August 13, 1990 -- Day 15

Seward AK

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Keani Fjords Park We had a great time on the wildlife cruise today. It was cool on the water with a bit of a chop, but with the brillant sunshine spirits ran high. On the way to the Fjords area, we saw sea otters. These handsome creatures were hunted almost to extinction for their luxurious pelts and are now slowly making a come-back. They spend their entire life in the water. The ones we encountered were rocking gently on their backs, warily watching the ships. With the engine cut back to idle, we could drift almost up to them.

The puffin has become the unofficial favorite bird in Alaska (the state bird is the willow ptarmigan). Their almost clown-like appearance is enhanced by their comical actions. They will fish until they literally exceed gross weight and then frantically "run" across the surface in an attempt to take off. We saw huge bird rookeries filled with kittiwakes and puffins.

Our picnic lunch was held at the foot of the Holgate glacier, a very active glacier whose snout comes right down into the water. The snout is a wall of ice that measures 380 feet tall. During the time we were there it calved some very large icebergs. The calving starts with cracking sounds that are very similar to rifle shots. Then a large section of the face will slowly start to slide into the water, creating almost an avalanche effect. To be so close to the process certainly makes one aware of how powerful nature can be. Our ship and its twenty souls seemed very puny and insignificant.

On the ride back we drifted slowly by a huge colony of sea lions basking on the rocks in the brillant sunshine. Later, closer to Seward, our ship was "escorted" into the entrance to Resurrection Bay by two dolphins that took turns riding in the bow waves. They played tag with the ship for many miles.

Tom caught a seventeen-pound silver salmon. We cooked it on a hibachi this evening. Fresh salmon is delicious!

Tomorrow we drive back to Anchorage and take to the air again. It will be a long day, but we hope to make it to Skagway.

Holgate Glacier

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Linda Dowdy
Bethel, Minnesota
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