Our first major stop after arriving in Alaska was the Kenai Peninsula. First Seward, then Homer. Seward is a small town of 2,754 inhabitants and many more tourists on the east side of the Kenai Peninsula. It’s a scenic 2 and 1/2 hour drive from Anchorage with many lakes and mountains on the way. Our goal for this drive was to arrive a day before our scheduled nine-hour cruise of Kenai Fjords National Park and Resurrection Bay the following morning.
The weather was good, the crew of our boat was great and the wildlife was plentiful. It was smooth sailing, but not much wildlife in view until we reached the entrance to Resurrection Bay. Then everything changed and it was a photographer’s delight for the next 3-4 hours.
Our first sighting was Parakeet Auklets. They bear a passing resemblance to puffins being in the same Alcidae family, but a different genus. Another uniquely beautiful bird though.
Shortly thereafter we rounded a point and found a colony of Horned Puffins, one of my favorite birds and not dissimilar from the familiar Atlantic Puffins being in the same genus. Alas, these puffins were resting, not fishing as we passed by. Always fun to see and not always easy to photograph as they are quite small being only 15 inches in height. They are fairly tolerant of people on boats though, so it was possible to get reasonably close but nothing like on Machias Seal Island. The captain was good about allowing time for photographers and birders to get their fill, so no complaints.
As we turned into Northwestern Fjord, we began to see berglets with Harbor Seals resting on them—a sure sign of an actively calving glacier. Berglets being tiny islands of floating ice just big enough for one Harbor Seal or a collection of them. Within a half hour we arrived at the base of Northwestern glacier, a tidewater glacier which is one that connects directly with a body of water. This glacier was shedding ice at a rapid rate clogging the fjord as we approached it and turning our ship into an icebreaker.
None the worse for the wear we proceeded out of the fjord and encountered a pod of Orca’s and soon thereafter an acrobatic Humpback whale.
The rest of our stay in Seward was somewhat anticlimactic after the cruise. We enjoyed our visit to the Alaska SeaLife Aquarium where I was able to take my favorite puffin picture with my phone.
The other attraction in Seward was Exit Glacier, a rapidly receding glacier that is part of the mammoth Harding Ice Field. This is one of the few that you can walk right up to and touch the toe if you’re so inclined.
I spent some time exploring the byways around Seward, but my only reward was a family of Tundra Swans.
Next time, exploring Homer, Katchemak Bay and Katmai.
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