Alaska

Sailing Kenai Fjords National Park

Wednesday, August 11, 2004 –

The next morning we woke up and headed down to the waterfront in Seward. We booked a cruises with Major Marine Tours on the boat, Kenai Star. The boat would took us on a four-hour journey into Kenai Fjords National Park.

As we left Resurrection Bay, we were introduced to a national park ranger who would be our guide and point out sights through intercom commentary during our journey. She told us the opening of Harrison Ford’s film “The Hunt for Red October” was filmed in Resurrection Bay which posed as Murmansk, Russia.

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Jeff holding a piece of ice that fell on deck from a glacier

Kenai Fjords National Park has only been around since 1980, and most is only accessible by boat to the south and west of Seward. The exception is Exit Glacier, which is reachable by road and which we visited on the drive down during the previous day. The park covers more than 1,000 square miles of the Kenai Peninsula.

During the trip, we saw tons of land and marine life. We saw Steller sea lions, puffins and Dall’s porpoises. But the coolest part was seeing a few orcas! Along the shore we saw moose, black bears and goats.

The highlight of the trip was a visit to the Harding Icefield, one of the largest ice fields in the United States. The field consists of at least 38 glaciers, with Bear Glacier being the largest. We pulled right up to it and watched as pieces calved of the front with tremendous thundering noises. It was amazing how windy and cool it was near the glacier. Light reflecting of the ice fields was almost blinding without sunglasses. In other areas, a brilliant blue was formed by the way light would pass like a prism through crevasses.

Harding Icefield in Kenai Fjords National Park

Harding Icefield in Kenai Fjords National Park

Bear Glacier

Bear Glacier

On the way back we had lunch on the boat. We passed some cabins and shelters in coastal areas near the Harding Icefield. Apparently these were on native corporation lands, with a portion of fees going to native communities.

When we arrived back in Seward, we decided to visit the Alaska SeaLife Center, the state’s largest aquarium and only permanent marine mammal rehabilitation facility. It opened in1998 and is the only facility in the world dedicated exclusively to studying the northern marine environment. It cost $55 million, with $37 million of the funds coming from the Exxon Valdez oil spill settlement.

That evening we had dinner back at the Seward harbor. We had some great fish at Ray’s Waterfront restaurant and enjoyed a beautiful sunset. It was another wonderful day in Alaska!

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