Calving it up in Kenai Fjords

Trip Start Jan 10, 2008
Trip End Oct 03, 2008

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Flag of United States  , Alaska
Friday, July 25, 2008

Alaska... America's final frontier... surely one of the wildest and most unpredictable places on earth.

Here we were in the middle of summer, battling through ferocious winds and constant rain while trying to take in Alaska's stunning variety of natural attractions.

Despite the troubles with the weather, it was still possible to fully appreciate all Alaska had to offer... from calving glaciers to an abundance of wildlife to towering mountains to gargantuan ice fields to beautiful snaking rivers to bear-infested islands to thriving fishing ports to stunning fjords to vast stretches of untouched wilderness and much more... Alaska is a world of endless natural beauty and endless fascinating places to explore.

After our grizzly week down in Katmai, K and I jetted back into Anchorage with the plan of taking stock of everything we'd seen and relaxing for a bit before heading down south to Seward. It was there that we hoped to take one of the highly-regarded wildlife and glacier cruises out to Kenai Fjords National Park.

An infuriating delay of almost 6 hours waiting for our luggage to join us after the flight from King Salmon plus constant heavy rain made it a pretty easy decision for us to chill out in Anchorage in the hope the bad weather might blow over in a day or two.

So while the weather didn't entirely let up, after two nights in Anchorage, we headed off down the highway towards Seward.

The 3-hour drive is a spectacular journey alongside towering snow-capped peaks, past beautiful lakes and marshland... there was the impressive Alaskan railway following us along the way, making for some nice pictures of the distinctive yellow railcars, no doubt transporting all the cruise ship tourists between their boat and various attractions around the state.

While the skies were cloudy on the day of our Kenai cruise, we could count ourselves extremely lucky that the seas were relatively calm and that the rain had at last subsided.

As we cruised out into Resurrection Bay, we passed more snow-capped mountains, many shrouded in fog, giving them a spectacular, almost mythical appearance.

It wasn't long until we had our first wildlife encounter, watching a sea otter dart across the bay in determined fashion and then about another 20 minutes further along, we came across two beautiful humpback whales... a mother and calf casually cruising through the waters, rising above the surface for sprays of breath every few minutes.

Out into the Gulf of Alaska, the swells picked up a little, making the ride a bit bumpy, but not enough to make anyone sick and within 20 minutes or so, we were back into another protected bay where we immediately got sight of two monumental glaciers that dominated the mountainside off in the distance.

As we cruised ever closer, it became apparent how vast the glaciers actually were.

Spanning what seemed to be well over a hundred metres in width and smothering the mountain behind it.... this enormous volume of slow-moving ice plunged into the frigid waters where constant calving resulted in the waters in front of it being littered with small icebergs and boulders of ice.

Our boat negotiated its way past the most hazardous chunks until we were barely 50 or 100 metres away from the face of this incredible glacier. From this vantage point, we got to experience the amazing sights and sounds of huge sections of the glacier face calving off into the can't imagine hearing piercing gun-shot-like cracking sounds and then avalanche-like sounds as monstrous sections of glacier cracked off and crashed into the water.

We'd had a similar experience watching the calving of the monstrous Puerto Moreno Glacier in southern Chile back in January but it was absolutely no less of a thrill to be here again watching a similar scene... if anything, the glacier here was calving even more often.

After a good 30 minutes or so watching the calving glacier, our cruise headed back out of the bay, our captain setting course for a series of islands where we would hopefully encounter some more wildlife.

Well, we wouldn't be disappointed.

We would come across adorable colonies of native puffins with their brightly coloured beaks and various other species of bird, colonies of sea lions lazing about on sheer rock faces, we had a few encounters with dalls porpoise as they sped through the waters alongside our boat... but the real treat of the day was still to come... as we cruised back towards the Gulf of Alaska, our captain spotted another cruise boat in the distance which had encountered two killer whales, or orcas, that were swimming through the area.

While I wasn't fast enough to get the photos, we did manage to see these majestic whales porpoising (where they charge through and just above the water, like a dolphin) before eventually stopping for a spot of fishing... rising occasionally as they do for breaths of air.

It really was a fantastic cruise and a fantastic day sightseeing in some of Alaska's most picturesque waters.

On the way back to Anchorage the following day, we took a short pitstop at the brilliant Wildlife Conservation Centre where sick and injured animals are cared for. We're not big fans of seeing animals behind fences and in cages but in this circumstance, we were delighted to visit and contribute towards its future by buying some souvenirs.
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ericamum on

I love this entry,your grand descriptions and beautiful photos are gorgeous. I'm in awe of the most incredible glaciers, I wish I could have been with you. I'm sure being there would have been 100 times more fantastic, wow, I'm so jealous.
Enjoy SA and take care.
Love Ericamum

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