Saturday, May 21, 2011

Alaska Trip: Day 2

I set my alarm for 4am this morning so I could get photos of where we dropped anchor since it was too dark last night.  Ended up being foggy & misty and still too dark at 4am, so I waited until just before we left around 5am.  I got some shots, but most didn't turn out too well.

I tried to go back to sleep until breakfast (at 8am) but at 6am, Karl (at least I think it was Karl) announced that a brown bear had been spotted and I couldn't pass up my first bear sighting!  I didn't get any good shots of the bear (in fact most of the wildlife photos for the trip didn't turn out so well), but it was amazing to see my first bear in the wild!  Again, I tried to go back to sleep, but all the excitement made it a bit difficult.  Then just before breakfast, we spotted a black bear on shore (though still not any good photos).

We had a kayak & skiff safety class after breakfast in preparation for our first outing of the week!  Mom and I decided to stick to the skiff for the week rather than kayak.  She'd had some traumatic experiences on the water and well, after the kayak adventure I had with Summer in Catalina, I was happy to stick with the skiff.  Our first skiff ride was out to Dawes Glacier.  I opted to stick with the basic life jacket, but mom decided to try the Mustang Suit (pictured below) that would keep her warm and act as a flotation device if needed.  Karl had warned us that the katabatic winds coming off the glacier could make it quite cold near the glacier.

I was amazed at how many icebergs were in the water and how well Sean (our captain) was able to guide us through them to approach the glacier.  We could still only go so close in the Quest and eventually had to go out in the skiff and kayaks to get a bit closer.  My first glimpse of a glacier in person was an awesome experience!  We got to see the glacier calving and the sound is just amazing.  Denee (the Quest's first mate and our skiff driver for this outing) shared that the sound is often called "white lightning."

Another boat in the area had a skiff that got even closer to the glacier than we did. They were quite a bit closer than we were when a huge piece calved off causing quite a wave to propagate out from the face of the glacier.  We learned that generally we should remain at least 1/4 mile from the face of the glacier for safety reasons.  While out and about in the skiff, we also saw quite a few seals in the water.  After being out for a while, we went back to the boat to pick up Sarah (the Quest's hotel manager) and Dirk (the Quest's Engineer) who brought hot chocolate out to the group kayaking.  All this happened before lunch!

After lunch, I took a much needed nap until we spotted some humpback whales.  Later we took a skiff ride around Sail Island where we spotted 3 bald eagles, quite a few harbor seals, some harlequin ducks, some harbor porpoises, and an oyster catcher.  We also made a daring rescue of some "wild" Styrofoam that was spotted on shore ;-) 

Oh, and I learned quite a bit about glaciers today before, during, and after our outing!  I discovered that glaciers can be either tidewater or hanging.  Tidewater glaciers have their face along the water, while hanging glaciers don't reach the water.  I also learned that valleys carved by glaciers are more u-shaped (like the ones we saw) where valleys shaped by rivers are more v-shaped.  I realized that teaching intermediate algebra every semester definitely affects my thought patterns because when u-shaped valleys were mentioned, I automatically thought of parabolas.  I am such a math nerd!

Below are the photos for day 2.  Click on any of them to see a slightly bigger version!

Early morning shot of our overnight spot (Sumdum Glacier in background)

 View of Brown Bear on Beach

View through porthole in the bathroom of our cabin

  Ice in the water as we approach Dawes Glacier

Beautiful Blue Icebergs (color caused by densely packed ice)

Mom in her Mustang Suit ready to go for a skiff ride!

Waterfalls in the area approaching Dawes Glacier

Hanging Glacier in the Valley near Dawes Glacier

Various shots of Dawes Glacier

Other group near face of the glacier

Dawes Glacier Calving

View of Dawes Glacier through porthole in cabin bathroom

Bald Eagle on Rock

Harlequin Ducks

Oyster Catcher on Rocks

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