Thursday, August 14, 2008


We woke up late with loud raindrops falling on us. We had breakfast and wondered what to do in the rain. Most of the activities around here are outdoor type, and so the bad weather was bad news. We decided to go to Alaska SeaLife, a form of aquarium that shows local marine life. We were not enthusiastic as we were both in the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Boston Aquarium and so didn't expect to be surprised. The place was nicely built (modern building on the sea shore, next to "our" internet cafe) and with nice setup.

Most of the displays were okish, but one was amazing. This was a tank like the one we are used to see seals in where you can see both the above water activity and below water. Here however were local sea birds, including puffins. We could watch the bird above water, and more interesting also below water, seeing them "fly" with their wing in the water. We came in when they released small fish into the tank, and so all the birds were busy chasing food in the water, and amazing sight! (the photos of the diving puffins were not great :-( )

Puffin above water

Diving puffin

The aquarium also had a big display of salmon going through different life cycles. It was pretty amazing to see the transformations the fish undergo in their development and then at the last step when they migrate from the sea up the streams.

When we exhausted the aquarium it was still raining. So, we decided to be good tourists and explored the various gift and memorabilia shops along the street. Some where cute, but most sold similar stuff. We did buy Roy (a pocket knife), Lior (Earrings with moose on them), and me (some t-shirt) to remember Alaska by.

At this point we decided to move on, and drove to the harbor front. Here there is a visitor center for the national park (that includes fjords south of Seward). The ranger at the visitor center was very nice in explaining the options. Basically to see the national park you either go on a multi-day kayak trip, or a day long boat tour (that shows off the coast of the fjord), or get a boat to drop you at a camping cabin in the park and hike from there for few days. The multi-day adventure seemed beyond us. We asked the ranger about boat tours, and whether the weather will improve. She said that the sea outside the local bay is very high (12-13 feet waves) and that it is most likely to be worse the next day. She recommended taking a shorter 3- hour tour. She also told us that rainy days might make for good viewing.

We decided to check the options, left the kids to browse books at the visitor center, and went to chat with the two tour-boat companies next door. The first one we got to told us they had a boat leaving in 15 minutes that is quite empty, and that they can honor the coupons we had. So we got a tour for half price and with 20 more people on a 100 person boat. We collected the kids, extra fleeces and off we went.

Immediately after exiting the harbor we run into an otter. It was floating on its back with head and feet outside the water. It was a cute little animal. After that the captain put on some speed. Lior, and me, and afterwards also Roy, go to the front (where there was a simple rail, rather than a point) and absorbed the wind. We could stand leaning into it without falling.

Bay cruise -- the effect of the wind

Bay cruise view

We got to the end of the bay where some boats spotted a humpback whale. We started searching for it, and after a while we spotted two spouts next to each other. We started playing tag with the
whales, a mother and calf, trying to guess where they are going and searching for them after each dive (again, the rhythm is 3 breaths, and a dive for a few minutes). This was great fun as we got to see the whales really close by, and few times both surfaced out of the water next to each other.


While searching for the whales we came across and interesting phenomena, the water was divided by a line with a different color on each side. Turns out that water from the close-by glacier is both semi-sweet and contains glacier dust, and they don't mix fast with the ocean water in the main bay, creating a line between the two bodies of water.


From there we came around to cliffs where a lot of different types of sea birds where nesting and a nearby sea lion community.


The captain expertly brought us up close to the cliffs so that we can see the birds, and their offsprings.

A Young Black Tipped Kittiwake

Adult Black Tipped Kittiwake

Kissing Birds

We then continued along the shore looking for more stuff. One of the impressive places was a shore were virtually every tree contains one or more eagle. Some where adult eagles with white head and dark body. The others were immature ones, with brown colors that were harder to
see. Turns out that the eagle kids are dependent on their parents for 4 years, and during that time the two parents take care of them. The immature one looked similar in size (or even larger) than the parents. This reminded us of situation at home :-)

Immature eagle (and two seagulls)

Eagle in flight

After three hours we came off the boat happy, and surprised at our snap decision that lead to such a wonderful afternoon after we thought the day was gone.

View of a flat region and Resurrection bay behind it

The views on the way back

Here is a good time to tell you about other things that went on in the harbor. In Valdez we encountered the idea of a fishing derby, but didn't pay much attention. In Seward the same phenomena appeared. Turns out that in the peak of the fishing season, for particular fishes (King Salmon, Silver Salmon, Halibut, etc.), each city holds a derby. People that buy derby tickets can bring the fish they caught to be weighted and the ones who fished the biggest fish during the derby win a jackpot. These events mark the height of the season for each fish. For example, while we were in Seward it was in the middle of the Silver (salmon) Derby and everyone was crazy about going on salmon fishing trips into the bay, and near streams where the silver salmon spawn. Talking with the locals we learned that there are different strategies for finding the big fish and no clear one is clearly better. Because of these, the docks were in the midst of fishing frenzy and we were one of the few that didn't care to fish.

Returning to the story line, we got back to dock around 6pm, stopped for an hour of internet cafe, and then returned to camp. It was raining again, and we had steak and rice with green beans.

After some debate on what to do next, we decided that Roy and I will take a half day kayak tour in the morning and the girls will have an easy morning. I went and registered us for a tour starting at 9am. It seemed weird given the rain and the wind to do that, but we said what the heck...


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