16 Aug 2006 Wednesday

We decided to stay another night at the B&B to rest up and escape therain.  We talked with several of the others staying there atbreakfast.  After spending a little time on the computers, we went down acouple of blocks to the Halibut House for lunch.  It’s the first time I’vehad Copper River Red Salmon lightly battered and fried like fish andchips.  It was good, but a bit unusual.  

We decided to take a wildlife and glacier tour today on The Lu-Lu Belle,even though it’s raining.  When we called, they said the wildlife doesn’tcare that it’s raining.  Hummm, good point.  The Lu-Lu Belle is quitea ship and Captain Fred is quite a character.  He started off byintroducing himself and telling us to wipe the crap off our shoes beforeboarding because he’s got oriental carpets in there.  HE DID!  It wasa beautiful ship which, we found out on his website later, he builthimself.  Captain Fred is quite the talker too.  He must have been astand-up comic in a previous life.  He really knows the history of thearea, Prince William Sound and where the wildlife is.  Just leaving port hetold us about how some of the commercial fishing boats operated and how thecanneries worked.  

On our way out, we saw several sea ottersjust hanging around, floating ontheir backs, waiting for suppertime.  We motored past some beautifulwaterfalls and shoreline, all the while, Captain Fred is talking, telling us allabout Alaska and the town of Valdez, and we just MUST hike to the Valdez Glaciertomorrow.  We’ll just have to extend you’re stay another day ortwo.  

We went up to a rocky shore an was some puffins.  They are the cutestlittle birds!  Captain Fred got the bow of the boat right inside the cavewhere they were nesting!  I can’t believe that he got his boat that closeto the rocks!!  We saw another spot with some puffins and turned to ourleft…. and saw several rocks covered with Steller’s Sea Lions!  We slowly wentby what could have been a hundred sea lions lying around on the rocks, justflapping and belching, a couple scratching an itch.  It smelled a lot likea Chinese grocery store, a bit fishy.  

Captain Fred is telling us more stories, about the big earthquake that hit in1964 that completely destroyed the town and the museum that we just HAVE tosee… “But”, he says, “you’re hiking to the glacier tomorrow andfishing the day after… well, you’ll just have to stay another week, maybetwo…”  You could hear the grin in his voice.  

We arrived out to sea where one of the crew had sighted a whale.  Theycan stay down for quite a while, and Captain Fred starts a count of how manyminutes since it was last seen.  The whale surface again with a blow,breaks the water a few times for a few breaths, then takes a dive, showing usthe classic fluke (tail) photo.  Captain Fred speeds to the area where itjust went down and starts counting again, how many minutes he’s been down. Once again, the whale surfaces with a blow, bobs along the surface a few timesbreathing, then takes a dive again.  Captain Fred is talking us thruit…”Here it comes, the arched back, he’s diving, wait for it… and NOW,take the picture now!”  The perfect whale tail shot!

Our next stop is the Columbia Glacier, the most active glacier in thisarea.  As we approached, we saw several icebergs floating in thewater.  Some of the icebergs were the most incredible blue, some were blackand of course, some were white.  The blue color comes from having all theair pushed out of the ice from the pressure of the glacier above.  Theblack ones have picked up lots of dirt and rocks, they have probably come fromthe bottom or sides of the glacier.  The white ones are from nearer the topof the glacier.  The crew took pictures with our cameras of anyone whowanted in front of one really spectacular iceberg.  They also supplied afew props.  Since many people use these photos on their Holiday cards, theysupplied “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Hanukah” signs for thephotos.  

We waited to see the glacier “calve”, or drop large icebergs intothe water.  Captain Fred showed us what to look for, large cracks in theglacier face, points extending, ready to drop.  As we were watching onearea just ahead, a huge chunk dropped off to our left and behind us.  Weall turn to see the wave in the water and we missed another area ofcalving.  We all have our cameras trained on the wrong spot.  

As we were leaving the glacier, we passed by some Harbor Seals lying on acouple icebergs.  These guys are more shy than the Stellar Sea lions andthey would slip into the water as we passed by. 

As we made our way back to port, Captain Fred told us more of the wonderfulthings to do in Valdez, well, we may as well stay until Labor Day, we’ve got somuch to do here! (wink)

We had a great time on the boat tour, even if it was cold and rainy.  We boarded the boat at 2pm anddidn’t get back until well after 9pm.  It was so late by the time we gotback, we were glad we had dinner on the boat.  Their galley was servingsoup in a bread bowl and Andrew got a chili and I got a tasty clamchowder.  At $5.00 per bowl, it was by far the cheapest meal we’ve ever hadin Alaska.

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