Journals, Photos and Videos

Kenai Fjord Nat'l Park

We had an incredible day on Tuesday. We decided to go on a day long (7 1/2hrs) rather than half day (3 1/2hrs) Kenai Fjord Tour. There are several tour operators to choose from and we chose Major Marine over Kenai Fjords Tours. Maureen had waited on some ladies at Wildman’s and then we bumped into them when eating out at the Kingfisher that evening. Seems that one of the ladies was some from Seward and so we asked for her recommendation.
She suggested Major Marine because she felt that it was a better boating experience with smaller boats and the Kenai Fjord Tour boats are with huge ship which accommodate many hundreds of people. Check out the Kenai Fjord video.

As you can imagine, when something is spotted in the water everyone wants to go to the railing to see the animal and on the large tours it can be quite a challenge. We are early in the tourist season and a Tuesday is not the busiest day. Therefore, on a boat capable of carrying 200 people, we were accompanied by 30 others. This gave us unlimited access to the railings and to the most incredible sights and therefore to mind-blowing array of pictures and videos.

We left Seward shortly after 11:45 AM. The weather was mostly perfect (although a bit brisk - which you should expect when you’re going to view glaciers). There was haze from water vapor in the distance but, when considering the number of rainy or overcast days we have had lately, it was great weather for a tour.

We had Captain Jay
and Ranger Chad
to keep us informed about sights, history and environment as well as directing our attention to the animals and points of interest. Captain Jay has a good number of years of sailing under his belt and Ranger Chad has been an Interpreter for the National Park Service for 20+ years. They and the rest of the crew were outstanding. Small of the girls working on the boat was from Colorado Springs. We have met so many people from Colorado it is no longer a surprise when we ask someone where they live!

By the time we had completed the 7 1/2 hour tour we had seen sea otters, eagles, dolphins, a black bear, harbor seals, sea lions, orcas (killer whales), humpback whales, puffins, an innumerable list of other sea birds, 2 glaciers, some minor caving of ice from the glacier and unmatchable scenery. Additionally, we were able to hear the groaning of the glacier as it slowly moves from the Harding Ice Fields to the sea.

As you will see from the photographs and the videos, it was an unforgettable experience.

Shortly after working our way out of the Seward Harbor, we encountered a couple of sea otters lounging on their backs enjoying the ice cold water and the rays of the sun. Maureen wasn’t able to match the shot she got in 2004 with the mother and baby otter. This time there it was just couple of self-centered creatures relaxing and not posing. We slowed down a bit to gawk and then we continued on our way.

The next mammals we encounter was a school of Dall dolphins. These guys got into our wake and swam beside us for a while on both sides of the boat before getting bored.
They are no longer intimidated by the boats as they have seen so many and enjoy swimming along with them. This sight is always exhilarating and a real treat.
Now it was time to see a black bear, of course. The ever vigilant captain spotted a black bear on the shore. He steered us as close as reasonable and the bear stood and faced us before wandering across a snow field. It was quite a site.

This was followed by a pod of orcas (aka killer whales). By he time we were back in Seward, we saw 3 pods, each increasingly impressive.

As we passed glaciers and snow-capped mountains, we passed humpback whales, sea lions and harbor seals. People like to kayak in this area but they intimidate the animals as they appear to be predators. The most ecologically conscious people are the most feared as they have no motor and appear, as mentioned, to be predators. As you might expect, standing on deck to effectively film the experience was brisk at best.

But finally our meal was ready. We had a salmon and prime rib buffet while sitting in a beautiful to eliminate the ocean swells and pounding waves. When we arrived at Aialik Glacier in the Petersen Lagoon, the waters were calm and strewn with ice chunks. Several of these chunks had harbor seals basking on them.

The captain brought the boat to a stop and cut the engines. We sat there for a 1/2 hour and watched and listened. We saw some minor calving and heard some significant roars. It was a very impressive experience.

We then headed to Chiswell Islands to see some of the unique sea bird population. The area is teeming with a wide variety if birds that included the precious puffins and many others. From there we headed back to Seward after a long and fruitful voyage. The scenery continued to amaze and we enjoyed the 1 hour trip back to the Seward harbor.