Last Few Days as a Tourist

Surprise GlacierI am now back in Ottawa, where the sun is shining and it is summer! The weather wasn’t that cold in Anchorage, but it certainly wasn’t summer weather. It was more like early spring. A quick summary of my trip:

2 brew pubs
4 moose sightings
5+ glaciers
18+ hours of daylight
20+ seals
50+ sea otters

Oh, and I worked for two weeks on a proposal. We find out if we won next week. I finished work on Monday, so I had Tues and Wed (my flight wasn’t until 9pm) to see some things and be a tourist. It’s not every day someone gets to go to Alaska, so I had to make the most of it. It’s unfortunate Dave couldn’t come, but we’ve decided that he will next time! Hopefully there will be more than 2 days notice if I ever to have to go up to Anchorage again.

Sea OtterTuesday I booked a cruise in Prince William Sound. The boat left from Whittier, which is about two hours from Anchorage, so I opted to take the bus transportation offered by the tour company. The tour guide pointed out all sorts of things on the way there. Someone saw a moose (not me … didn’t look quick enough) and someone else saw some mountain sheep (not me… I was on the wrong side of the bus). Sometimes you can see belugas in the inlet, but not on Tues. We drove along the shore until we reached to 2-mile tunnel underneath a mountain to get to Whittier, which was pretty neat! These days, there isn’t much in Whittier except some docks where tours arrive and depart, and some armed forces. Everyone lives in one of two condo buildings because there is no other decent land on which to build. There was a restaurant or two, and a couple of tourist shops, and that’s about it.

The cruise takes passengers to see glaciers. I’ve seen glaciers before, in Alberta and in Bolivia, but had never seen a tidewater glacier (a glacier that meets the ocean). I also thought it would be a good way to see some scenery outside of Anchorage, and possibly some wildlife. We departed from Whittier and were given a lunch of crabcakes, which were quite tasty. Our first stop was a waterfall where birds gather and nest. Then we went on to a salmon hatchery, where we saw lots of small fishing boats, the hatchery and a number of bald eagles. From there we went through a narrow channel and into the channel with several glaciers. The scenery on the trip was amazing, with mountains rising up out of the water, waterfalls and trees. It would have been unbelievable had it not been so foggy, I’m sure. But even with the rain and fog, the trip was worth it.

On the way to WhittierWe entered the passage towards Surprise Glacier, passing several other glaciers on the way. Surprise glacier is a large glacier that comes down a valley and meets the ocean. The boat stopped there, and we watched the glacier for about 30 minutes, which was actually really interesting. We saw the glacier calve several times. It is called calving, like a cow has a calf, because parts of it break off. The glacier is built up every year by snow, which is compacted into ice, and it also travels down the valley little by little and parts of it continually break off and fall into the ocean. These hunks are only called icebergs if they are really big, otherwise they have different names (which I don’t recall!). The glacier was so blue, as a result of refraction, which was actually more intense because it was cloudy. Apparently on a sunny day, the blue can be washed out.

Along the way we saw a lot of seat otters floating. They were very cute. We saw a raft (a group) of them at one point, and the boat slowed down so that we could all take photos. There were also a lot of seals near the glacier, floating on the ice warming themselves up. All in all it was a pretty interesting trip, and one that I would recommend, no matter what the weather. The boat was mostly covered, with seating and tables inside, with observation decks outside, so we could stay warm and dry most of the time!

Wed I packed up and checked out of the hotel, then headed downtown. I went to the Anchorage Museum, which as an art gallery and history museum. The art work was wonderful, and the history section was really interesting. There was also a special exhibit on the life of one of the native population groups in Alaska, and an exhibit on the oil pipeline which as a nerdy engineer, was quite interesting! Then I headed into some tourist-trap-shops, bought a couple of small things and headed to a brew pub for my last salmon dinner. It was delicious.

My trip to Alaska was definitely interesting and eye-opening. And it was great to be able to drink the water :)

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Posted in alaska | travel | work Submitted by Meg on Fri, 2008-07-25 21:57

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