Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Seward's Alaska SeaLife Center

The Alaska SeaLife Center was a real treat.  This aquarium-centered educational/research/rehabilitation facility offered a lot to learn and enjoy. 

There are many tanks of various sizes from table top and wall size to three stories with three levels of viewing.  To learn more about the Alaska SeaLife Center click here.  There's a seabird grotto with a two story diving pool, touch tanks and other interactive exhibits.  There's outside viewing and underwater windows for the harbor seals and stellar sea lions too.

 Large windows give a view into the backyard, the Center's Rehabilitation Section.

 Most recently, an orphaned baby walrus was found by a gold mining barge in the Bering Sea near Nome, Alaska.  The Alaska SeaLife Center naturally responded when called for their assistance with this situation. To learn more about that found baby walrus and its developing status click here. 
Volunteers informed folks viewing the rehab area, that unfortunately this estimated 6 weeks old baby walrus cannot stay at this facility forever. The Center does not have the space for him and his expected size.  They were not sure what would happen at this time as this story is still evolving.  As of this blog post, the baby walrus has been at the SeaLife Center, for about a month. 
Volunteers explained to onlookers peering through glass windows (me), that the baby walrus likes to cuddle and requires 24 hour care by handlers for feeding.  It was estimated to be just 2 weeks old when found.  I was also told, there was no sign of its mother for two days, which was unusual.
They say the male baby walrus is growing..from 150 pounds in the picture to apx 3500 pounds when full grown.  It will have the large tusks too. 
It was a high school project in honor of the SeaLife Center's Pacific Octopus. 
 This was the best photo I could get of the Center's Pacific Octopus, it was squished up against the glass and wall.

Other interesting exhibits..
Close up of the starfish's underside.
Red King Crab
 This enormous stellar sea lion weighs 1600 pounds!

 The harbor seals looked like torpedoes shooting through their tank.

 The SeaLife Center's seabird grotto held multiple species with ample room for them to fly and dive.  The two story tank offered excellent viewing opportunities above and below the water's surface.  Obviously, I spent most of my time above the water photographing those amazing puffins.  Using my telephoto lens, I was able to get some closeup views.

Steller's Elder
Red-legged Kittiwake

Common Murres
Long-tailed Duck
King Eider
The Horned Puffins really put on a show for me and my camera.

 Not to be outdone, the Tufted Puffins gave their own show too.

And finally, here's the Center's research vessel. The cement barrier seen in front of the ship is a harbor relic from the 1964 earthquake.  Before the quake, this part of Seward was a major shipping harbor and housed several seafood processing facilities.
This old concrete barrier is all that's here left after that devastating quake too.

We've eased on down the road now, off the Alaskan coast, inland.  We're hoping for a bit more sun and some warmer temperatures? 
More Later.

Kenai Fjords National Park: The Wildlife

I made this quick photo after we departed our tour.  The boat was comfortable with large windows on the upper and lower decks with cushioned booth seating for the lunch and snacks they served.

Our 8:30am departure time meant low clouds and fog..again.  Here are some of the interesting landforms we observed while we traveled through Resurrection Bay and the Gulf of Alaska towards the Northwestern Glacier.

Yes, that red dot is someone in a sea kayak.

This is an example of just how close some of the nature tour boats can get to the wildlife.  That's a North Pacific Humpback Whale's back and a "blow".

Our tour boat captain expressed his delight in seeing so many different types of wildlife on this particular day.  We were excited too!  Most of my photographs were taken with my telephoto lens and then I cropped them down a bit to get a closer view of the detail. 

 The boat captain called this pod of orcas "resident", they eat mostly fish and sometimes squid.  We were told they are very social and swim a little closer to the tour boats.  This particular group swam right under our boat.
The next 3 photos I lifted from my video footage.  I just happened to be running the video setting on my camera when they swam right towards me!

This next particular pod of orca whales are known as the "Kodiak Killers".  These orcas are called "transient", eating mostly seals, sea lions dolphins and other whales.  They employ more coordinated tactics to hunt their prey.

We saw 2 different colonies of sea lions.  Zooming in, I could see some arguing and bickering between them for position.

This is the Black Oystercatcher. Its long bill is used to pry meat out of shellfish.  This bird had its baby chick out for a stroll.

The puffins were my favorite!  These are Horned Puffins, they nest in colonies in rock crevices and cliffs.
These are Tufted Puffins.  They nest in burrows in the cliff faces.
The Tufted Puffin, the largest of the species, can dive up to 250 feet under water for its food.

We saw several North Pacific Humpback Whales. Below is a photo of a fluke dive, when the tail goes up like this, it's propelling itself straight down.

We saw many whales where a portion of the body broke the water's surface.

We also saw several "blows". When a whale is exhaling or inhaling before a dive it will blow water from its lungs.

While we were out sight-seeing, the fishermen were busy catching fish.
A scene from the Seward small boat harbor.

This was a long tour, taking about 9 hours, traveling about 120 miles total. However, the boat was comfortable with provided snacks and a simple meal.  We had our own snacks too and we had dressed for the weather.  It was one of many highlights of our memorable time in Alaska.

More Later.