Sunday, August 2, 2015

Alaska Day 6 - Whittier

Actually, these first 3 pictures are from day 5...
 South of Anchorage, Meg wanted to stop briefly at Bird Creek to watch people catch Salmon.  July is when the Salmon are running upstream and every creek looks like this.  Everyone has 'Salmon fever'.
 It was getting late and we knew that we could go no further, so we took a chance on a left turn toward Whittier.  It was unplanned, but the best part of the trip.  You have to go through this 2.5 mile long, one lane tunnel that shares the space with an active railroad track.  You have to hold the wheel with both hands and drive 20 mph because the rails throw the wheels of the car back and forth.
 Our first glimpse of Whittier were the docks with this HUGE cruise ship docked for the night.  Whittier is exclusively a sea port and railroad terminal.  It has no gas stations or shops, and as far as I could tell, 1 grocery store and 1 restaurant / bar inside the only hotel, the Anchor Inn, (and we were lucky that they had a room for us).
 This is Whittier.  Everything was built by the army in WWII.  The large building on the left is a derelict ruin abandoned after the 1964 earthquake.  The large building in the middle houses 85% of the town folks who make their living off fishing, charter boats or the railroad.  The place has a strange "vibe"; I don't know if it's the glacier looming over the town, the large creepy abandoned building or the only means of escape is a long, narrow tunnel that is only open once every hour and closed at night.  The running joke about the tunnel is becoming a P.O.W. - a Prisoner Of Whittier.
 After breakfast, we decided on the "26 glacier tour" with Phillips Cruises and Tours.  They took about 200 people out on a large catamaran.  There were waterfalls everywhere!
 This is a mountain goat with a small herd of deer; strange to see a mix of different species hanging together.
 This Lion's Mane Jellyfish was a first for me... were these Steller Sea Lions.
 Out in front of the glaciers were Harbor Seals hauled up on ice flows.
My favorite part of the wildlife spotting were the large numbers of Sea Otters.
 Of course, lots of glaciers to see.

 We got 'up close and personal' with some, and saw a 'calving' as a large piece sheered off and fell into the water.
 If you're inclined to see Alaska's glaciers, better do it soon.  They're disappearing fast.  They pointed out places where you could see how much they've receded in the last few years - unbelievable!
The last stop was a colony of Black Legged Kittiwakes.  I was very happy with the emphasis that the captain gave to wildlife viewing.  It was an excellent experience that I'll remember for the rest of my life.  I totally recommend this if you plan on going to Alaska.

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