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This event started at a more civilized hour compared to our fishing excursion, 11 AM from the Small Boat Dock of Seward. Good thing since some prankster pulled the fire alarm at 3 AM and all of us stood outside the Edgewater Hotel for 15 minutes until the Seward Fire Department arrived with 3 engines to turn off the ear piercing alarm. Pretty hard to go back to sleep after a wake-up like that.
The Coastal Explorer accommodated up to 150 people, quite a difference from our fishing charter boat, especially when it came to riding the waves outside Resurrection Bay. The Captain gave very informative commentary about the sea life and region as well as about the history including the 1964 Good Friday 9.6 earthquake and resulting tsunami. The port town of Seward was relocated by the tsunami one quarter mile inland. The new Seward has not been rebuilt in the same location. There is just a parking lot for motor homes where that part of Seward used to be.
Hear an audio file from the tour
Interesting to me is the fact that this big boat traveled at the same 26 miles per hour as our smaller fishing boat. Instead of slamming down on the far side of the waves, we rode more like a smooth roller coaster. For excitement, we would occasionally go outside the cabin where the wind and spray transformed the experience into a much wilder ride.
We got up close and personal with a number of creatures including, hump back Wales, dolphins, sea lions, sea otters, a black bear and a host of birds.
Our captain was like Bill Nye the Science Guy. I had no idea Penguins could dive over 200 feet deep although they are not part of the “Alcid” bird type, which dive deeply. The hump back Wales are a ton per foot in length. They can be over 40 feet long. The Sea Otter has the densest hair on earth. They stay warm by ruffling air bubbles into their fur and apparently you could see them doing this.
We came within a quarter mile of the calving glaciers.
The boat was switched off and we listened to the thundering crash of huge chunks of ice breaking away from the glacier and plunging into the sea. Amongst this tumult, the seals played peacefully on the ice. There was a unique sound of our boat scraping over ice and churning among the ice cubes. It all seemed too magnificent for a tour boat to be intruding upon, quite impressive in sight and sound.
We were equally impressed by the train ride from Seward to Anchorage. We passed over 100 miles of meadows, valleys, glacier trails, rivers and more wild life, not your average train ride. Being served a nice meal in the dining car was a unique experience as well. We didn’t mind that the train was only traveling 13 to 26 miles per hour. It kicked up as high as 50 when we got closer to Anchorage. Sure seemed like we covered a lot of ground, water and track since we were awakened by the fire alarm 18 hours ago. And, of course, as it approaches 10 PM, It is still light out and will be light for another hour.
The train took 4 and a half hours versus 3 hours for the ride to Seward on the bus. The train had running commentary or a quiet car, as you wished. There was a bistro car or a dining car plus a domed car where you could stick your head into the rushing air to feel the wind or to take pictures without interference of the window glass. When we approached Anchorage, the conductor even asked people for their transportation needs and he called ahead for taxis and hotel shuttles. Pretty cush train ride and pretty productive glacier tour.
I only scratched the surface of Alaska travel and I can see it is a definite possibility for WayFun 2007, probably in mid June.