Our travel companion, Keith, said he was saving the best for last, and indeed, he did. Valdez is beautiful. The highway leading to Valdez is bordered by huge mountains, each containing at least one glacier, waterfalls (Horse tail and Bridal Veil) and jaw-dropping scenery. Our RV park was in town, surrounded by mountains, on the Prince William Sound, at the feet of the Chugach Mountains; what more could you ask for?
On March 27, 1964, Good Friday, at 5:36 pm, an earthquake struck Alaska, 45 miles west of Valdez, that lasted for over four minutes, causing an underwater landslide that triggered a Tsunami. The quake killed over 114 people and the Tsunamis drowned 30 people. The township was condemned, so three years later the entire town moved to its present location, four miles east. Some of the buildings were moved, the others were razed. A “graveyard” still exists of the old town site, laying out where the buildings had been. And, of course, Tsunamis Evacuation Route signs are all along the highways. Today, the town of some 4,500 is very much together and a wonderful place to visit. Walking along the dock, we saw two boats, Saga and Kodiak, that are featured in the TV show “Deadliest Catch.”
Having not yet seen enough glaciers, we took a Glacier and Wild Life Cruise on the Prince William Sound. We saw sea lions (some floating on pieces of ice), otters, eagles, glaciers, ice bergs and bergy bits (small ice bergs). I was hoping to see whales, but there were none. One of the glaciers we saw, The Columbia, calves 6 million tons of ice daily! Most of the calving occurs underwater and the new ice bergs pop to the surface. In the pix and video, the water is filled with ice bergs of all sizes, the whole area used to be covered by the glacier. Our boat captain had to tread carefully in this area. Remember the Titanic! (Let me apologize for the sideways videos. I am just learning how to do videos; looks like a need one more lesson. However, I thought even sideways, the videos are more powerful than stills.)
This is the general area where the Valdez Exxon oil spill happened in 1989. Just about all remnants of that spill are gone and the area is well protected. Fishing boats must get daily permission to fish. We saw many boats waiting for permission to go to work. Interesting factoid: the Valdez oil spill and the Alaska earthquake decimating Valdez, both occurred on Good Friday, in 1964 and 1989!
The cruise was so beautiful it is difficult to describe. Hopefully the pix and video will help.
Probably the most exciting thing we did in Valdez was visit the fish hatchery. Again, it is difficult to describe what was going on at the hatchery. Salmon born at the hatchery come back there to span and die. These fish are born in fresh water, go forth and spend their lives in salt water, then return to the same fresh water to spawn and die. This is so mind boggling, I have trouble with it and it is sad to see in action. The video below shows the weir, a structure that prohibits the fish from going further upstream, directing them into a fish ladder into the hatchery system to be artificially spawned. The ladder is designed in steps so the fish feel they are swimming upstream, and without injury. During the spawning season, 20,000 fish are lifted daily into the spawning building.
The huge number of fish catches the attention of sea lions, sea gulls, and bears. The day we visited, we saw all the above gorging on fish. The sea lions would dive, catch a big salmon, come to the surface to smack it on the water’s surface to break the fish in half so they could swallow half. This drove the seagulls nuts as they fought over the “other half.” Pandemonium ensued! The video shows all this noise and action (ignore the people in the video). Also note the dam (weir) and fish ladder to the far right in the video. The second video is of the fish swimming up the ladder.
When we first arrived at the hatchery, we saw a group of people with cameras so I ran over to see what was happening. It was a mama Grizzly with two cubs looking for salmon. I got a couple of pix, one of the mama and the cubs who stopped to wrestle a bit as they were leaving the scene. This whole visit was totally exciting.
We begin our trip back to the Lower 48…