August 3, 2015

Seward, AK and the Kenai Fjords Sea Tour

By: Rob Lowe

Featured Picture

When we arrived in Seward, Alaska we decided that we should take a tour of the Kenai Fjords National Park. There is no vehicle access south of Seward so the option was to take a sea tour. We decided to take the 11:00am tour which was scheduled to take about 6.5 hours and cover about 193 km (120 miles) round trip. We would see various whales, seals and otters, numerous birds, glaciers, scenery and, of course, the fjords.

We boarded the Orca Voyageur, a new tri-hull catamaran (Slide 1) which would provide some exciting vistas and interaction with some sea life as we toured. The Captain, Eric was also our tour guide and his enjoyment of his job made him an outstanding guide.   Soon after leaving the dock we came upon a sea otter relaxing on the ocean just off the coast where our RV was parked (Slide 2).  We had seen the sea otters the previous evening at our campsite and they put on quite a show for us then, as well as on this tour. Slide 3 shows the "folded” nature of the rocky shoreline that is hard to portray in a 2 dimensional picture. The shore for about 0.8km (.5 miles) was curved in and out just as the term folded suggests (Slide 3).

Shortly afterward we came upon an Orca whale with her young one (Slide 4).  I quickly learned that with my camera there was no way that I was going to capture the memorable shot of a whale breaching, then diving with a flick of its tail in the air. They are very quick, cover great distances and you have no idea where they are going to pop up. Combine that with the fact that they were quite a distance away and you count yourself fortunate if you even capture an image. We did get a few.  

As we cruised along the shoreline we came upon a group of Stellar Sea Lions lounging on the rocks (Slide 5). Throughout the day we would encounter many of these animals sometimes 50 or more relaxing on rocks or frisking in the sea water nearby. Captain Eric provided a lot of information about them, their breeding habits and the large range that they cover during their annual trips as well as in their lifetime.

In slides 6 & 7 we once again were able to capture photos of the Orca whales and were close enough that we could hear them blow off as they breathe. When we came upon a group of them, Eric would shut off the engines, and drop a marine microphone into the water and we could hear the Orcas "talking” to each other. It was those little touches that added to the value and enjoyment of the tour. Slide 8 was our first encounter with a pair of Humpback Whales. They are large creatures that the photo does not capture.

Slides 9 and 10 show more Steller Sea Lions with Slide 10 showing a couple pups (white spots) with their Mom.

As we were merrily cruising along, we looked down beside the boat and noticed a couple of Dall Porpoises (Slide 11) playing beside and under the boat. Your immediate reaction was this can’t be good, until you recall we were on a catamaran and the porpoises were flying in and out around one of the pontoons. When they decided to leave they took off at right angles to the boat (Slide 12).

A little later we came upon a "raft” of sea otters (Slide 13). The term comes from the way a group of friends would travel together on the water on a raft. The difference is these friends simply travel together, there is no physical raft. They will travel all over together though. Slide 14 shows one up close and if you recall the Pratt Museum photo of a mom and her pup you can see how she would easily be able to carry her young pup along with her.

Once again we connected with some Orca whales on our way to the glaciers and watched them "play” nearby. We did learn that they eat over 450 kg. (1,000 lbs.) of fish daily and that a lot of those fish are small 15cm (6”) or less in size. Orcas also enjoy Steller Sea Lions which would provide them 270-360 kg (6-800 lbs.) in one "meal”.

Seeing sea life was all part of the cruise and trying to select just a few of the over 150 photos we took on our tour really does not do it justice.

In my next message, I’ll focus on the Harding, Exit and Aialik Glaciers.

We hope you are enjoying the trip with us.


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