Alaska, the Last Frontier - Summer 2012 travel blog

Mears Glacier

Mears glacier

icy perch

boat tour

boat tour

piles of sea lions

puffins

purse seine

sea lions on buoy

buddies

whale tail

whale tail

whale tail

ice berg

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glacier calving


Prince William Sound is one of the most spectacular coastal areas of Alaska. We took a nine hour boat tour to explore a small portion of the beauty. Low hanging clouds obscured much of it, but the rich animal life distracted us from what we were missing. Last time we were here the oil spill had decimated the sea otter population and we did not see any, so it was a special thrill to see groups of these charming creatures twirling around in the water. They twirl to capture air bubbles in their fur, so they will be more buoyant and warm. They look so relaxed bobbing in the water peering at us with their intelligent little faces. Sea lions are also common in the area. When they are not fishing they look very relaxed as well, laying around in fleshy piles. In the larger groups their loud growling conversations drew our attention. The whales also put on a great show, flashing their tails as they dove below to eat.

A huge ice field here flows down to the sea in a number of spots. The Columbia Glacier was hard to see in the mist, but there was plenty of evidence that it was there. It is disintegrating rapidly and the water nearby was full of the modern art of melting ice bergs. The captain drove the boat very carefully through this area, since only the top of the glacier can be seen and we gently hit a few as we passed by. The Mears Glacier, also part of this ice field, is getting bigger, even in these days of climate change. It is so huge we were glad that some fishing boats bobbed nearby, giving us a visual clue how big it really is. It was hard to take photographs or video when it calved. Sound travels so much more slowly than light. by the time we heard the rumble, the ice was already in the water.

We passed a number of fishing boats. The pink salmon are just starting to return to the area to spawn. At the beginning boats that have contracts with the fish hatcheries are allowed to start seining, returning the investment the hatcheries have made in producing the fish in the first place. Once their initial costs have been recovered, other fishermen will be allowed to fish the sound in a controlled way so that the fish population can be maintained. When boats seine, they release huge nets in a big circle, floating just below the surface attached to buoys. One the net has been released in a giant circle, it is pulled together like strings on a purse and the fish are trapped inside. Sea lions have learned that this is a wonderful spot to do their fishing and are often seen fishing inside.

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