Back when we were still in Canada in mid-May, we were parked next to a couple from British Columbia at a campground that was on their way back from a month long trip to Alaska. They told us the highlight of their time in Alaska was a sightseeing trip on the LuLu Bell boat out of Valdez.
We had already scheduled a sightseeing boat trip out of Seward, so I wasn’t sure I wanted to do two of these trips (at $170/person they are not cheap!) but I am so glad we did. Karen and Al also decided to add this to our trip too. I knew it was going to be a good day when I walked Makena before we left, and saw two Eagles hanging out on the antennae in our campground.
The four of us walked down to the docks from our campground, and we departed around 10 am on a foggy morning.
Sea lions greeted our boat on the way out of the harbor towards Prince William Sound.
We saw several groups of sea otters throughout the day. I have never seen these before. They are a happy group and always seemed more curious than afraid of the boats.
You never know what you are going to see on a cruise, and we were hopeful for a whale sighting. There was a lot of shouting going on by some of the passengers, when they noticed this “water spout!” We continued to watch and finally the humpback whale surfaced and then went back down. They can stay underwater a long time before surfacing. The captain timed this one, and it would stay under the water 6 minutes before surfacing.
Later in the morning, the fog was lifting and the sun popped out for the day! We continued along the coast of Prince William Sound and came across a beautiful waterfall, Anderson Falls.
Being on a smaller style boat, the captain was able to navigate close to the rocky shoreline, and in and out of some tiny caves.
The captain was searching along the caves for birds, as that is where they like to hang out, especially the Puffin, which I really wanted to see. We did see dozens of them, but I was never able to get a clear photo. They like to hide in the nooks and crannies of the rocks, and then fly away fast. This photo is the best I could get! I call it my “butt” puffin! This is how they hang out.
This is a photo from the internet of the puffin. There are two types: horned and tufted.
We were fortunate to see a second whale, and watched it for a while.
We encountered a very large group of sea lions sunning and playing along the rocks. They can get up to 1500 pounds, and love eating salmon. The locals are not fans of the sea lions because they eat so much of “their” fish.
This is an untouched photo. The Chugach Mountain range is many miles away, but this beautiful blue piece of ice was just floating along the water. The captain estimated it calved from the glacier months ago, as it was several miles away from Columbia Glacier.
We came across another big iceberg, and there was an Eagle sitting on it, in the upper left side.
As we got closer, it flew away.
It was really an amazing cruise, and we still had another hour to get up close to the glacier. It was also starting to get pretty cold, even though it is bright and sunny out!
The captain did an excellent job navigating around all the icebergs and growlers, which are the smaller pieces of ice.
Closer to the glacier the number of growlers increased, and we started to see Harbor Seals.
Our first view of the Columbia Glacier with the Chugach Mountains in the background. The Columbia Glacier is one of the most rapidly changing glaciers in the world. Since 1980 it has retreated 12 miles.
Zoomed in photo of the terminus of the glacier. The wall is 300 feet high.
The glacier is frequently calving, causing the water to be full of icebergs, making it difficult to get close to the glacier itself. The captain was able to get about 1/4 mile away.
The captain anchored the boat for a while, and the crew took photos for the guests. At this point, it was 37 degrees outside! I wish I would have brought my winter coat.
On our way back to the harbor in Valdez, we continued to pass amazing icebergs!
Saw some mountain goats on the cliffs.
And had a closer look at the terminal for the Alaska Pipeline.
By the time we returned to the dock, it was close to 9 pm (even though the pipeline photo looks like mid-afternoon!). It was a long, chilly day, but definitely worth it. A lifetime of memories from this cruise alone.
Quote of the day: “If you can’t be in awe of Mother Nature, there is something wrong with you.” – Alex Trebek