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08/13/11
Alaska RV Adventure: 5. Seward
Filed under: General, Birding & Outdoors, Grandchildren, Alaska
Posted by: Ken @ 8:00 am

We enjoyed a scenic four hour drive from Homer to Seward, first retracing our route north and westward on Sterling Highway (Alaska #1). The early King Salmon run bypasses Soldotna for some reason, but upstream at Sterling, fishermen were lined shoulder-to-shoulder along the banks of the Kenai River. Joining Alaska #9 southward, we were treated to the rugged beauty of the Chugach Mountains. This is a continuation of the narrative of our Alaska journey, which begins at this link.

We stayed three nights at Seward Military Resort. That’s our 32 foot RV at the right end, with our older daughter’s 31 footer next to us:

RVs at Seward Resort 20110624

The views around the Resort were superb:

Seward Military Resort 20110623

After we arrived, sirens suddenly began to howl, and huge loudspeakers blasted out a tsunami warning! They said to get to high ground immediately, but all the road led downhill. The warning was repeated several times, then we received an all-clear with the explanation that it had been issued in error. There had been quite a large earthquake in the Aleutian chain that did cause some anxiety about the possible threat of a tsunami. 

On our first full day in Seward, we took a dinner cruise to Fox Island in Resurrection Bay. Our trip coincided with the summer solstice, and the days were so long that it was difficult to keep track of the time. The sun did not set until after 11:00 PM, and rose a little after 4:00 AM. The sky remained bright and blue all night (In Denali, the days were 21 hours long).

Here is a view of the Seward harbor, taken after dinner, at about 10:15 PM. Note how few people are out on the docks:

Seward AK harbor 20110624

Our granddaughters (in pink) worked very hard at completing all the tasks necessary to qualify as Junior Rangers by the end of the cruise. They kept track of the wildlife sightings, and took their duties very seriously, even picking up litter in the dining area.

Here they are administered their oath of office:

Junior Rangers 20110624

We were thrilled to see a Bald Eagle swoop down nearby and catch a fish. Here, it repositions its catch in its talons:

Bald Eagle CROP 20110625

The next day we took a 6 hour wildlife cruise the full length of Resurrection Bay. The weather could not have been better.

A pair of Marbled Murrelets in breeding plumage hurried out of the way of our ship. They are black and white away from the breeding season:

Marbled Murellet 20110625

The Marbled Murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus) is a small seabird from the North Pacific. It is a member of the auk family. It nests in old-growth forests or on the ground at higher latitudes where trees cannot grow. Its habit of nesting in trees was suspected but not documented until a tree-climber found a chick in 1974 making it one of the last North American bird species to have its nest described. The Marbled Murrelet has experienced declines in their numbers since humans began logging their nest trees beginning in the latter half of the 19th century. The decline of the Marbled Murrelet and its association with old-growth forests have made it a flagship species in the forest preservation movement. (Wikipedia)

The murrelets’ breeding colors provide camouflage in their treetop nests:

Marbled Murellet 2-20110625

Common Murres appeared rather more brownish than I expected. Note the agae-rich water in this fjord. The long periods of sunlight cause algae to bloom in mid-summer:

Common Murres 20110625

A beautifully iridescent Pelagic Cormorant flew by:

Pelagic Cormorant 20110625

We encountered a noisy herd of endangered Steller’s Sea Lions:

Stellers Sea Lions 20110625

In the distance, Mountain Goats rested on the mountainside:

Mountain Goats distant 20110625

Glacous-winged Gulls nested in small groups on rocky ledges:

Glacous-winged Gulls nesting 20110625

We saw many Black-legged Kittiwakes that were nesting in cliffs beside the bay:

Black-legged Kittiwake 20110625

A large kittiwake colony was at the far southern end of Resurrection Bay:

Kittiwake colony 20110625

This Horned Puffin was the first one that either Mary Lou or I had ever seen:

Horned Puffin 20110625

Now I have seen all three North American puffin species. For me, it was ABA Life bird # 579. I captured it in flight, my favorite bird photo from the cruise:

Horned Puffin crop 20110625

We sighted another Red-faced Cormorant; its face does not show up very well, but its large head with two crests are characteristic of the species:

Red-faced Cormorant 20110625

Sea Otters thrilled the children with close-up encounters:

Sea Otter 20110625

Dall’s Porpoises frolicked in the open water at the mouth of Resurrection Bay. Note the white marking on their dorsal fins:

Dall’s porpoises 20110625

A Humpback Whale surfaced and blew a few times– I missed all the good shots:

Whale 20110625

Bear Glacier exhibits a central moraine, a line of rocks deposited where two glaciers came together:

Bear Glacier 20110625

Our granddaughters surprised us by remaining out on the deck for almost the entire cruise. Sporting their Junior Ranger badges earned on the dinner cruise the previous evening, they followed Ranger Jen all about, asking her questions and “interpreting” for the passengers. They had memorized the names of every creature that was displayed on a poster in the galley. Here they are trying to see how long they can keep their hands in a bucket of cold water just hauled up from the waters of the bay. They are learning of the importance of blubber as insulation. (Do I sound like proud Grampa?)

The seven year old is on the left in the green jacket, and the six-year old is in hot pink with the white hat. They are broadcasting their observations over the ship’s intercom:

Cold water test 20110625

Ranger Jen and girls 20110625

Our two sons-in-law put in two full days of deep sea fishing. There’s a consensus– “We shall return!”:

Roly Randy catch 2-20110625

8 Responses to “Alaska RV Adventure: 5. Seward”

  1. springman Says:
    In-flight Puffin, just sensational! Really, what a marvelous trip. Nice that the granddaughters were so involved with the details of the journey. Don’t the rangers do a great job? Thanks for sharing your wonderful photos!
  2. Pat Says:
    What an amazing trip - beautiful scenery and so many species of wildlife! Yes, you sound like a proud grampa - as you have every right to do so!
  3. holdingmoments Says:
    A trip of a lifetime Ken. Fantastic set of pictures to go with the post. The Puffin is amazing.
  4. Nancy Says:
    Thanks for sharing these overwhelmingly beautiful photos! One of my favorites was the eagle in flight. I guess we are spoiled having the eagles in Pembroke Pines. (They may appear to be common place by now.) It was interesting seeing the eagle trying so hard to hold onto its prey. I could go on about each one. Loved the Sea Lions and the otters.
  5. Andrew Says:
    A fantastic post to read… and your images are brilliant. Lovely to see the kids enjoying themselves it really must give you so much pleasure.
  6. Larry Jordan Says:
    This is such an amazing adventure Ken. Thanks for sharing it with us. I love all of your images, the little kid mountain goat next to the adult, the sea lions, and of course the sea otter. The Marbled Murrlets, the Bald Eagle in flight and the Horned Puffin in flight, superb! My favorite shots though are the photos of the Black-legged Kittiwake and their colony. What an incredible scene!
  7. Crafty Green Poet Says:
    what a wonderful trip that was! Such an amazing array of wildlife!
  8. Ken Says:
    Thank you all, for your gracious comments. It was a great trip indeed!

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