. Have I mentioned how cold it was near the glacier?
Horned Puffins taking flight from a cliff. They are very determined fliers and take the straightest line from A to B.
Horned Puffin which differs from 'our' puffin by nesting in crevices rather than in a burrow and by having a much heavier beak.
A rather elderly sea otter as evidenced by his grey fur. We saw lots of sea otters, either individually or in 'rafts' of maybe 10 -15. It's strange to recall that their near extinction was one of the reasons why Russia sold Alaska to the USA. No sea otters = no fur trade = no need to keep Alaska.
A female Harbour Seal with her pup. Not too many of these were around and those that we did see slid into the water pretty quickly.
Sitting on a pontoon on our return to Seward harbour was a Bald Eagle. Hopefully we'll see a few more of these at our next stopping place, Homer.

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