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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Glacier Viewing at Prince William Sound

I must have been really excited about discovering Alaska because, for some reason, I woke up at 4 am yesterday and could hardly wait until 6 am to eat breakfast and drive to the south to explore Alaska's wildlife, waterfalls and glaciers. So, soon after breakfast, I hit the road, in this case the southbound Seward Highway, and drove alongside the Turnagain Arm of Cook Inlet with just the railway line between the road and the water. This was to enter the Chugach National Forest area where the Chugach Eskimos used to hunt and gather food. From Seward Highway, I turned left taking the Portage Glacier Highway towards Portage Lake and I was so early the Begich Boggs Visitor Centre was not even open. After taking a few pictures and admiring the lake and the glacier, I took a short hike. I was a bit concerned of Alaskan wildlife especially the bear so I picked up a stick - not that it was going to be any use but it gave me a certain level of condifence! :-) During the walk, I found this small lake with water so clear (and cold) I could see the bottom. And, with the mountain rising not too far away from it, it was a brilliant viewing experience.

Soon after, I got back in the car and drove through the Whittier Tunnel, or the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel which is the longest highway tunnel in North America. Across the tunnel lay the town of Whittier, where 90% of the population lives in one multi-storeyed building! It was built during WWII because it was so cut-off and hidden away that no one else could get there until years later when the Army found it surplus and the residents bought it. From Whittier, I took a Major Marine day cruise ship with a restaurant on board - I decided on this after getting to Portage Lake as the weather was bright and warm, rare and perfect for a cruise around here (but, as always, the weather did turn gloomy at some point). The cruise was in the calm and protected waters of Prince William Sound, whose coastline is blessed with some of the most beautiful tidewater glaciers in the world. Unfortunately, this area is also where the Exxon Valdez oil spill happened in 1989. The cruise was such a delightful experience, made all the more exciting when Beloit, one of the glaciers, started calving right in front of our eyes. The falling chunks were so big they created waves which rocked our boat. Interestingly, not too behind from us, were five or six kayakers who had a real ground-level, or should I say water-level, view of the whole event. It was such a thrilling experience. I thank the captain of the boat for timing it so well! :-) So, rare day, rare sunshine, and rare calving! What a trip to remember!

And, one more thing before I sign off for today - did you that there is such a thing called the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics? It was on in Anchorage last week so I paid them a visit Friday night after work. I saw them dance, sing, compete in the two foot high kick (and a girl came one inch close to breaking an 18-year-old record), and all the handicrafts on display and sale. So, not just about glaciers and waterfalls, I am also learning about native Indian culture.

I hope you enjoy the pictures below. Click and place your mouse on the picture for details.

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