Category Archives: Marine Animals

June 12, 2015 Seward, Alaska

Sea Otters

Sea Otters

Last Day on the Seward Waterfront

I have decided to leave the Seward waterfront campground and move inland to a much quieter spot and boondock for a few days while waiting to see if I want to book a trip on one of the wildlife day cruises out of Seward. The campsite I have been on has just wonderful views of the water and mountains, and the boat traffic and wildlife on the water has kept me very entertained for more than a week. But the closeness of my neighbors forces me to keep my side window blinds closed all the time and the constant traffic, both vehicular and pedestrian through and around my site have just gotten to be a little too much and I crave some isolation. So Saturday morning I am moving myself out to a spot along the Exit Glacier Road, right on the banks of the Resurrection River and maybe there, I can find a little peace and quiet.

As always, click on any image to view a larger, sharper version.

Sea Otter's LazyBoy

Sea Otter’s LazyBoy

Doesn’t this guy look like he is relaxing in his recliner?

The sea otters provided me with a great going away gift and decided to come in to feed on mussels during low tide today, giving me the opportunity to climb down the rocks and very slowly work my way with my tripod to within just 30 or 40 feet of them.

Sea Otter

Sea Otter

This is about as close as I can imagine one could get to these guys without being on the deck of a boat. I much prefer this angle of shot, at eye level with them rather than shooting down from above as one would have to do from a boat.

Sea Otters

Sea Otter

Mussels on the Table

Mussels on the Table

Though I often could see with my naked eye the way the otters would surface and then place a couple mussels on their chest while they worked at devouring them one by one, it must have taken a couple hundred shots before I could capture it with the camera.

Buoyant

Buoyant

Sea Otter Counting Toes

Sea Otter Counting Toes

I guess this guy was doing some grooming, but it looked like he was counting toes.

Sea Otter

Sea Otter

Looks like they really do enjoy life, don’t they?

Sea Otter

Sea Otter

This mussel shell must have been a tough nut to crack.

Sea Otter

Sea Otter

I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed this opportunity to spend several hours with these guys, quite remarkable, entertaining animals.

June 9, 2015 Seward, Alaska

Sea Otters

Sea Otters

Eight Soggy Days

Well, it’s been a week since my last post, a longer than usual pause caused by a couple of factors, a lack of internet availability and a lack of any kind of activity worthy of posting. Eight straight days of rain and leaden gray skies have put my Alaska adventures on hold. Without an internet connection, I am not sure just how long this bad weather streak is going to continue, but the long range forecast, back when I was in Anchorage, was calling for two weeks of this wet stuff, so I suppose I’m only half way there.

I left Cabella’s parking lot/campsite last Wednesday at noon, but only made it about 25 miles south on the Seward Highway, deciding to pull off and camp at the turnoff at MM 92.5. The strong wind from the south and heavy rain was making driving a little uncomfortable and I knew I was in no rush to get anywhere, so better safe than sorry.

I awoke the next morning to rain … and the odd sight of two individuals on paddle boards working their way seaward at 5:30 AM in just horrible weather conditions. For the life of me, I just couldn’t figure what was going on there. And about five minutes later, it became clear just what these two were up to as the infamous Turnagain Arm tidal bore came rushing in. This was the first time I had ever seen anything like this, a wall of rushing water, pushing a wave of perhaps five of 6 feet in height, moving at an incredible speed down the waterway. And these two guys had been paddling out to meet it and ride it back in. Both had fallen behind the crest and were paddling furiously to catch back up with the front of the surge, but never were able to get there.

Five minutes later, once again through my rain streaked windows, I saw what I at first thought were some white caps racing in the direction of the surge, only 30 feet from the shoreline, at least I assumed that must be what I was seeing. It took a few seconds to realize that what I was looking at was a pod of Beluga Whales racing in with the tide. They were gone in just a few seconds and the sighting was not as spectacular as one might think since Turnagain Arms waters are a cloudy, silt laden gray and all you actually see of the whales is a quick glimpse of their backs as they roll along with the tide, no head, fins, or tails, just a three or four foot section of back. Still kind of neat to finally actually see at least a part of these creatures.

So Thursday morning, I continued on south to Seward on what probably is a beautiful drive along the water and through the mountains, but with the rain and low lying clouds, there wasn’t much to see today. I will have to hope my return on this road coincides with some clearer weather. I arrived in Seward and was able to snag a waterfront campsite with electric and water. I had decided to forego boondocking because of the inclement weather that was forecast for the next couple of weeks, weather conditions not terribly favorable for generating electricity with my solar setup.

Seward Waterfront Campsite, View to my Right

Seward Waterfront Campsite, View to my Right

Seward Waterfront Campground

The Seward waterfront campsites are $30 for utilities and $15 for primitive. The sites are flat, stone surfaced and really tightly spaced.

Seward Waterfront Campsite, View to my Left

Seward Waterfront Campsite, View to my Left

I had to actually ask my neighbor to move his truck so that I could access my basement storage doors the other day … now that is what I call very tight spacing. So I have constant rain, absolutely no privacy, no satellite TV ( too far north ), no over the air TV, no phone, and no internet signal. And there may well be another week of this to endure.

Seward Waterfront Campsite, View out Front

Seward Waterfront Campsite, View out Front

The one redeeming, life saving, feature of this particular site is the view out the front windshield. So far, through the rain streaked windshield, I have seen a humpback whale semi breach only a hundred yards out, sea lions snagging fish close to shore, bald eagles flying overhead, and my favorite entertainers, a pair of sea otters that hunt near the shoreline every day, plucking mussels from the rocks just offshore then surfacing and devouring their catch while floating on their backs, no more than a hundred feet away. The red arrow in the image above is pointing to one of them out there when I happened to take this shot. Unlike me, I suppose  they don’t really mind the rain.

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Sea Otter

Sea Otter

 

The Rain Stops ! ( but only for five hours )

Two days ago, the rain actually stopped for a couple of hours and I was able to get my long lens and tripod out and get a few shots of these guys, actually, probably gals, as I think, from their interactions, that they may be a mom and last years offspring, though I don’t know that for sure.

As always, click any image for a larger, sharper version.

Sea Otter

Sea Otter

Sea Otter

Sea Otter

Sea Otters

Sea Otters

 

Sea Otter

Sea Otter

Mew Gull

Mew Gull

Mew Gull

Mew Gull

During this short break in the weather I also got a couple shots of the Mew Gulls when they came close to get a drink of fresh water in the puddles in front of the motorhome.

Seward Waterfall

Seward Waterfall

While the rain held off for a few hours I drove north a couple of miles and took the Nash Road around to the other side of the sound to explore a little and ran across a beautiful waterfall on the side of the road.

Seward Waterfall

Seward Waterfall

SewardDetail5

SewardDetail3

Seward Waterfall

Seward Waterfall

Seward Waterfall

Seward Waterfall

At the end of Nash Road there is a large gravel parking area where I found several folks camping, despite an older sign on a bulletin board there stating that the campground was closed. There had to be at least twenty Rvs and tenters set up there though, so obviously, no one is stopping people from camping there. A definite boondocking possibility for the Seward area.

Well, I am off to the Seward Library in hopes of being able to post this blog entry, if you are reading this, then I guess I must have had some success there. Once again, it may well be a while until the rain ends and I have reason to do another post, but stay tuned.

 

May 21, 2015 Valdez, Alaska

Photographing the Columbia Glacier

Photographing the Columbia Glacier

Day Cruise to the Columbia Glacier

Several days ago I had made reservations for a Stan Stephens day cruise out to the Columbia Glacier, from the port of Valdez. I had chosen today based on the weather forecast, and for once, the weatherman was correct, it was clear and cool, a perfect day to be out on the water.

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Alaska Pipeline Terminal Facility

Alaska Pipeline Terminal Facility

Across the sound from Valdez Harbor is the Alaska Pipeline Terminal Oil Facility, here with a newly arrived tanker being filled with oil from the North Slope. I just happen to be camped only a few hundred yards from this facility.

Leaving Prince Edward Sound

Leaving Prince Edward Sound

A small pleasure boat leaving beautiful Prince William Sound.

Marine Life Viewing From the Stan Stephens

 

Dall Porpoise

Dall Porpoise

In theory, I should have gotten, and certainly did hope to get, some nice shots of Marine Wildlife on this trip.

Dall Porpoise

Another Missed Shot

Dall Porpoise

And Another

Dall Porpoise

And Yet Another

But time and again, I was just too slow on the draw, on the wrong side of the boat,

Out of Range, Humpback Whale

Out of Range, Humpback Whale

too far away,

Humpback Whale

Humpback Whale

shooting into the sun,

Sea Otter

Sea Otter

or just too shaky handholding a long lens on a rocking boat. All in all, I missed most of my opportunities to get anything nice. To be truthful, there just weren’t that many chances to get anything decent.

Harbor Seals

Harbor Seals

Normally numerous, these were the only two harbor seals we encountered on the ice flows, and they were at a fair distance and quickly retreated to the relative safety of the water.

Harbor Seals

Harbor Seals

On our return from the glacier, the captain did take us up pretty close to some Stellar Sea Lions,

King of the Mountain ( buoy )

King of the Mountain ( buoy )

King of the Mountain ( buoy )

King of the Mountain ( buoy )

both on this buoy, where they were engaged in a game of King of the Mountain,

Stellar Sea Lion Haulout

Stellar Sea Lion Haulout

and just a little farther along, a popular haulout location where hundreds had gathered to sun themselves on the rocks.

Stellar Sea Lion Haulout

Stellar Sea Lion Haulout

Stellar Sea Lion Haulout

Stellar Sea Lion Haulout

The light brown sea lions are dry animals whereas the darker ones have just emerged from the water. If you look closely, you will notice a huge discrepancy in the size of these assembled animals, some of whom are quite enormous.

Approaching Columbia Glacier

Approaching Columbia Glacier

Many miles from the glacier, small blocks of ice start to appear.

Colorful Iceberg

Colorful Iceberg

Then larger pieces float by.

Study in Blue

Study in Blue

Study in Blue

Study in Blue

Study in Blue

Study in Blue

The ancient ice appears remarkably blue.

Glacier Retreat

Glacier Retreat

I took this same tour back in 1993. Since that time the Columbia Glacier has retreated more than twelve miles from the sea. The image above shows how dramatically this area has changed due to it’s retreat. The dark green tree line marks the elevation of the glacier before it began it’s retreat, the lighter green is new vegetation filling in where once ice scoured the rock.

Glacier Scraped

Glacier Scraped

Scraped Clean

Scraped Clean

The images above show the enormous scouring power of the ice as it scrapes its way back and forth over the rock.

Columbia Glacier

Columbia Glacier

And finally, the retreating Columbia Glacier comes into sight.

It is a shame that the cruise starts out at such a late hour ( 11AM ) since all your time spent near the glacier is during the harshest hours of overhead sunlight, making decent photos pretty much impossible. Yet, it still is something pretty grand to see, the power of this enormous sheet of ice, and the devastation it leaves in it’s path.

A trip definitely worth taking, beautiful scenery along the way, a little later in the season, much more in the way of marine life, and a very informative narrative on the history of the glacier by the boat’s captain.

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