Today we took the Stan Stephens Columbia and Meares Glacier Cruise in Prince William Sound. The boat was only 1/3 full so we had lots of room to run around and take pictures. We were again blessed with sunny weather, which according to the captain is good because it rains a lot here.
Prince William Sound is a sound of the Gulf of Alaska. James Cook entered Prince William Sound in 1778 and named it Sandwich Sound, after his patron the Earl of Sandwich. Thank goodness the editors of Cook’s maps changed the name to Prince William Sound, in honor of Prince William, who would later become King William IV. Most of the land surrounding Prince William Sound is part of the Chugach National Forest, the second largest national forest in the U.S.. Prince William Sound is ringed by the steep and glaciated Chugach Mountains.
Leslie was happy because we got to see otters before we even pulled out of the marina, as well as, many, many along the way. We also learned a lot about fishing. The 2nd picture shows a purse seining boat. It is actually one of two boats. A smaller boat takes one end of the net and makes a circle with it, bringing it back to the purse seining boat. Then they just pull the strings like a lady’s purse and gather the fish. Even though it was quite warm and sunny, you can see that the person on the boat is wearing a full rain suit. The captain said this is because the net catches a lot of jellyfish and they rain down on the person as they are pulling the net in. We were glad it was him, not us.
The next picture shows a fish tender boat. The fisherman would lose a lot of time coming back into port to offload their catch, so fish tender boats come to them and take the fish off the boat. You can see the fish coming down the chute and being weighed. The fish tenders are big enough to hold several different catches. When they are full, they go back to port and sell the fish to the canneries.
We did not go up the fjord to Columbia glacier. It used to be part of the tour, but it has been retreating and has retreated 12 miles. It still puts of ice chunks though. The ice floating in the 5th picture is from the Columbia Glacier.
The 6th and 7th picture show Dall’s porpoises. They were playing in front of the boat for quite a while. They are fast little suckers, so very difficult to get a picture of them. Leslie decided that the pictures of the spray after they go back in the water (7th picture) were actually cooler than the pictures of the porpoise.
The 8th through 13th pictures are from the Meares Glacier which is still advancing. We got to witness a major calving event and Leslie even got it on video. The 12th picture shows a small calving event that happened. We were there about 45 minutes and got to enjoy the cracks and sounds of the ice as it fell. Harbor seals love the ice we guess because they were all over by this glacier.
On the way back, we went on the other side of the islands (more toward the ocean) and got to see two humpback whales (15th picture) and a bunch of Stellar sea lions (14th picture). Don took almost 600 pictures so he had a great time. The hard part came when he had to choose which ones to put in the blog.