Tag Archives: Seward

The Chugach Transients

The Chugach Transients; Photo credit: North Gulf Oceanic Society

Over the past several decades, scientists out of Homer & Seward, Alaska have tracked a pod of killer whales that they have dubbed The Chugach Transients. In 1989, this particular pod swam through the Exxon Valdez oil spill. That year, the pod had 22 members. The following year, nine members had died.

Today, only seven remain, including a 46 year old male known as Egagutak. Individual whales can be identified by photographs, which is what happened with Egagutak this summer, when a tour group sent his photo to the North Gulf Oceanic Society. Individual pods of whales are also identified acoustically, because a pod’s call is unique.

The Chugach Transients have not had a calf in the thirty plus years since the oil spill. The exact reason is not known, but most killer whale pods in Alaska waters are doing well, but the two that swam through the oil spill are not.

At 46 years of age, Egagutak is nearing the end of his lifespan. Killer whale males typically live 45-50 years. The pod also seems to be nearing its end. With no calves being born, this particular pod of killer whale and their unique song will go extinct.

The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council was tasked with spending the money from the civil settlement after the oil spill. They have funded the research into the study of the Chugach Transients until this year, when they decided that the council would no longer support the research.

Sources: North Gulf Oceanic Society, University of Alaska Southeast, Alaska Public Media


Jacoby wins Gold

I worked late on Monday, but I arrived home just in time for this:

The 17 year old who had Alaska bouncing off the walls

Lydia Jacoby beat her own career best time, while swimming ahead of the current world record holder, and Olympic record holder, in order to take home the gold medal in the women’s 100 meter breaststroke.

In this case, home is Seward, Alaska.

Alaskans were pumped about Jacoby’s performance in the semifinal, which was 8 tenths of a second slower than her final swim.

Alaskans across the state watched the race, and several hundred fans met at the Seward train depot to catch it on the big screen. Jacoby grew up swimming with the Seward Tsunami Swim Club.

It was the first gold medal in swimming for an Alaskan.


An Alaska through-hike

Hiking in Alaska

The idea has been proposed for years: a thru hike from Fairbanks in the Alaskan Interior to Seward on Alaska’s southern coast. The nonprofit, Alaska Trails, really started to push the idea last year, and now the State of Alaska seems interested.

Maybe after the pandemic, Alaska leaders have realized we have put most of our tourist eggs in one cruise ship sized basket. At any rate, support for the 500 mile all-Alaska trail is gaining traction in Juneau.

Most of the proposed trail already exists within the trail system, but there are at least two sections where there is no connection. Money is being earmarked in the state budget to complete those connections.

Personally, I’m in favor of the idea, and not just because it will motivate me to get back in shape to hike the 500 miles. Thru hikes bring in tourism, as the Appalachian Trail and Pacific Coast Trail can attest to, but those tourists are not the cruise ship/tourist bus type of people. It’s a separate subsection that Alaska ironically has never really actively gone after. Our attitude is, “Well, it’s Alaska, and they will come”.

Might as well plant that seed early, and give it some water now and then.


Kenai Fjords National Park

National Park Week, Day IV; Today’s Park Theme: Transformation Tuesday

Map of Kenai Fjords National Park

Kenai Fjords: Where Mountains, Ice and Ocean meet.

Kenai Fjords was first designated a National Monument in 1978. With the passage of ANILCA, the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act in 1980, Kenai Fjords officially became a National Park.

Exit Glacier

Kenai Fjords encompasses 669,984 acres, which includes the massive Harding Icefield, which is the source of at least 38 glaciers.

Climbing up to Exit Glacier; Camera: Leica M3, Film: TMax100

Exit Glacier and the Harding Icefield can be reached from the community of Seward. It’s a short drive from town to the visitor center and trail head. The short and relatively easy trail takes one to the foot of the glacier. Exit is retreating at a pretty good clip, and is now losing ice during all seasons.

The Harding Icefield

The Harding Icefield covers over 700 square miles, and that does NOT include the 38-40 glaciers that spawn from it. The hike past Exit Glacier to the icefield can be described as strenuous, but the view, when clear, is absolutely amazing.

An emergency shelter surrounded by the Harding Icefield

Harding Icefield is one of four remaining in the United States, and the largest that is contained completely within the country. It receives, on average, 400 inches of snow each year.

Bear Glacier as seen from Resurrection Bay

Much of the Park is only accessible by water, and sea kayaking is a very popular activity. There are many tidewater glaciers that can be reached from Seward.

Kayakers dwarfed by Aialik Glacier

Two glaciers that I have visited from Seward are: Bear, which is the longest glacier in the Park, and Aialik Glacier, which is a bit more impressive from the water. Bear has receded to the point, that a lake now exists between the ocean and the glacier. The lake is often filled with small icebergs, which makes kayaking interesting. Aialik is a giant ice wall from the water’s surface.

Kenai Fjords National Park received 321,596 visitors in 2018. It is the fourth most visited Park in Alaska, and the closest to the city of Anchorage.

Find your Park!

Bleak runs in 2020

Seward, Alaska Harbor

The numbers are in, although I think most of us in Alaska knew the gist of things: The salmon runs in 2020 fit the overall theme of the year. They were bleak.

King salmon returns were in the bottom five for harvests since the 1960’s. Sockeye returns were the second lowest since 1962. Coho and pinks were better than the other two species, but they were still down. The numbers coming back for the coho, or silver salmon, ranked 48th, pinks ranked 53rd since 1962.

The Alaska Department of Fish & Game is predicting a better return for pink salmon for 2021. Pinks are the only salmon species that Fish & Game forecasts the upcoming return. They are hopeful that Alaska will see an increase in all five species of salmon that return to our waters.

From a personal experience level: For several years now, I have seen a noticeable increase in our group’s salmon harvest in odd years, and a downturn in even years. 2020 fit in with that nonscientific trend, but it was certainly the hardest we worked to fill the freezer in 2020. Luckily, we made up for it with halibut and lingcod.

King salmon are now known to be returning to Alaska waters at a younger age. This means that they are coming back smaller. The factors causing this are still unknown, although increased predation and water temperature are high on the list of suspects. Salmon sharks and orcas certainly take a bite out of the salmon population, and it would be expected that they may gravitate towards the larger salmon, but these predators are hardly new to the Gulf of Alaska and beyond.

I admit that I am hoping for a rebound in the salmon return for 2021.

Fishing for silvers, but catching pinks in Resurrection Bay, Alaska

Both photos were taken in 2019


The rail to Seward

The Alaska Railroad line along Turnagain Arm, between Anchorage and Seward, Alaska


Sailboat in Resurrection Bay

Film Friday:

Resurrection Bay; Seward, Alaska

Camera: Minolta SRT201; Film: Kodak 35mm, Ektar100


Watch the Arms

Seward, Alaska

A low-keyed eyeballing

Life at the Alaska SeaLife Center


Bear Glacier

Bear Glacier of Resurrection Bay


Back to Exit

Exit Glacier; Seward, Alaska

On what has become an annual visit, I swung by Exit Glacier with some visitors last week. The picture was taken from where the foot of the glacier stood in 2010.