Thursday, September 09, 2010

Alaska: Day 5 (Kenai Fjords)

In Seward we stayed at the Holiday Inn Express. It was conveniently located and had an okay free breakfast, plus free wifi in the lobby. The internet access was actually quite useful seeing as how T-Mobile seemed very confused as to whether I could do voice/data roaming for free, despite Alaska clearly being domestic. I figured it was safest to use data as little as possible.

Here's the view from the breakfast room at the HIE; it overlooks Seward's Municipal Boat Harbor:

We'd booked a day cruise with Kenai Fjords Tours which didn't start until 11:30am, so we spent part of the morning walking around Seward. Along the way we spotted this bald eagle:

By 11am, they were boarding our boat:

The cruise was six hours long and the boat was surprisingly fast, so we were able to cover a pretty large area. We went to Aialik rather than Holgate Glacier, and we did not stop at Fox Island, but otherwise this map is pretty accurate:

Early on we were mostly cruising around chasing reports of humpback whales, but there wasn't that much to be seen:

It got significantly colder when we neared Aialik Glacier, and we all put on our hats, gloves, and jackets. As we were standing outside along the railing watching the glacier, we heard a frenzied knocking noise. It turned out there were a bunch of older tourists (mostly Japanese and Eastern European) who were sitting inside the cabin, and apparently they were livid that we were obscuring their view. After a short discussion we decided that we were in the right, and stayed there admiring the falling bits of glacier, despite continued protest:

We were quite amused when about twenty minutes later, the captain came on the intercom with an admonition against knocking on windows, "This is a outdoor wildlife tour and the knocking scares away the wildlife. If you would like to see the wildlife you should join us here outdoors." I hope they actually understood him; their English seemed quite poor.

Shortly after leaving the glacier, we encountered a humpback whale. It came to the surface many times, but we only saw its tail once:

We saw otters throughout the cruise, but they are small and hard to photograph. This is the best I could do:

The sea lions did not impress us as much, since we can see them in the Bay Area. They were certainly plentiful, though.

More exciting were the Alaskan sea birds. We spent quite a bit of time trying to get a photo of a swimming puffin, but in the end my best shots were of the puffins clustered together on land:

The cormorants were also fun to watch; they often stand with their wings extended in order to dry their feathers.

As we finished our cruise and got off the boat, we stumbled across some fisherman hanging up their day's catch. I'm not sure, but I think they were selling the fish.

For dinner we grabbed a bite at Terry's Fish and Chips. We were starting to get tired of fried food, and actually spent some time checking out menus of nearby restaurants, but in the end we decided all of the waterfront places were too expensive, and the waiter at Terry's promised that they could grill our fish and shrimp instead of frying it, so we went with that.

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