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Published: July 12th 2011
Saturday, the cruise that was everything I thought Alaska would be! Ross, Linda, Mike, Jack and I took a Stan Stephens Glacier and Wildlife Viewing cruise out of Valdez Harbor and into Prince William Sound. Gallantly, Jim volunteered to stay back to take care of Princess since it was a 9-hour cruise. As we left Valdez harbor, we cruised amongst the commercial fishing boats, fishing for pink salmon. They drop down huge nets in a large circle and then gather the top of the net together in an action called pursing. Once the net is pursed, it is hauled aboard the fishing vessel. The “purse” is called the money bag. Then, a large tender comes around and vacuums (using a machine called a Trans-Vac) the fish out of the boat’s hold and into the tender’s hold. The tender then takes the fish to the cannery while the fishing boat stays out and continues the process. Two boats from “The Deadliest Catch” (a Discovery channel show about fishing for Alaskan king crab) are here working as tenders, the Northwestern and the Kodiak. The Northwestern is Jim’s favorite.
The Captain showed us the marker on Bligh Reef where the Exxon Valdez ran
aground in 1989. Until our Gulf oil spill last year, this was the largest oil spill in American history. Sadly, it didn’t seem like much was learned from the Valdez spill as many of the same mistakes were made in 2010. The Exxon Valdez was repaired and renamed the Exxon Mediterranean and spent its last days there until it was recently decommissioned.
Continuing on towards the Meares Glacier, we saw the Columbia Glacier (retreating) from afar. We slowly advanced through floating ice blocks all along the north side of Glacier Island. These blocks of ice were from the Columbia Glacier. Slowly, we proceeded into the Unakwik Inlet and got a first glimpse of the Meares. The face of this glacier is 25 stories tall and we stayed about ¼ mile away. It is an indescribable sight to behold – the aquamarine color glistening against the cold white background. We waited and waited for a giant piece to calve. After listening to the ice cracking sounds for a while, we knew that one of the promontories was going to give way at any moment. Only a small piece gave way, but it made a thunderous crash into the water below.
I finally had to go back inside as I was freezing.
On the way back, the Captain showed us every kind of marine wildlife imaginable – we saw an orca, a humpback, stellar sea lions, sea otters, harbor seals, puffins, murrelets, eagles, cormorants, kittiwakes, herons, and Dall’s porpoises, to name a few. I think I downloaded almost 600 pictures.
Between standing outside watching the glacier, running around the decks (upstairs and downstairs) taking photographs, and listening to the Captain to gather information, I came home worn out! After a light snack with Jim, I hit the sack, ready for another good day tomorrow!
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