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Cruising in Prince William Sound, Alaska
The Cruise Ship Departs
The huge ship, Carnival Spirit, stood at the end of the street, towering over the small shops and businesses. With its 2,124 passengers and almost the same number of crew its temporary population must have outnumbered the more permanent one on shore, the permanent town glad of the sudden flush to their coffers. Then it was off again, departing this time, not for a port of call, but for an experience of mighty proportions. It was sailing to view the wonders and beauty of Prince William Sound, Alaska.
Prince William Sound
Prince William Sound
Situated on the east side of the Kenai Peninsula in the Gulf of Alaska, Prince William Sound is truly amazing. It is a huge area that boasts one hundred and fifty glaciers. Seventeen of them are tide water glaciers that calve into the sea and when that happens the splash can be tremendous. The ship travelled very slowly, partly so we could enjoy every moment of this once-in-a-life-time event, and possibly also because of hidden dangers in the waters of the Sound.
Practically every passenger rugged up warmly and went out onto the decks to see and enjoy every vista they could. Although it was summer it was still very cold, but no-one wanted to miss this experience that they had travelled so far to see.
A Glacier up Close
As we watched, a glacier calved, but unfortunately I was so busy watching the huge chunk of ice fall into the sea with a spectacular splash that I forgot to take a photo.
The ship went as close as possible to a huge wall of glacier, before turning around. The colours and shapes were fantastic, as if some great sculptor had created a great work of art, and I guess that's what it really was - God's great handiwork, and we were so privileged to be there to see it.
It seemed so remote, but not so far away as the Bald Eagle flies, lay the largest port in Alaska, Valdez and the southern terminus of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline system. To the East and North, lay the famous Chugach Mountains. With the new tunnel through the mountains, Anchorage was not much more than an hour's drive from Valdez.
As the ship slowly made its way along beside more glaciers, we could see the Sitka Spruce marching along the towards a glacier, sturdy sentinels in a frozen land of glaciers. It was the short summer season of long, long days and brief nights, but soon the snow would return to hide the rocks and green pastures.
We were told that there were five different types of bears in Alaska and many other kinds of animals and wild-life at this time of the year, but this day we only saw a bald eagle and the Sea Otters. They more than made up for anything we may have missed. Groups had taken up residence on a number of small iceberg that floated near the ship. We learned that seven eighths of the iceberg was under the water, so they were considerably bigger than they appeared. So were the Sea Otters; apparently these marine mammals can weigh up to 90 lbs (41 kg), although the females are smaller. They mostly live on shellfish and they like them a lot, eating up to about 20% of their weight every day. They like to play with each other and rarely go ashore.
Some of the Sea Otters rested on their stomachs on the ice, but most lay on their backs. We found that this was their favourite position, even in the water, unless they were about to dive. They swam on their backs, floated on their backs while eating or resting, some even floated with their baby sitting on their stomach. With their black triangular noses they looked so cute.
A Wonder World
The whole experience had been like a visit to a wonder world, another planet. It was with a deep feeling of regret that we realized the ship was now travelling more quickly and we were being transported back from a frozen fantasy world into the real world again.
We turned back into the warmth of the ship to thaw frozen fingers and noses, grateful to have had such an adventure in a corner of God's vast and wonderful world.
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