Seward and Kenai Fjords National Park

The town of Seward sits on Resurrection Bay, right at the end of the Seward Highway. Cruise ships and bulk coal ships dock here and the Alaskan Railway then connects them to Anchorage around 190 kms to the north.

I had a great trip doing a cruise through the Kenai Fjord National Park, watching wildlife and seeing some of the fantastic scenery that is only accessible by boat. The National Park covers an area of 2,711.33 square kilometres and includes most of the Harding Icefield and its fifteen glaciers.

We left Seward at 8.00 am and it only took about 20 minutes before we saw our first whale (a Humpback). Later in the morning, we stopped in a pod of about five Humpbacks watching them swim as they fed on krill and fish which is plentiful in the 300 metres deep water. We could see where the whales would surface as a flock of gulls would fly to where they expected the whale to appear so they could collect whatever scraps were left over from its dive. Sometimes, the whales would swim at the surface for a while and at other times they would show its tails as they started a long and deep dive.

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The biggest glacier in the NP is the Bear Glacier which is 25 kms long with a well defined medial moraine. We could only see it from a distance as the terminal moraine is 5 kms from the foot of the glacier and blocks a lot of the visibility from the sea. There is a large freshwater lake between the glacier and the sea. It has retreated significantly over the last few decades – perhaps as much as 4 kilometres.if you have glacier viewing on your bucket list, now is the time to get on your bike and start pedalling before they disappear further and lose their grandeur.

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We did visit the Holgate Glacier which flows much more steeply down to the sea. We sat off from it for about twenty minutes and watched it calf. This glacier is on the Holgate Arm of Aialik Bay. It’s both a tidewater and mountain glacier and is currently still holding much of its length.  It isn’t nearly as grand as some of the glaciers that I have seen the Arctic and Antarctica, but we are nowhere near those extremes of latitude.

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We saw a good lot of wildlife – various types of seal and birds as well as the whales. My favourite was the sea otter which I hadn’t ever seen before. This marine mammal is native to the coasts of the northern Pacific Ocean. Adults weigh between 14 and 45 kg. This makes them the largest members of the weasel family. They dive to the sea floor to forage – mostly for marine invertebrates such as sea urchins, molluscs, crustaceans, and some species of fish. It is unique in that it uses tools – rocks to dislodge prey and to open shells.  They lie on their back to do this and to eat.

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Alaskan scenery is all that I expected. We had some wonderful views during the day. Even the mountains behind the town of Seward itself provide a very grand backdrop.

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Whilst we saw lots of birds on this trip, it was hard to see them up close and they flew too fast to photograph. Seward has a very nice Sealife Centre where it is possible to get close to some of the marine life of the area. I enjoyed an opportunity to see some off the birds up close. It also has some displays of the life cycle of the salmon  and halibut which are the basis of the important fishing industry in this area

I have never seen puffins up close and they had two species here in their giant aviary. The crested puffin and the horned puffin. One of the most tractive birds was the male King Eider Duck. I certainly wasn’t the only person in the aviary with a long telephoto lens! As an added bonus, these birds are currently in their much brighter breeding plumage.

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2 comments

  1. Intriguing birds Bruce ! Stay safe JB

  2. Pamela Saunders · ·

    Wonderful adventures and photos Bruce.You seem to be in photography heaven.