Kenai Fjords

July, 2009

— Seward

Our headquarters for visiting the Kenai Fjords National Park was the town of Seward (see photo #1, at left). Seward is a small town that had swelled to a great size with many campers parked all over town, all here to share in the Marathon Mountain Race held each year on the 4th of July. We met on of the racers, known as "Bird Man", in Fairbanks. He drove our bus from Fairbanks to the Denali Park entrance. We did not find out how he did, as we were on Fox Island during the race.

Seward has always been dependent on the sea for its economy. Now that has been bolstered by the arrival of large cruise ships several times each week. The large number of passengers can have a significant impact on the population when a ship is in port.

— Resurrection Bay

We rode on two boats during our stay. The first was a large ferry that took us from Seward to Fox Island, giving us great views of the head of Resurrection Bay (see photo #2).

The next day, we boarded a smaller boat for a cruise through Resurrection Bay, into the Gulf of Alaska, and then around Aialik Bay, before returning to Seward. Along the way we saw more beautiful scenery and a wide variety of sea life.

Here are a few photos from our cruise:

Sea Lions   |   Orca   |   Humpback Whale   |   Sea Birds

— Fox Island

The beach at Fox Island is made of small, flat rocks that are perfect for skimming across the water (photo #3). We arrived with a large horde of other tourists, come to Fox Island for lunch. The lunch meal was what you expect when serving large numbers of people buffet style. Tolerable at best.

Our little group, however was staying the night. Our little cabins faced directly onto the beach, with a similarly beautiful view at the back of the cabin. We had time to hike along the beach, relax and enjoy ourselves. We found beauty even in the driftwood and plants along the beach. Some places looked like small, elegant gardens.

And, we had dinner on Fox Island. What a wonderful treat. The chef prepared a wonderful meal for the eleven of us. He came out and explained each course before it was served. It was great! We had eaten at the Seven Glaciers restaurant the night before, and he topped even that wonderful experience. Our dinner at Fox Island was the culinary highlight of our trip.

— Glaciers

While in Seward, we saw two glaciers up close. One was Exit Glacier (photo #4) which is a short bus ride from Seward. Exit Glacier no longer reaches the sea. It has been retreating for years, and continues to melt faster than it advances, as are most glaciers around the world.

We also sailed within a half-mile of the Holgate Glacier, a tide-water glacier whose terminal end floats on the water of Holgate Arm. As the tide rises and falls, the stresses cause the glacier to break apart, dropping immense chunks of ice into the water. We sailed through a sea of floating ice while approaching the glacier. Some of the larger chunks, called "bergy bits" are large enough to damage a boat, and must be avoided. Other smaller bits, called "brash ice", cover the sea in Holgate Arm. The falling ice creates a real hazard to boats, and we had to stay 1/4 to 1/2 mile away.

As we approached, we heard frequent loud noises coming from the glacier, like a rifle being discharged near the boat. When we turned to look, there was nothing there. Like so much in Alaska, the scale of these immense objects is deceptive. The sounds were being made by chunks of ice falling hundreds of feet from the face of the glacier. They hit the water with tremendous force, creating a loud noise. By the time this noise had traveled the distance to our boat, the splash had subsided, and the noise was reduced in volume to that of a nearby rifle. At the point of impact, it must have been deafening.

We learned to keep a sharp eye out for ice falling from the face of the glacier. What looked like small mounds of ice falling short distances into the sea were really immense quantities of ice falling hundreds of feet. Here is a photo sequence of five pictures showing one such ice fall. It may take a moment for each picture to load into your computer's cache. Once you have seen all the pictures, you can go back and repeat the sequence to get the full effect.

— return to the 2009 Journal Archive.