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August 24, 2009

Then They Sent Us Off to College…

College Fjord that is…

We left Glacier Bay and proceeded through the narrow passages and a deepening fog, leading to more open seas to eventually enter Prince William Sound and to our next scenic opportunity, College Fjord. 

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Along the way we continued to see various whales, porpoise, seals, sea lions, otters and finally one of the animals I was hoping to see, an Orca (killer whale)!

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And as I mentioned a few otters… A group of which is referred to as “a raft.”

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As for the mom and her pup, that is just referred to as “Cute!”

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My appologies for some of the slightly blurry images, but these were some very long shots (at max zoom on my 70-300mm lens in very low light.)  So with a moving ship you can see my issues.)

We continued up the Alaska coast constantly amazed by the next piece of scenery to cross our wake.  From small rock islands to impressive mountain glaciers, you never knew what lay ahead.  It was like Christmas morning every 14 minutes!

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Alas… around 5:30pm we enter College Fjord to view its many glaciers and plentiful wildlife. 

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Our Captain promised that College Fjord was actually his favorite scenic stop on the cruise due in part that the College Glaciers are usually much more active than those in Glacier Bay, and that we stand a good chance to witness and hear! one actually calve!  And, that on the plethora of icebergs that litter the lagoon we will definitely see more seals… that is… as he put it… “Unless the Orcas have been visiting the grocery store again…”

image We were not disappointed on either…

First the seals, as the Captain once again maneuvered the ship right up to the face of the Harvard Glacier the first thing we noticed were the dark large sausage shaped seals basking in the evening sun.

There were literally hundreds of seals all kicking back on blocks of newly calved ice chunks.

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Well, after a few minutes of watching the seals do… uh… well… nothing, we turned our attention to the star of the show, the Harvard Glacier.  It was massive, and full of rich aqua blue cuts in its frozen face.  But more than providing a visual spectacle, this glacier was alive with sound!  Popping, groaning and yes the distinct sounds of large pieces if calving ice could be heard as they cascaded down the front wall to the calm waters below.  It was a banquet for the senses.

We had just begun to swing the ship to where we on the starboard side would have 20 minutes of viewing from a stationary position broadside to the glacier when I spotted the fist actual calve.  It wasn’t a huge chuck falling off, more of a small avalanche rushing down an angular trough, but fascinating none the less.

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Once the ship turned full broadside to the glacier is when I had the opportunity of a lifetime.  Ginger and I were standing on our stateroom balcony shooting picture after picture of this frozen monolith when a particularly loud and deep “CRACK”  was heard over and above the Rice Crispies-like popping we had been hearing.  We turned, and I pointed my Nikon at the sound, squeezing the shutter as fast as I could, firing nine shots in a couple of seconds to capture this…  About 70 vertical feet of face letting go!  If you look closely you can see the wave caused by this immersion.  Many of the sausages were disturbed from their slumber on this one.

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If you are unable to see the animated GIF image above, or would like to see a bit larger image, click this link to see if you can see it on my smugmug page.

After about 2 hours in the fjord, it was time for us to head for our last port, and the end of the sea-bound portion of our journey, Whittier, where we would make the pier around 11:30pm. 

As we set sail our final time through Prince William Sound, we were blessed with an amazing 10:30pm sunset!  And later a spectacular moon rise…

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As the ship made its final port of our journey in Whittier, my sister and I stayed up late in dark morning hours, arms leaning on the ship’s rail watching as we sent lines over for our last time on our cruise, saddened that tomorrow morning we would be leaving the Island Princess and her outstanding crew, but yet also excited about our coming adventures in Denali and Mt. McKinley, and our train ride through the interior of Alaska!

For more photos of College Fjord, please visit my gallery pages here [Link]

August 24, 2009 in Alaska 2009, Photo, Travel | Permalink

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Hard to create a .GIF without using Photoshop! ;-)

-JC

Posted by: John Carmichael | Aug 25, 2009 10:35:16 PM

Ice having a calve... yea right. It's all Photoshopped.

Posted by: Ken | Aug 25, 2009 6:36:30 PM

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