What an incredible day! We had a nice lazy morning in Seward as we ate a big homemade breakfast and slept in. Then it was off to the marina for our 6 hour wildlife cruise! Cole and Celia went on this cruise last week with Celia's family so they opted to stay on shore. They visited the Alaska SeaLife Center. Then they explored a trail along a stream to see a few eagles.
The rest of us boarded the Aialic ship for our cruise. The ship consisted of indoor and outdoor seating so we snagged a table on the first deck and then headed upstairs to the fresh air. The captain was also our naturalist and historian. As we headed out of the marina, he started with some history about Seward and the devastating earthquake and tsunamis of 1964. Then we were off through Resurrection Bay to the Kenai Fjords National Park.
Our first stop was Emerald Cove to see a variety of bird species. There were several types of gulls, puffins, a few eagles and the northern hemisphere's closest relative to a penguin, the Common Murre. From there, we moved on to various other coves and areas in the bay to see sea lions and sea otters. The highlight came as we were crossing the bay when we spotted a small pod of orcas. As we watched these animals, including several babies, we realized we were in the midst of several small family pods joining together to form a large pod for mating. Playing with the resident orcas were several Dall's Porpoises. We had great views of the whales as several were very close to the boat. Keely took hundreds of pictures so it will be interesting to look at the pictures and see if we can find anything more than water!
As we continued on, we came across another large pod. Each pod has several identifying characteristics and markings. With so many pods joining together, our captain radioed back to several orca researchers who also came out to observe the migration. What an incredible experience! We were already 4 hours into our 6 hour cruise and we weren't even half way done! We picked up speed and headed to the furthest point, Aialic Glacier, the namesake of our boat.
As we neared the glacier, the temperature dropped and standing outside became increasingly chilly. We started seeing ice floating in the ocean. We got to within a quarter mile of the glacier but since it is a mile and a half wide, it felt much closer. Playing in the icy water were a few sea otters. As we viewed and photographed the glacier, we could hear it calving - chunks of ice and snow falling off the glacier into the ocean. It was quite the sight! As we were turning around, we saw a black bear across the bay, looking for food along the shore.
On the way back to Seward, we came across another large pod of orcas which we, of course, photographed once more. We also saw a few humpback whales and we were able to get a few good pictures of their tails as they did deep dives. We had a perfect day for a cruise. The sun was out and we had great views of the mountains and wildlife. When we got back to Seward, we enjoyed dinner at Ray's with a great view of the harbor. Then we walked around town for a bit, enjoying the nice trails along the shore and scoping out the various camper setups (most of the shoreline in Seward is public park and campground so there were hundreds of campers). It was a great day in Alaska!