Part 14: Prince William Sound Boat Tour


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The Trip

At the suggestion of our friends in Fairbanks, Dan and Janet, we decided to do the Stan Stevens 6 hour tour boat trip in Prince William Sound. We would go past where the Exxon Valdez wrecked as well as seeing whales and other marine mammals.

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw.

Our ride for the day: The Glacier Spirit. We boarded at the small boat harbor docks. There were over 100 folks on the boat and many were visiting from Europe.

Not far from the harbor, we spotted this Sea Otter.

I asked this pair to get close for a group shot.

They were focused on us, but seemingly not afraid. So there is no mistake, this was a crop of a zoom; the otters were quite away's away.

One of the many Coast Guard go-fast patrol boats that cruise the sound.

One of the mid-channel islands with Andersen Falls in the background.

A view over the fan tail as we get into the open waters of Prince William Sound. We did this trip on the 4th of July, so the flag photo was fitting.

The car ferry that serves Valdez, Whittier and Cordoba. Note the propeller wash aft of the boat. This fellow really moves out.

Some dolphins were playing in the bow wave of the boat.

These dolphins were fast and agile. And, really tough to shoot. Getting this photo required many frames.

The captain of the tour took us to a beach that was known to be a hang-out for the Stellar's Sea Lions. There were a whole colony of them on the shore getting some rays in the mid-day sun.

These growl rather than bark. They are big, powerful and fast and really do not have to work too hard to find food as they are highly capable hunters.

Nearby we spotted these puffins. The colors of their beaks are muted in the haze. Sadly, they never got that close to the boat.

The headlands of Glacier Island. The guide stated that geologists had determined that the composition of the island was identical to the rocks in California and not similar to local rocks. The conclusion is that it has drifted north over the years.

Our first humpback sighting.

I was lucky to get a number of tail shots. Each whale's tail pattern is unique and like a human's fingerprint it can be used to identify the whale.

The whales were stirring up the food, so there were plenty of sea lions in the area feeding on the leftovers.

Another whale returns to feed at the bottom.

This sea lion is chasing the whale. Note that it's jaws are open and perhaps nipping at the flukes of the whale to get it to disgorge some food.

The whales were pretty close to the boat, perhaps 100 meters away.

This one has some kind of line or marking on its back. Perhaps it is a scar from a rope.

There were a number of humpbacks in the area and we were pretty lucky to see more than one.

This fluke is nearly all white. Note the parasites on the left side of the tail.

They only show their tail when they are about to dive deep.

He will be down for 7-10 minutes before surfacing again for air.

The sea lions were harassing this fellow and he did not like it one bit.

We have seen this one before, note the tail pattern.

The breathing hole on their dorsal side is clearly visible and looks similar to a human nose with 2 nostrils.

Down for more chow.

The tail will come out of the water in the next frame.

I think that the whales spend most of their time feeding.

When viewed from this angle the tail is not that thick.

I spotted this one way in the distance near the cruise ship.

When we were done with the whales, we headed toward Columbia Glacier. Above is an ice chunk that calved from the terminal face of the glacier.

The terminal end of Columbia Glacier.

Another view of the ice on Columbia Glacier.

For sea lions, dry space is limited, so 3 were crowded on this buoy.

The captain of the boat brought us close to shore for a view of Andersen Falls. Lots of noise and lots of spray.

We spotted this bald eagle in the trees next to Andersen Falls.

The Alyeska facility where the oil tankers are loaded. The holding tanks for the oil are visible on the hill side.

Valdez as seen from quite a ways out in the channel.

The tour was nice and the boat was in good repair. I wished that the tour would have been 4 hours instead of 6 but the good news was that we did not sign up for the 9 hour tour. The weather could not have been better; it was sunny, clear and calm. The next day was foggy, so we chose the correct day. When we arrived back at port, we discovered that we had been invited by a local couple, Brent and Julie, to come to their party where there was a bon fire, food and fireworks. We went with them and had a great time. Brent works with Alyeska and has had his eye on mogs for some time and we greatly appreciate their hospitality. Our next destination is Haines, AK, but that will take several days.

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Photos and Text Copyright Bill Caid 2009, all rights reserved.
For your enjoyment only, not for commercial use.