Kenai Fjords National Park
They warned us how bad the sea is at the port, particularly just outside of Resurrection Bay, and that our boat might turn back around if it gets too rough. They offered us a raincheck to take the day cruise on another much calmer day. But since this was our last day in Alaska before heading back to Anchorage to fly back down to the contiguous United States, we say what the heck not. How bad can it be?
I threw up four times on that damn boat.
A few weeks before Christmas in 1978, President Carter designated hundreds of thousands of acres around the Kenai Peninsula as a National Monument. Created to protect the pristine glacial bays and the plethora of wildlife that makes it their home, both year-round and seasonally. Also part of the park is the gigantic Harding Icefield, a one-mile thick of compacted ancient ice that feeds 30 glaciers in the area.
The city of Seward protested loudly about the creation of the park. But soon after tourism boomed, they rescinded their formal protests and instead asked to expand the park boundaries. Nowadays, dozens of tourists flock to their docks for a day cruise ranging from a couple hours to a full 8-hours with a prime rib dinner.
Having only one day at the end of our Alaska trip, we booked the 8.5 hours through Kenai Fjord Tours. The reason we chose this tour was because this route included Resurrection Bay (where the town of Seward is located) and also a jaunt to Aialik Glaciers. Totally not because of the included prime rib dinner.
Not long right after we departed from the docks, we came across a humpback whale lunge feeding in the bay. Throughout the cruise we would see various marine wildlifes like orcas, seals, otters, and a few more whales--some even popped up mere feets from the boat.
The bonus of the day was seeing a bald eagle feeding on possibly a puffin or baby seagull. The bay and its surrounding provides a thriving ecosystem that these animals rely on. It’s just another reminder of the roles these protected seashores and lands mean for endangered wildlife whose food supplies have been cut short from overfishing, pollution, development, and global warming.
Geologically speaking, fjords are narrow inlets created from ancient glaciers that have now receded far back into the mountains. Leaving this beautiful bay where glacial melt waters meets the ocean. One of the most beautiful feature left behind by these glaciers are these mountains that seems to risen straight up from the sea.
But the beauty of these bay didn’t help alleviate my suffering. After stopping for a few whales and orcas, the boat cut across the bay to make it to the Aialik inlet. And that’s where the bad stuff starts to happen (or come out of my mouth). We were warned about the rough seas, but had no idea how bad it would be. Not long after we started hitting the big waves and as the boat seemingly hop from one swell to another, I threw up my breakfast. And again, and again, and again. But couple things that made me feel better about it: one, I was not the only one as a large chunk of the other passengers threw their guts out. And two, the boat staff were incredibly nice and facilitating by making sure we got enough puke bags and taking them away to throw.
All that suffering was ultimately rewarded as we come into the calmer waters of Aialik bay. It had started raining at this point and the sky have turned much darker. The bay was filled with mist and fog and the surrounding mountains starts to ease into view as we get closer. The water was filled with chunks of small broken off glacier pieces.
Before coming into view of the Aialik Glacier, we passed by Surprise Glacier. And much to my surprise (ha ha), I spotted a lone kayaker by the shore. I can’t even imagine how he made his way here.
As the boat slowed down to the end of the bay, we hang around a bit to take in a few of the glacier. It’s not the first time I’ve ever seen a glacier, but seeing this light blue giant freaking wall of ice is always jaw-dropping. We can hear distant cracks from the glacier as it continuously move under its own weight.
Taking pictures of the glacier from a moving boat was hard enough, but the rain made it harder. I had to continuously go back into the boat from the dock to wipe off my lens, come out for a couple frames, then come back in to wipe… rinse and repeat.