A Day in Seward Alaska – Seals, Whales, Birds and History
The Puffins at the Alaska Sea Life Center were something to see up close. But they were just one of the multiple sights we experienced during a full day of sight-seeing and sea-sightings in Seward, Alaska. The city, with a population of approximately 2,600, is located on an inlet on the Kenai Peninsula. It sits on Resurrection Bay surrounded by snow covered mountains. Glaciers from the nearby Harding Ice field feed into the various fiords in the area.
We were on the July 2023 Viking Orion “Alaska and the Inside Passage” cruise. We signed up for an optional tour, “Resurrection Bay Wildlife Cruise” in the morning and the included tour, “The Alaska Sea Life Center” in the afternoon. It was a day well spent.
Resurrection Bay Wildlife Cruise
As we sailed out into the calm waters of Resurrection Bay, the ship captain told us about this protected body of water. The bay does not freeze in the winter, making it a great winter harbor. Alexander Baranov, a Russian sea captain, steered his ship into the bay to avoid a huge storm in the Gulf of Alaska. When the storm settled, it was Easter Sunday.In recognition, he named it Resurrection Bay. This Bay enters into the Gulf of Alaska and if one follows a straight line there woud be no more land masses until the Hawaiian Islands.
Everyone on board our ship was on the look-out for whales – especially Humpback Whales. We learned that the whales winter in the Hawaiian waters where they mate. They used their stored blubber for food. They migrate up to 9,000 miles to the Alaskan waters for the summer where they feed on the abundant sea life and increase their blubber reserves. Since humpbacks like to cruise on the water surface, they are ideal candidates for the whale watchers.
Well, we did not see any whales during the start of the cruise, but we did see other attractions. There are numerous coves on Resurrection Bay and these are homes to a variety of aquatic creatures. We saw numerous birds and sea lions. The sea lions loved to stretch out on the rocks and sun themselves.
The captain pointed out gun placements. During World War II, our government, concerned about an invasion by the Imperial Japanese Army, fortified Resurrection Bay with them. Some are still visible.
As our time was running out and our ship was about to turn for the home harbor, we saw our first whale. The humpback was cruising on the surface and then it disappeared. The captain said we would wait since in the summer a humpback’s dive is generally about five minutes. Right on schedule, the humpback reappeared. Most of the passengers were able to take pictures and we returned to the harbor as happy campers.
Alaska SeaLife Center
Next, we caught the Viking shuttle bus to our afternoon excursion. The Alaska SeaLife Center combines a public aquarium with sea life research. It is quite the impressive structure. During our two hours there we saw a huge variety of aquatic and aviary life.
Aquariums were filled with a variety of sea life including shell fish, salmon, and rockfish. Numerous exhibits discussed the life cycle of fish and showed examples of how mankind was destroying the environment.
We were able to get up close and personal with an exhibit presenting sea lions and ringed and potted seals.
The aviary exhibit is the highlight of the Center. The birds are kept in an enclosed area featuring artificial rocks and a pond. We saw Harlequin Ducks, Speculated Elders, Black Oyster Catchers, and Puffins. Being there for their five P.M. feeding was the highlight of our day.
An attendant threw small fish into the water and the birds went nuts. Thanks to the glass that surrounded the pool, we were able to look into the pond and see the birds diving in pursuit of the food. The Puffins were especially fun to watch.
The trip to the Center was the last excursion of our cruise. It provided a happy ending to a enjoyable experience.