Valdez, AK
Sunday, August 11, 2013
Heavy overcast, light rain off & on

Bill started his day by getting his usual gas station cappuccino and stopped by the spawning places to look for bears. No luck!

Later, we headed back to the ferry office to book our ferry tickets. We decided to drop Petersburg from our itinerary, adding a day onto to two other destinations. We hated to drop the stop but the ferry schedules don't allow us to simply extent the trip by a couple of days. Oh, well. The event was a bit of a downer because it signifies the end of the Alaska portion of our trip.

Weather Finally Clears Enough to View Valdez Surroundings

Afterwards we visited the Remembering Old Valdez Museum. The Good Friday earthquake epicenter was not far from Valdez. Id did lots of damage to the town when it hit but most devastating was an underwater landslide that took away the entire waterfront and caused a local tsunami. While most structures survived, the slide made clear that the land on which the town was built was unstable. Eventually the entire town was moved to its current location on more stable ground about five miles away. While many new buildings were constructed, many of the old homes and other structures were able to be moved. The main exhibit was a complete model of the old town but there were lots of other notable things on exhibit.

Sandy Demands Directions at Old Valdez Museum

Back at the campground we began working on a newsletter for the Lancaster Area Celiac support group that Sandy runs.

We finished the day with a shared dinner with Kay and Bill. We grilled smoked pork chops. We shared risotto that we put together. Bill and Kay provided an excellent salad.

Valdez, AK
Monday, August 12, 2013
Beautiful, sunny, high 60s

Sunshine this morning! Clear skies, too. It was so nice to actually be able to see the harbor and mountains that surround the town. It really is a beautiful place.

With Bill and Kay Behind Glacier Spirit Tour Boat

At noon, we joined Bill and Kay aboard the Stan Stephens Glacier & Wildlife Cruise tour boat, Glacier Spirit, for a cruise on Prince William Sound and to see Columbia Glacier.

Valdez Oil Terminal across Harbor from Town

Pair of Tugs Accompany Tanker out of Prince William Sound

Dueling Waterfalls Put on a Show on Way to Columbia Glacier

Columbia Glacier has receded 10 miles since 1984. It's a tidewater glacier and its face is now about 10 miles wide. Actually several glaciers joined near the current terminus and are now beginning to appear as three separate glaciers. They may eventually all be renamed due to the change.

Looking up Beautiful First Branch of Glacier

Portion of Ten-Mile-Wide Face of Columbia Glacier

The terminal moraine that used to be at the face of the glacier now forms a shallow bar across the fjord that leads to the glacier. Generally, the water depth in the fjord is about 600 feet. But ten miles from the glacier's face there is a shallow bar just over 100 feet deep, the old terminal moraine. It's hardly a concern for shipping but still, quite a tall underwater hill, nearly 500 feet high!

This tidewater glacier calves into the water and there were lots of big pieces of ice floating in the water miles from the glacier's face. Lots of it was small ice and bergy bits but some was larger, showing house-sized portions above the water. Keeping in mind that 90 percent of an iceberg is underwater, those are pretty big pieces of ice!

Beautiful Blue Ice in Bergy Bit

We were fortunate to see a berg roll over. It's a process that occurs naturally as it melts, which changes the berg's shape and the relocates its center of mass. We also saw the glacier calf. The event occurred near another tour boat that was really close to the glacier's face. They must have experienced quite a wave from the splash!

Close-In Tour Boat Dwarfed by Columbia Glacier

During the day we saw lots of sea otters, sea lions, puffins, eagles and even several porpoises. They were in the water, on the floating ice and on or above the beaches. We didn't see any whales but it was a pretty good day for seeing wildlife.

Sea Otters Hauled Out on Bergy Bit

Seals Sunbathing in Front of Columbia Glacier

Small Portion of Large Group of Sea Lions Lounging on Beach

On the way back toward the harbor we cruised into some of the many coves that indent the shore of the bay. Like the Chesapeake Bay, there are lots of very nice anchorages for cruisers. Altogether, it was a really pretty day in beautiful setting!

Sailboat Cruising on Waters Very Unlike the Chesapeake Bay We Know

Bald Eagle Surveys Its Domain

For dinner we made a salad with leftover baked salmon.

Later, we visited with Kay and Bill. It would be our last evening with them as they will head for Haines to board the ferry system. We'll start out at Skagway several days later. We'll miss them but plan to catch up in Seattle where they'll be for a while.