Seward is a small community nestled between Resurrection Bay, a fjord of the Gulf of Alaska, and the Kenai Mountains.
It was named for U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward, who orchestrated the U.S. purchase of Alaska from the Russian Empire in 1867. The price was 7 million dollars which amounted to 2 cents an acre. At that time, it was the subject of ridicule, being called "Seward's Folly", Seward's Icebox", and "Polar Bear Garden". Settlement from the U.S. got off to a slow start until the discovery of gold in 1898 brought a rapid influx to the territory.
Due to the influence of the Japanese Current in the Gulf of Alaska, Seward has a mild climate when compared to the rest of the State - only about 30 days below freezing each year. However, that ocean influence also means a high level of precipitation - 171" a year. It is commonly misty and drizzly with clouds shrouding the surrounding mountains.
Commercial fishing and seasonal tourism are the bread and butter of the town. The harbor is bustling with cruise ships, charter and tour boats, commercial fishing vessels plus the presence of the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Navy. It is lined with boardwalks and numerous shops and restaurants.
The major attraction to the area is Kenai Fjords National park, part of which we visited today. Although it is relatively small, Exit Glacier is one of the most accessible and popular valley glaciers in Alaska. It also serves as a visible indicator of glacier recession due to climate change. It recently retreated 127 feet in one year. It was named Exit Glacier when it served as the exit for the first recorded crossing of the Harding Ice Field in 1968.
It is the only part of the national park accessible by road. The rest of the 670,000 acres can only be reached by boat, plane or hiking. We were originally scheduled for a boat tour to the tidewater glaciers this afternoon, but with 11 foot seas forecast, we elected to have a free afternoon and rescheduled our cruise for tomorrow.
Tonight was our graduation dinner with a delicious meal and a slide show of our trip put together by Dale.