Alaska 2008

Valdez, AK

24 July 2008

General Information

Local Map

Photographs and Commentary
Click on pictures to enlarge

A rainy day... what else is new! According to people who live here, this has been the coolest, wettest summer in memory. There is a saying in Alaska, "the four seasons in Alaska are Winter, June, July and August." This year June and July seemed to have been absorbed by Winter.

The weather did not interfere with our plans. We went on a cruise on Prince William Sound. The nine hour cruise is operated by Stan Stephens, the first (or at least the oldest) cruise operator in Valdez. The cruise took us to see some of the wildlife in the sound and to see Columbia and Meares Glacier. Columbia Glacier, one of the last tidewater glaciers to begin receding, was not visible to us. The terminal moraine (debris left behind at the furthest reach of a glacier when it recedes), anchors hugh icebergs that kept the boat at a distance from the face. The Meares Glacier, which is one of the few glaciers that are advancing, calves icebergs but not as large as those calved by Columbia Glacier. As a result, we were able to get within a few hundred feet of the face of the glacier.

The route today took us past the Trans Alaska Pipeline terminal, through Valdez Arm and into Columbia Bay. Retracing our way out of Columbia Bay, we continued between Glacier Island and the mainland, into Unakwik Inlet to the Meares Glacier. Our return trip took us down Unakwik Inlet to the south side of Glacier Island and Point Bull Head, back up Valdez Arm to Valdez. Along the way we saw a number of marine animals including Harbor Seals, Stellar Sea Lions, Sea Otters, Humpback Whales and Orcas (Killer Whales). The scenery on our route can only be called spectacular with high mountains, glaciers and waterfalls seemingly all around us.

Cruise route

Prince William Sound Views

View from the Campground

Trans Alaska Pipeline Terminal

Trans Alaska Pipeline Terminal

Spil response barge and tugs

Spill response boat and tugs. Several of these are strategically located on Prince William Sound.

Unloading Halibut at a fish processing plant

Halibut being offloaded at a fish processing plant

Small Boat Harbor

Small Boat Harbor, home to many fishing vessels

Prince William Sound view

Snow covered mountains and glaciers surround the Sound

A bay that backs up into the mountains. It was one of these bays, 40 miles from Valdez, that was the epicenter of the Good Friday Earthquake in 1964.

Shoup Glacier

Shoup Glacier

One of the Islands on Prince William Sound Island in Prince William Sound
Two of the many island that dot Prince William Sound

Anderson Falls

Sea level snow remains in July

As proof of the nature of this summer in Alaska, we present this snow bank at sea level at the end of July

Left, Anderson Falls

Icebergs aground on the Columbia Glacier terminal moraine

Icebergs aground on the Columbia Glacier terminal moraine

Mears Glacier Terminal Moraine

Meares Glacier terminal moraine. This is where the face of the glacier was 200 years ago. The face of the glacier is a few miles further up the inlet.

Mears Glacier

Meares Glacier

Mears Glacier calving

Meares Glacier only calved some small bergs while we were there

Trees in the path of the advance of Mears Glacier

Meares Glacier is advancing and will soon destroy the trees in its path

Boat at the face of MearsGlacier

This boat, around 50 feet in length, shows the size of the face of Meares Glacier

Seals on ice calved from Mears Glacier Gulls congregating on Mears Glacier Ice
Harbor Seals and gulls find a resting place on ice calved from Meares Glacier

Marine Life

Jelly Fish floating among the icebergs

Jellyfish find a home among the icebergs

Seals on icebergs

Seals hauled out on the ice (Picture by Susie)

Orcas Orcas

Disrespectful Stellar Sea Lion

This Stellar Sea Lion showed disrespect for the passing humans... he stuck out his tongue

Stellar Sea Lions at a haul out

Stellar Sea Lions at a haul out spot

Stellar Sea Lions swimming

Stellar Sea Lions

Humpback whale showing his pectoral fin

A Humpback Whale showing his pectoral fin

Humpback diving for food Humpback whale fluke
A Humpback Whale diving for food

Sea Otters congregating on the ice

A group of Sea Otters on a piece of ice

Sea Otters

When our boat passed, the Sea Otters left the ice for the safety of the water

This Sea Otter was the last to leave the ice and gave us a look

Susie on the cruise boat

Susie on the cruise boat... a little cold

Sam on the crusie boat

Sam on the boat... rain, what rain? (Picture by Susie)

Captain Stan Stephens

Captain Stan at the helm

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