Prince William Sound
Last summer I wrote an article about the 26 Glacier Cruise in Prince William Sound we had taken my parents and nephew on. But there was so much to see and share, I wasn’t able to show the amazing sea-life that graces these pristine waters. So better late than never, here’s a few of my favorite shots.
Sea-Life Putting on a Show
I wish one could say that when you enter wild places, that you are always guaranteed to see all the species, all the time. That’s just simply not the case. Our wild world doesn’t work around anyone’s tour schedules.
Rangers and guides try to explain this, but there always seem to be a few ornery folks who don’t get the message. Pity…when outdoors, you will always find what you are looking for. Maybe not what you hoped to see, but there’s so much more beyond the expected. It’s a reflection of attitude.
But I’ve digressed. Sometimes, nature pulls out all of the stops and creates a perfect bonanza of weather, scenery, and wildlife/sealife. Such was the case on our sea-quest this particular day.
It started in Whittier with 70 degree temps and very few clouds in the sky. If you’re familiar with coastal Alaska, you know that’s a rarity indeed. Right out of the gates we caught a glimpse of a marine mammal I’ve been trying to chase down for years: a Dall’s Porpoise. And of course I was filling up my water bottle, and didn’t have my camera. But it set the tone for the trip.
We quickly encountered Stellar Sea Lions sunning themselves on a rocky island. Most seemed fairly content to sunbathe peacefully, but there’s always that one bunch that seems to want to ruin everyone elses beach day!
As we continued on, weaving through islands, a big Stellar’s made quite the splash beating the crap out of a salmon he had caught. Not quite sure if he was playing with his food, or if it was part of the tenderizing process. Whatever the case, he chowed it down.
As always, the only way I could really describe scenery in Alaska was ‘Jaw Dropping’. There just aren’t enough superlatives. Waterfalls from melt off and glaciers wound their way all through the hills. There’s was good chance to see bald eagles and kittiwakes (which we saw), or maybe even a bear (we didn’t see one on that trip, but I’ve seen black and brown bears on shore before).
Surprise Glacier shown bright with beautiful blue hues in the sunlight. If you look closely, you can see ribbons of dark blue, compressed ice…and on the ice floating in front of the glacier, Harbor Seals were laying on the growlers.
On this day, otter rafts were abundant. (Otter rafts are groups of multiple otters floating together. It makes sense, but just in case you didn’t know!)
Yes, they are adorable, ok…they probably might be the cutest thing EVER! My favorite to watch were the mothers with their babies laying across their stomachs. The tenderness exhibited by mommas in the wild sometimes brings me to tears. That’s the beauty of really watching nature, and not just checking it off the “to see” list. I could watch a group of otters for hours.
Interesting note, they were hunted relentlessly for their fir by Russian fur traders. Thankfully, they are now protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Although native Alaskans may still trap them for subsistence living, and sell fir products.
A highlight on any site seeing water trip are Orcas. And we saw plenty of them on this particular cruise. In fact we spent much of the day watching them. My favorite picture I took is the one at the top of the post of a mother and calf interacting.
While I LOVE seeing them, I have to admit I have mixed feelings about these largest of the dolphin family. Just like wolves on land, they are pack hunters, and their methods can be brutal. It’s difficult to watch documentaries that show them hunting humpback whale calves, seals or Dall’s porpoises, but I have to remind myself that it’s the circle of life in nature.
And basically, I’m just turning into a big bawl baby as I get older and will cry over TV commercials.
Life on the Ice
Because Prince William Sound has so many glaciers that are frequently calving, there are various bergs seen floating around. One day I’ll do a post on properly classifying floating burgs, but suffice to say, the chunks of ice provide escape from the above and a resting place for birds and mammals. Harbor seals especially took advantage of that chilly perch. And they are cute and chubby just laying there in the sun.
Most of the commercial trips will stop and grab some ice to make drinks and handle for those who would like to say they’ve drank from and touched glacial ice. We enjoyed a virgin Margarita ourselves just to claim we had done so.
The journey back to Whittier finished off with more Orca sitings, and reflection on how exceptional the sealife viewing had been that day. I was so happy that my parents were both able to go and see the scenes that we saw.
Interestingly, we took my sister and her family on the exact same trip this year. Once again, the weather was beautiful, however, no Orcas or Stellar’s Sea Lions. Like I said, the luck of the draw. But I believe they’d say that no matter what you see in Prince William Sound, the memories of vistas alone will last a life-time. Sealife? That’s the frosting on the cake.