Columbia Glacier and Sea Lions and Otters and Orcas

These guys welcomed us on our Columbia Glacier cruise this afternoon. We were just on our way out of Valdez port when we encountered a couple rafts of otters. They were having a great time, it looked like they were wrestling and burning off extra energy.

Despite the drizzly and foggy weather today, we had a few clear moments to see things like this spectacular glacial-fed waterfall cascading down into Prince William Sound.

The otters and orcas surely seem to be in cahoots with the tour companies. The glacier boats know just where to pick these guys up, and the sea critters perform with a smile for us. We had almost ten minutes running alongside or just behind this orca whale. Too bad his contract didn’t include it today, but you can see a very cool photo of a breaching orca here on Wiki.

Onward we slogged through chilly seas and colder air. This is but one of many little and not so little icebergs we run close to. We’re on a date with Columbia Glacier and our captain says he’ll get us as near to it as conditions allow. We suspect he already knows conditions and how close it will be, but he plays it well for his audience.

Whenever the captain or one of his spotters sees something to recommend, he calls out, “such and such on your 2 o’clock”. And everyone slides over to whichever side he recommends, and tries to catch a photo or a good look through binoculars. Predictably, the boat lists with the imbalance of dynamic human cargo.

This time, everyone was on the starboard side to watch Columbia Glacier for any calving action. Several times it obliged, releasing a large mass of ice to fall a hundred feet or more into the sound. We were far enough away that we couldn’t hear it, and the picture quality is compromised by very poor lighting and the distance. This is far and away the largest glacier we’ve seen in our travels.

Some glacier cruises will net a block of glacial ice, land it, and chip it for drinks. This cruise is pleasantly low-key — he walked around with this large chunk of very hard very old ice and let us pet it. Nice ice, nice ice. . .

This photograph best captures today’s weather conditions. You might not feel the cold (high of 52 in Valdez, and colder on the sound) but see the low ceiling and imagine rain almost all day. When we returned to Valdez we were in the rain and 48 degrees.

A good day of touring on this, our sixth cruise of the caravan. We dressed most warmly for this one and it paid off — we were able to sit on the outdoor deck the entire cruise. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to sit indoors for any length of time — way too warm in there with our clothing layers. We enjoyed it all and are glad we could see these sights today.

Jim and Debbie
dreamstreamr odyssey, chasing 75 degrees

locate us here

visit our website

©2007-2012 Dreamstreamr

4 responses to “Columbia Glacier and Sea Lions and Otters and Orcas

  1. How large was the boat from which you viewed the glacier? We did an Inland Passage cruise a few years back on one of the smaller cruise line ships (still 1200 passengers). It was able to get all the way up Glacier Bay, but being that many stories up kept the sense of the glaciers’ sizes distant. We could see smaller boats going up closer, but with the risk for more affects of ice calving and subsequent waves. Love those Airstreams. My grandparents had one (maybe my memory is correct) back in the 60’s and 70’s for wintering in AZ.

    • This tour boat was maybe 125′, we were 115 people on it. He pulled us to within 1/2 mile, the captain said, but it seemed half that distance at times. If only the light had been better our pictures would be much improved. Still, one of the best cruises we’ve had.

  2. We don’t have “like” buttons, but I wanted punch the button for the photo of the magnificent waterfall at Prince William Sound. People who have photographed the calving glaciers have commented on their very unique color.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.