Fun things to do in Kodiak Alaska
Alaska - from Seattle to Kodiak
A few days ago a friend who lives in Seattle wrote to me: "If you come with your group, have your agency organize breathing masks as a precaution, because the forest fires in British Columbia cause a lot of smoke here." That sounded more dramatic than, thank God, it finally was. Shortly before departure, our agency gives the all-clear, and nothing stands in the way of an uninterrupted journey.
After a pleasant 9 hour direct flight from Frankfurt, the city is then in the brightest sunshine below us and even Mount Rainier can be seen in the distance. The entry to the American authorities turns out to be quite quick and problem-free. Ursula, our tour guide for the next three days, is waiting for us with her sign: M'OCEAN Reisen, MS Amsterdam "at the airport. Ursula has lived in Seattle for twenty years and emigrated from Hamburg to the USA. Our Hamburg guests are therefore greeted with a stylish “Hummel, Hummel!” You feel at home right away!
It is still too early to check in at the hotel, so we first go on a city tour. The Seattle skyline is now in front of us and makes a beautiful picture. The distinctive skyscrapers and the ferris wheel below near the harbor are distinctive. We drive through downtown and stop for a longer walk near Pikes Place with its famous market. Here we see the ritual of the "flying fish", which makes the fish stalls an attraction for tourists as well as locals. Of course we also see our first salmon - but here still lying on ice and waiting for their buyers.
There is another attraction diagonally across from Pikes Market: The very first Starbucks Cafe ever. This is especially an attraction for young people who wait patiently in long lines to treat themselves to an "original" coffee specially from this shop. For others it is enough if they take their obligatory selfie in front of it.
Our journey continues along the water to Pioneer Square. It's especially lively there today as the Seattle Seahawks team has a home game and thousands of green-clad fans make their way to the nearby stadium. Otherwise, this quarter is a bit quieter and shows us about one hundred year old brick houses, which make the whole thing a historical district in the USA - history can be so different. There is one special house that is worth a visit, namely the Klondike Museum around the corner. Here the history of the gold rush is impressively presented to us and those who want can have their weight in gold weighed out at the current price on a finely balanced scale. On that day, I am worth US $ 3,674,849.12 - far too cheap! ;-)
The last stop on our tour is Seattle's landmark: the Space Needle. This tower, built for the 1946 World Exhibition, is modeled on the Stuttgart radio tower. Who would have known? However, since the world exhibition at that time had "Traffic in the 21st Century" as its theme, the design of the tower ventured into the future and the upper part was designed like a UFO. The Jimmy Hendricks Museum "MOPOP", which is right next door, is also quite futuristic in design and both buildings together now offer extraordinary photo opportunities.
Our hotel rooms are already ready, so we check in and enjoy the rest of the day in Seattle - each in their own way.
At 9 a.m. Ursula picks us up by bus and today we drive south to Mount Rainer National Park.
It is raining a little on the way there. But my rain trousers shouldn't be used today, because after about half the distance it gets lighter on the horizon and the sun comes out more and more often from between the clouds.
Shortly before entering the park, we stop in a small town - a technical break.
But there is another reason for this stop, because in the small cafe in the village there are probably the sweetest and most unhealthy cinnamon cake pieces - but also the most delicious. Two people could easily share one thing - nothing more is possible without bursting ...
Ursula buys the tickets for us at the park entrance and from there we drive on a slightly but steadily rising road through the dense coniferous forest up to over 1,500 meters.
In such a park, human hands intervene in nature very carefully, which can be seen later on, for example, one or the other fallen tree trunk, which is apparently useless in the area, but forms the basis for other plants and their growth.
We stop at a point from which you can take a look at the Paradise River flowing below us - in theory. Either we didn't walk far enough or the trees here have blocked the view. Just a national park. Nevertheless, we have a nice walk behind us. Glittering and green shimmering stones were discovered, rare plants were admired, and our youngest traveler (Julius, 13 years old) took plenty of time to photograph a family of ducks. He was then able to easily make up for this time with a longer sprint.
The Narada Falls are the next opportunity to stretch your legs. It goes from the parking lot over a forest path down to a viewing platform, from which you can watch the falling water. Since the sun is now shining almost constantly, a rainbow even forms over the river. The ideal photo motif.
And on this little excursion, too, a special find was reported: yellow blackberries, or as Ursula explains to us in English: Salmon Berries - salmon berries, of course edible and really sweet.
Our destination "Paradise Point" appears. Apparently a very popular place, because the parking spaces directly at the visitor center are all occupied. Our bus driver Lauren lets us get off there anyway and looks for a parking space a bit outside. Now we have enough time for a variety of activities: hiking, walking, visiting the interesting museum, reliving the good old days in the traditional hotel "Paradise Inn" next door, having a lunch snack, or just sitting and enjoying the panorama of the surrounding area Enjoy Tatoosh Mountains. Mount Rainier, however, is elegantly veiled in clouds.
Those who have decided to go hiking can expect excellently developed paths through beautiful nature with dense forests, blooming flower meadows and ...
We have two routes in particular, which are relatively moderate at 1.1 and 1.3 miles. The longer of the two leads to a lookout point that should offer a view of the Nisqually Glacier - if it weren't for the low clouds in the valley. But we don't really care, because here, as is so often the case, the following applies: the journey is the destination.
With our lungs full of fresh and healthy mountain air, we make our way back to the bus and say goodbye to Paradise Point, which got its name over 100 years ago from the exclamation of a lady who was ecstatic up here and said: "Here is." it's like paradise! "
Ursula and our driver suggest another way back to Seattle, which should give us the opportunity for another and new stop on the way, namely at Box Canyon. After a short walk, the landscape looks like a mixture of Allgäu and South Tyrol - green meadow hills and surrounding mountains. Speaking of mountains: In a gap in the clouds it finally shows itself, which gave the park its name, Mount Rainier. At least in one section, but it really does seem to exist.
After driving around a kilometer-long traffic jam in a scenic way - thank you Lauren! - we arrive back at our hotel and have the rest of the evening free.
The short drive to the port begins today with a slight delay. The driver (of course not Lauren!) Drove to the wrong hotel first. After she drove up, our luggage disappears very quickly into the storage space with the active help of many strong men and so we can start almost on time as planned.
The cruise terminal is still pretty much deserted. We are among the first passengers there and so the check-in, which is often associated with long queues, is done quite quickly. Most of us first go to the Lido Restaurant for lunch and try out the good cuisine there. Since the cabins are only ready for occupancy from around 3 p.m., there is still enough time for a first tour of the ship.
The center of the MS Amsterdam is a three-story atrium, in the middle of which there is an artfully decorated astronomical clock that extends over all three decks. This technological marvel has four sides.
The first shows the local time, the date, the position of the sun and the phase of the moon on four dials.
The second side is like a planetarium and shows the positions of the planets Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn around the sun. The other planets, which can only be observed with a telescope, have not been taken into account here.
The third page is divided into 24 segments and shows the world time using the example of 24 capitals around the world.
The fourth page is for astronomy enthusiasts and shows the constellation of the stars over Amsterdam in real time.
On the top of the clock there is a model of the course of the earth around the sun in 12 months and the moon around the earth in one month.
In addition, a representation of the 12 zodiac signs was hung on the ceiling in a beautiful blue dome.
Last but not least, a built-in music box plays a different melody every full hour with the help of bells.
As I said, a marvel of technology and absolutely impressive.
All the public rooms are distributed on decks 4 and 5. From the main restaurant "La Fontaine" in the stern, to the specialty restaurant "Pinackle Grill", the casino, the shops and various bars, to the theater in the bow, which extends over two decks, everything your heart desires is there. I would describe the furnishing style as classically elegant. Sometimes a bit plush, but always stylish. In many places on the ship you can also find inconspicuously integrated antiques. Here an artistically carved cabinet of the Italian school from the 17th century, there a few figures from the Dutch colonial times in Indonesia.
The Lido Deck on Deck 8 has two large pools. The first can be closed with a glass roof and can therefore be used regardless of the weather. The second is located in the stern and is connected to the partially covered area of the Lido Restaurant. In this restaurant you can help yourself in the morning, at noon and in the evening from the buffet with different and changing delicacies. Themed evenings, for example with Alaskan specialties, are also offered here.
All in all, it is a very comfortable and manageable ship, on which we will feel very comfortable for the next 14 days.
Alaska's first city, salmon capital of the world or even rainy capital of Alaska. At first it seems to live up to the latter title, but when we leave on time for our excursion, it actually stops raining.
Today we want to try to see some bears in the wild. To do this, our bus driver first drives us south along the coast, past the colorful houses on Creek Street and a supermarket that became famous when a black bear broke in at night. He's stuffed his stomach with food worth over $ 3,000 - and then escaped undetected. In general, Ketchikan has a very high bear population, about twice as many as residents! With a population of 18,000, anyone can calculate that the chance of meeting a black bear is very high.
However, we would prefer to meet them at a safe distance, so we drive to the nature reserve of Herrings Cove. Many young people who have dedicated themselves to protecting bears live and work there. Two brave young women greet us at the park entrance and explain the first safety rules to us. Then we cross the forest on wooden walkways that have been placed higher up. It will be exciting!
And we are lucky, because shortly afterwards a huge specimen lies apparently asleep in the undergrowth near a small river. Jaz, one of our two guides, explains to us that this she-bear must have eaten quite a lot of salmon recently, because she is now in a kind of eating coma.
But a little later, the second bear appears under a bridge, where he is gleefully eating the salmon he has just caught. Under the bridge, because there his catch is safe from the seagulls and crows, which they would fight for him under the open sky.
Then comes a call on the walkie-talkie: a third bear has been spotted, further down near the fish hatchery. So run down quickly but carefully to take a look at these comrades. He trudges across a meadow, and after he has only found the rest of one last meal there, he grabs it and disappears with it into the forest. So back to bear number 1, who has been awake and active in the meantime. And there comes bear number 4. This is clearly distinguishable from the others, because a large part of its back fur is brownish in color. We follow him a little longer on his way down through the river and then head towards the exit.
However, there are two more interesting things waiting for us there. On the one hand, we see an old man who is descended from the indigenous people of Alaska, known as the First Nations, who has been carving a totem pole out of the trunk of a red cedar for years. Totem poles tell stories. This one from the giant Kajoosh, who lived in a forest and sucked the blood out of children who got lost there. After he was captured and killed, his body was cremated. Thousands of mosquitoes rose from its ashes and so it still lives on today in a different form. Scary, isn't it?
On the other hand, it continues majestically in the next building, because there a full-grown bald eagle is sitting on the hand of a nurse and we can marvel at it. Sitka, as his name is, was found unable to fly because he had broken his wing in an accident. Since his right rear claw was also missing, he would no longer be able to survive in the wild and is now allowed to spend his old age in the bird of prey center.
Last but not least, Julius can look forward to an early birthday present, a knife forged from a nail with a lifelong guarantee. Shining eyes are guaranteed. The knife is kept safe by the security team when he returns to the ship, but of course he gets it back after the cruise is over.
After a lunch break we meet again for a stroll through the city, which leads us over Creek Street with its old wooden houses a short distance up to a salmon staircase. There we see many salmon that have already made the arduous way over a large rapids and are now gathering strength in a quieter part of the river to cope with the next section on their long journey back to their spawning grounds. Good luck!
Of course, not all salmon make this route, as many of them are prey to sea lions, birds of prey, bears - and humans. The smoked variant of different types of salmon can later be purchased in several shops in town as a popular souvenir to take home.
As the crowning glory of the day, we make a stop in a building that has free WiFi so that everyone can get in touch with their loved ones at home or access the latest stock market prices. Heart, what do you want more!
For today we have decided on something very special, the flight with a seaplane to Taku Glacier Lodge. To do this, however, we have to get up early, because the first flight in the morning is usually the most beautiful. We are already expected at the terminal and after small formalities, such as inquiring about our live weight (before or after the cruise? ;-), we are off. We start on the Taku River and quickly it goes up over lush green coniferous forests and deep fjords. On our 30-minute flight we cross a total of five glaciers, of which the Taku Glacier is the largest. Even if it looks quite imposing later from the lodge, its dimensions can only really be understood from the plane. All glaciers, however, are in turn part of the even larger Juneau Ice Field, which, together with the surrounding mountains of Juneau, ensures that the capital of Alaska can only be reached by plane or ship, not by land.
After a barely noticeable landing and a short walk to the lodge, we are greeted warmly by the owner's two dogs. The fire is already burning in the grill and gives hope for culinary highlights. We first explore the area and walk to a small waterfall.There it goes through a real fairytale forest, the trees of which are overgrown with mosses and ferns. Large mushrooms and different berries grow to the left and right of the path. The air couldn't be cleaner and is inhaled deeply. Our walk is also a little feast for the senses. The only thing missing is the sense of taste, and a bell rings from afar: it's time for lunch!
Freshly grilled salmon (caught in the morning, on the table at noon), reindeer sausages, baked beans and apple compote await us. Yes, it tastes good! And how!
Then you have to go for a digestive walk. The dogs and our guide Kyle are already waiting for us. He in a T-shirt and we in functional clothing and rain jackets. He says he's used to the climate here. All right then. We walk along the water and take a look at the Taku Glacier to our right. It is about 2 kilometers away and is up to 1.8 kilometers thick - unbelievable, what a mass of ice! In the field to our left there are many cranberry bushes full of berries. They are also the reason why there are so many bears here, because they are particularly fond of them. Bears are generally herbivores, so we don't have to worry about any encounters. The main thing is that we don't surprise any of them, because they don't like that at all.
We learn a lot about the different types of trees and moss, see large mushrooms and also an Alaskan wild plant that is related to ginseng and has beautiful red berries. However, these can only be used for medical purposes. Back at the lodge we have some free time before our seaplane takes us back to Juneau.
After lunch we set off again for a tour to the Mendenhall Glacier. The way there is by bus (2 USD p.p.), although we still have to walk about 3 kilometers from the bus stop - and that when it rains. But it's not that cold at all and back there towards the glacier the sky is already getting lighter. So all is well and the sight of the glacier completely reconciles us. However, there is still one small difficulty: the direct footpath there is partially flooded. Most of us, however, dare the route and overcome two ankle-deep puddles of water with flying colors. The different techniques for avoiding wet feet are particularly interesting to see. A lot of fun!
The big waterfall in front of the glacier carries a lot of water this year and blocks our further access to a sandbank that could bring us even closer. But even from our point of view, the sight is quite impressive. And since the sun is now shining splendidly on us, we have wonderful photo motifs with a glacier and waterfall as a background.
For the way back we had already ordered a couple of taxis in advance, which will take us straight back to the ship and our dry shoes after our tour.
Only one ship is allowed to dock at the pier at Icy Strait Point, which is very pleasant. And so the port belongs only to "us".
We want to walk together to Hoonah, a place where mainly descendants of the Tlingit, the indigenous people of Alaska, live. You could also cover the almost 3 kilometers with the shuttle bus (5 USD there and back), but you don't have to. Because this relaxed path along the hardly used road holds some surprises for us: First of all, there are the many bald eagles, which are clearly visible with their white heads in the green trees. However, you have to keep an eye out for them. And if one of them flies over our heads with a fish as prey in its claws, then happiness is complete. A little later, a humpback whale in the bay draws attention by blowing loudly. It is always a beautiful spectacle to see him gliding along like that. And then there is the small cemetery that is just before Hoonah and with its old, moss-covered angel figures makes a beautiful picture.
Last but not least, Hoonah has to show an eagle nest in the middle of the village, in which almost adult bald eagles will probably leave their nest in the next few days. In the first year, however, their plumage is still brown throughout, so that it could easily be mistaken for a golden eagle, for example.
The café where I stopped by last time has unfortunately given way to a souvenir shop, so we have to have our coffee on the ship or in the café at the port. The latter also has free WiFi for one hour.
Holland America Line is one of the few shipping companies that calls at the port of Alaska's largest city. most of them go to the southern port of Seward. Anchorage has over 300,000 residents and is a booming city. Land prices increase dramatically from year to year, and so the city has to expand south towards the mountains, as it is surrounded on the other sides by the sea. The rising prices are certainly also due to the oil industry, which is headquartered here for Alaska. Even if there are certainly some interesting museums here, the city itself is not so lovable. For all shopping enthusiasts, however, it has a large shopping center on 5th Avenue, and since Anchorage itself does not have to pay sales tax, shopping there is of course attractive.
We have other plans, however, and take the bus on a two-and-a-half hour trip to Seward. Our driver today is called "Fighter" - a man like a bear! About 2 m tall, very strong, with huge hands and a haunting voice. However, despite his stature and the somewhat daunting name, Fighter turns out to be absolutely harmless and extremely competent, because he has lived up here for almost 30 years and has already impressed many students as a teacher with his knowledge - at that time in mathematics. So today he drives us to the Kenai Peninsula and on the way provides us with important information about the country and its people. However, the journey south can only be done on a single road, because the geographic location of Anchorage does not allow any alternatives. Thank goodness today is Monday, because on the weekend the route is often hopelessly overloaded by the many excursionists. A bridge construction that would shorten the extensive bypass of the bay by a lot has so far failed because of the sandy subsoil and the horrendous costs associated with it. In addition, the approximately 250 inhabitants of the village opposite the bay also protested against the construction of the bridge, because this would massively disrupt the idyll of this settlement for dropouts and bon vivants. So the time-consuming bypass will probably stay that way for a while.
We pass a huge bird sanctuary on our left, which is home to around 1,000 species of birds. A real Mecca for all ornithologists. We see many men in long rubber pants who indulge in the pleasure of fly fishing while standing in rivers. It also passes Beluga Point, a headland that was once used to hunt the white whales that swam through the bay. However, to find beluga whales here today is more like winning the lottery.
There, on our right side, buffalo! They stand peacefully grazing in a meadow and we learn from Fighter that they are part of a game reserve in which other native animals also live and are observed for research purposes. Maybe we could even plan a stop here next year - let's see ...
Arrived in Seward, we board a catamaran that takes us to the upstream Kenai Fjord National Park. And this trip will really stay in our memories for a long time, because in these six hours we get to know another Alaska. One of the narrow fjords with caves and bizarre rock formations. One with a jumping whale, which appears so suddenly in front of us that we can't pull up the cameras so quickly to record this spectacle on the SD card. One with a very cozy representative of his kind, whose huge head appears in front of us and who, as it were, lets us partake of his lavish meal while standing in the water, because we can very well observe how he slowly closes his mouth to better understand the large quantities of small fish to be able to record. One with a glacier, to which we drive very close with our agile boat and take its recently broken off and now thousands of years old chunks of ice directly on board to touch them once. Some lick it too. Now all that's missing is the whiskey, which we could refine with a few of these pieces of ice ... but even without whiskey, this excursion is again a very special experience.
Before the return trip, we stop in the small town of Seward and stroll for souvenirs through the number of small shops that line the main street on both sides. There are also plenty of pubs and restaurants there, and a short time later a smell of hamburgers with french fries fills our bus. Two hamburgers for $ 27 - that's how I praise our prices in Germany.
Especially when it's in a pretty place like Homer. So we take advantage of the extremely beautiful and sunny weather today and set off on our tour. We will meet at the departure point of the free shuttle buses.
Shuttles? School buses! And those like we know them from television: yellow and with very narrow benches - just intended for schoolchildren. Every time a cruise ship arrives here in Homer, the place accomplishes a small logistical masterpiece and provides all available buses - and these are almost only school buses - for the transport of passengers. Really personable!
So we drive the almost 2 kilometers to the Spit district, where many small (souvenir) shops are waiting for us. The Salty Dawg Saloon is particularly worth seeing, because its entire interior is practically wallpapered on the ceiling and walls with one-dollar bills. That must be tens of thousands! So we walk through there first and are amazed.
Almost across the street is the shop from which we want to start our tour today. First of all there are rubber boots for everyone. Our shoes, however, also have to come with us, because we are dropped off directly in front of the ship on the way back - a great service. We continue to a jetty of the small yacht and fishing port, where a boat with 2x200 HP outboard motors is waiting for us. This takes you out of the bay at a faster rate, across the open sea and in about 30 minutes over to an offshore island. There we land on a pebble beach and climb a ladder into the shallow water. The kayaks in the brightly colored red, blue, yellow and green are already waiting for us on the beach. Safety is very important, so after putting on the safety vests there is a detailed briefing on how to use the boats. Since none of us have any experience with kayaking, we all listen carefully. Now it is time to get into the boats and then the journey begins. After the first hesitant paddling attempts, we quickly develop a routine and can concentrate fully on the landscape in very calm water.
It's just beautiful! It goes past dense forests, small bays, caves and bizarre rock formations. We inspect algae and see that fish eggs are obviously sticking to them. If we look closer, we can even see the tiny fish in it!
Just another world that we experience here. A bald eagle sits high above us on a branch, which stands out wonderfully against the azure blue sky and offers a perfect photo opportunity. At the end of the island, the water gets a bit rougher due to the lack of protection of the land and we turn back. Once again it turns out that the landscape looks completely different in the opposite direction and we wonder whether we have been here before. But everything is fine, because our beach is already appearing back there.
When we land again, we pass waiting for the boat with the search for special "treasures". The largest of these is likely to be the skull of an otter, which is then examined in detail. The two dentists in our group especially enjoy this. One of them grabs a Leatherman and immediately starts pulling a tooth! Everyday life has it again ...
The tide let the water rise a little in the meantime, and so one or the other of us gets wet feet when getting out of the kayak or when getting into the boat. But no problem: these are simply stretched up on the return journey and dried by the airstream. Knew how!
Leaving Homer with its dreamy panorama is the crowning glory of an equally wonderful day.
For everyone who was there, this was certainly the highlight of the entire trip: Our excursion to the grizzly bears in Katmai National Park. Male specimens of this largest brown bear species can grow to be over 3 m tall. What an idea, maybe soon to be able to face one of these giants - and that in the middle of the great outdoors and without a protective fence in between!
But it wasn't there yet. First we go to the seaplane airport in Kodiak, where we swap our shoes for waist-high rubber boots. Then we are weighed together with our luggage and distributed among our three planes.
Jerry looks like he came straight from Ireland. Tangled red hair with the same beard, tweed vest and cap, brown shirt, patterned silk scarf - and funny, dark button eyes. Is that supposed to be our pilot? And whether! He quickly brings our seaplane up to altitude and we marvel at the lush green landscape below. Streets? Nothing, just a single one stretches between the hills and ends at a bay. And there's supposed to be a second one on Kodiak Island about 30 miles north of us, that's it.
After about 45 minutes we land safely in a bay - and already see the first bear among us! A real colossus that lies tired and lazy in the middle of the shallow water of the river. After landing, of course, all the cameras click as we pass him at a suitable distance. But he doesn't let that disturb him in any way and just lifts his head briefly to see who or what is going on over there with us. We wade through boggy terrain, in which one or the other of us gets stuck and has to be "rescued", and further through flowing water. At least now we know what we are wearing the high rubber boots for. But that's all half as wild and is ticked off under the heading "Adventure".
Our goal is a small island in the river, which we can make out about 300 m away and where some photographers are already sitting with their large cameras with thick lenses. Immediately in front of it, 2 giant grizzlies are standing in the water, patiently waiting for the salmon to swim past them, while the photographers patiently wait for their perfect photo.
The distance between the bears and the photographer is sometimes less than 5 meters, as the animals can of course move freely while the people remain static on the seats they have brought with them. Incredible! We want that too!
So we approach the group and always see new bears appearing in front of, behind or next to us. The ranger who accompanies us takes very good care that we do not accidentally cross the path of one of them and leads us to our destination in one arc or another. Once there, we are just speechless and watch what is happening around us.
So the two bears fishing for salmon right in front of us. A mother bear with her two offspring comes along and lets them try their luck too. About 50 meters away, more bears appear on the river and fish there. Behind us a single one comes out of the undergrowth, grabs an already dead salmon, which he probably had put there earlier, and trundles away with it. And then another highlight: a wolf!
And what does he do? He goes fishing for salmon! Hardly in the water, he already has one in his mouth and brings it ashore at a safe distance from the bears to eat it there. As soon as it is finished, he is already on the prowl! Even our ranger is amazed and says that he has only seen it a few times - even though he is out here almost every day.
We see a total of 16 bears today - thanks for counting, Renate! - plus of course the wolf as a special bonus. When we almost arrived at the plane, we ran into a huge, very old bear in the truest sense of the word. But he is apparently, like his conspecifics before, not interested in us as a meal. So we will all return to the ship healthy, happy and satisfied and will probably remember this extraordinary day for a long time.
The entrance to Yakutat Bay and on to the Hubbard Glacier is always something special, even if I've seen it quite often.
The slow glide from the beginning of the bay to the glacier takes about two hours, and we spend most of the time on the outside decks so as not to miss any of the impressive nature despite the rainy weather.Of course, it helps that the MS Amsterdam has a circumferential promenade deck, on which you can sit or stand under a roof and thus protected from the rain. Against the cold there are woolen blankets and hot cocoa in souvenir cups - with and without a shot. When we almost reached the glacier, it even stopped raining again. So we set off in the direction of the bow tip, which was specially released for passenger inspection for this event.
So there it lies in front of us: a wall of ice: 120 km long, 10 km wide and 150 m high!
The Hubbard Glacier is the largest and most active water-terminated glacier in North America, and so you can hear a constant cracking and popping of it. "The white thunder", as the indigenous people of Alaska also call it. There you stand and watch the huge ice wall in front of you, and when it thunders again very loudly and you turn your head in the direction of the coming sound, huge masses of ice have broken off again and fell with a loud roar into the ice-cold water of the bay. An impressive spectacle!
This city is considered to be one of the most charming and scenic in Alaska. It is located on the Pacific side of the Inside Passage, which was formed millions of years ago by the overwhelming force of the glaciers. Their deep fjords and overgrown islands provide a natural habitat for sea lions, whales, sea otters and bald eagles.
Watching humpback whales is on our program today, so we head towards the center. We use the free shuttle bus that takes us from the MS Amsterdam berth to the center in around 15 minutes. Oh what joy! There is already free Wi-Fi in the port terminal, so it is not at all bad that the first bus drives away from under our noses. The next one is sure to come soon and in the meantime the first emails and messages can be checked. Once in the center, there is another WLAN spot in the public library, the radiation of which extends to our waiting area. How little you can make travelers all over the world happy with these days ...
We get on the small boat, which is exclusively available for our group, and enjoy this luxury, as each of us treats ourselves to our own bench seat and can therefore quickly get up to change the side of the boat if there is a little more over there to see there. However, we don't have to wait long before we can switch to the open outdoor area, where of course everyone stands at the railing in the first row to have an undisturbed view of the humpback whale swimming by. Because no sooner have we left the bay than the first of these graceful creatures appears next to our boat. After blowing two or three times, it takes a little more momentum and now shows us its large tail fin while diving. The cameras and cell phones click - a perfect photo! It is especially nice when you can capture the individual phases of diving in a series of photos. These are images that you can't get out of your head!
A little further out the bay, more whales are waiting for us. No less than four of them go there to search for food in a rather confined space. You don't have to look far, because the waters around Sitka are so rich in fish that all of them will be full before they start their long journey to Hawaii or Mexico in a few weeks to hibernate there and give birth to their babies. In the spring they swim back to Alaska with their children in order to take in enough food in the summer months before the cycle starts again.
Kim, one of our guides on board the whale watching boat, explains all of this and gives us a lot of other interesting information about whales. How does she know? I ask her.
She is a marine biologist and recently received her Masters degree from the University of Wisconsin.
Yes, and now she's here in Alaska for the summer season, introducing tourists like us to marine life. At the end of September she will fly to Honduras to take part in a research project in the world's largest coral reef ecosystem (after the barrier reef in Australia). Exciting!
In the meantime our boat has turned away from the whales and headed north. There we still want to keep an eye out for sea otters, which, after being almost exterminated over 100 years ago because of their precious furs, can be found here in steadily increasing numbers again. Thank goodness, because the cute creatures are nice to look at when they lie on their backs and observe their surroundings. However, they are also extremely shy and disappear under water at lightning speed at the slightest sign of possible danger. The wind has picked up, and so we only see individual specimens drifting between the waves, which, despite our cautious approach, also dive right away. That's just nature, but at least it was enough for a few shots.
On our way back we stop at a small island, on which there are two special features to be seen: a rock that is apparently draped on a sloping rock slab and looks as if it would slide into the sea at any moment. Furthermore, a large eagle's nest, artfully built into the branches of a bare spruce.
And so this day comes to an end with many different and exciting impressions.
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