A trip around the bay
We arrived in Seward with blue skies, even though the forecast was not very promising.
We’d set our alarm as we had an early start, but needn’t have bothered as we passed the bell buoys.
We’d been here before, almost 20 years ago I think, when our first Alaskan cruise ended here and we boarded a coach to Anchorage, from where we’d continue our journey by train to Fairbanks. On that occasion there were five or six huge cruise ships in port and there was a very different feel. Today we were not only the single ship here but were also the first of the season. It makes all the difference!
These Alaskan ports are well used to managing large numbers of people and the first part of our tour - a short ride of no more than ten minutes over to the other side of the harbour - was efficient and made without undue hassle. We were given boarding cards and went straight to our boat, the Kenai Star.
It left promptly, our first view being that of our lovely Mariner, beautifully staged against a backdrop of snow mountains but with a coal conveyor system spoiling the effect. Never mind!
We were about to have our first wildlife sighting as a bald eagle was sitting on a pier near the ship. We did a quick 360 turn for everyone to take their photographs but like me, most were a little blase as a result of all the bald eagle encounters during the last few days!
Out then into Resurrection Bay, with Captain/Commentators keeping an eye open and chatting to other ships in the area about potential sightings of birds and sealife. Our first encounter was soon upon us as they’d spotted a couple of sea otters nearby.
Now, I posted a couple of photographs on a post yesterday but I think these chaps deserve another showing, don’t you?
They were just floating happily around, not moving very much at all and totally unconcerned by our presence. Taking pictures was easy as a result, the most tricky aspect from my point of view being the light. Still, some reasonable results and some very happy bunnies on board. Ten minutes in and we were on a roll!
Capturing pictures of other wildlife was a different kettle of fish. The Captain was doing a grand job of spotting and kept us up with what he was seeing. “Dalls Porpoises on the starboard side, two o’clock!” but of course, the appearance was fleeting and if we needed any reminder of how swiftly these creatures move through the water, here it was.
Occasionally, the splash would be right by our side. We chose to stand on the outside deck to get the best view of anything that was happening and hoped that whatever it was would appear on our side of the boat. From time to time it did…sometimes taking us by surprise! I set my camera to “burst”, put my finger on the button and hoped for the best.
Because really, as soon as they were here, they were gone. The porpoises were playing around in the wake of the boat, swimming under the keel and popping up here and there. I think there were three of them, all so sleek and streamlined to move through the water effortlessly.
The Captain was just saying how rare it was for the porpoise to swim alongside for quite so long when he exclaimed that we were most certainly in luck today. Not only was the weather incredible but he’d just spotted a humpback whale off to the starboard side. Everyone went to take a look of course!
Did I see it? Did I get a picture? In my head, perhaps. For these creatures come up but fleetingly for air and then dive for quite some time. We hung around for a while, waiting to see if it might reappear but eventually, moved on.
The porpoises were back - and the best time to get a snap is when everyone else has got theirs and moved on!
The Captain had spotted something else ahead, however, and we were motoring towards a craggy island where he was lining up with a small red rock.
Harbour seal alert!
A few more on a nearby rock, one of whom looked at us as if to say “What’s up?”
We were getting near open sea now, albeit in the shelter of the barrier islands. Still, it was getting a little rough and we could see the forecast weather front approaching. Was that something in the water however?
It was a small group of Orcas, swimming together in a family group as, we learned, they do. Once again, it proved tricky to capture a decent image with my little point and shoot camera, particularly as the light made using the viewfinder difficult.
Some, more serious photographers had carried their extensive kit bags around the world for moments such as these and it’s only fair that they caught the best shots.
From time to time, a couple of orcas would “show off” and roll about in the water just off the boat. If we happened to be in the right place, looking in the right direction with camera poised at the right time, then all was well. But all too often it was on the other side and by the time we were onto it, the moment was gone.
It really didn’t matter too much. This was definitely one of those moments when the best pictures are in our heads and after a while, I was happy just to look, watch and do my best to remember the details.
Our friends were the best of spotters though!
Having seen what we could of the orcas, we turned towards the Cape Resurrection and soon a crowd of sea lions came into view.
They’re Stellar Sea Lions we’re told and they were doing their bit in the racket created by the birds perched nearby.
There were a few rocky outcrops here and every one of them had a roost of birds flying around it. Not my favourite place! I tried to see what the small marker on top of the smallest “island” was but failed. I’ll have to do a google!
The birds I idly referred to as “seagulls” are actually black legged kittwakes and amongst them were the more skittery in flight, black and white puffins.
On our way back down to the head of the fiord, it began to get cold. The weather was coming in and we thought we felt a few drops of rain. We’d managed almost the whole tour in the dry and it had been remarkably clear too - gale force winds and 25ft waves were forecast for the following 24 hours! The sight of Mariner there waiting for us was a good one….we were happy to be home again!
US Immigration had one last surprise for us though. When we went to reboard the ship, cold and feeling slightly damp from the incoming shower, they “invited” us to take off our coats and scarves for scanning, to put our bags and any other paraphernalia though the X ray and to find and show our passports too. First time ever within a country, for after all, we’d already gone through all the immigration control procedures previously.
Huh. A grumpy finale to a super day!