The rain that began on the afternoon of our last cruise intensified and continued for two more days. During those days, we moved from our inland campground to the water. The ocean is my favorite place in the whole world and with a view framed by snow-capped mountains, it is beautiful rain or shine. And we extended our stay in Seward so we could see more of Kenai Fjords National Park.
We stayed in the Resurrection South RV Parking section of the Waterfront Campground (City of Seward). Read my review of the campground here.
Finally on the third day, the rain stopped. So we went on a short hike to Exit Glacier by the Kenai Fjords National Park Visitor Center. We joined a ranger-led walk to the glacier.
The Harding Icefield receives an average of sixty feet of snowfall every winter. With cool and wet summers, the snow never has a chance to fully melt before winter. The Icefield feeds about 38 glaciers in the park.
As snow on the yet to be formed glaciers is accumulated, air gets compressed out. Over time, the snow becomes nine times denser than ordinary snow, and gravity causes it to flow. Glaciers advance, but also retreat when the weather warms. This process creates valleys and fjords and reshapes the landscape.
The glacier has retreated considerably in the last 100 years, and markers along the way designate the various points that it reached during the different decades. Today, it is roped off from the public as it is unstable, but the trail gets pretty close to it at the end. This was a nice easy hike and very informative.
On a beautiful, cloudless day, we set out on the Viewfinder, owned by Major Marine Tours, and at 58 feet long, the smallest of the boats used by either of the two big wildlife/glacier cruise operators in town. She had been sold out earlier in the week, but we stayed extra days specifically to go out on this smaller boat.
Not surprisingly, as we crossed in front of our oceanfront campground on our way out, we saw more sea otters.
We spotted puffins once again, we never get tired of them. Puffins bodies are adapted to diving, they dive very deep, and “fly” underwater. But they are not very good at flying and their takeoffs from and landings into the water are hilariously awkward.
These were resident orcas, who stay within a particular area and form family groups. These whales normally do not eat small mammals such as seals, but instead feed on salmon. They are matriarchal, and whales stay with their mothers their entire lives. Yet they know not to breed within their pod.
We saw other resident orcas down in Vancouver Island last year, where they are the subjects of extensive research. They are absolutely fascinating.
Next we went to the Chiswell Islands, where we had an intimate encounter with a humpback whale who was swimming right by a rock formation and feeding. She would swim one way, then the other, never diving but staying close to the surface. We were right next to her, but only saw her blow and her head and back as she rose to breathe.
Hector was hoping to have the whale surface next to a puffin, maybe next time.
Entering Harris Bay and Northwestern Fjord we had a totally different view of all of the glaciers here. There are eight total glaciers in the Fjord, and we spent the majority of our time in front of the Northwestern Glacier.
Northwestern Glacier is an active tidewater glacier, meaning that it touches the water and is calving. Although it was not calving very much on this day, it was still an impressive sight, especially against the bright blue sky.
As always, there are lots of seabirds around the islands, and we found more puffins and black-legged kittiwakes. The kittiwakes had fluffy babies (chicks) and we got a pretty close look at some of them. Love those babies!
Passing in front of Bear Glacier on our return, we hit high winds coming off the glacier that created big swells and wind chop in the water. Yet one more weather factor to consider when taking a boat tour of the area. We did enjoy a rainbow that followed us for a long time in the bow spray.
We really enjoyed our experience on the Viewfinder. The smaller boat makes for a more intimate experience, and, with a deck that goes all around the boat, makes it easier for all to get good views of the wildlife.
We enjoyed all of our boat tours, each providing a totally different experience on the water and with the wildlife. But it was time to leave Seward and move on to the other side of the Kenai Peninsula.