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
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