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July 13, 2011 / Jim Fenton

Alaska Day 6: Valdez and Mears Glacier Cruise

This article is part of a series about our recent vacation in Alaska.  To see the introductory article in the series, click here.

This morning, after breakfast at the hotel (more pipeline and/or fishing workers), we took an all-day glacier and wildlife cruise to the Mears Glacier. The Mears Glacier is located west of Valdez, emptying into Prince William Sound, and an excellent opportunity to see a glacier calving into the ocean. The weather forecast was for rain, but no sign of it yet.The trip to the glacier addressed our need to see wildlife in a big way. Almost immediately, we saw an immature bald eagle; later, we saw more bald eagles, a black bear, mountain goats, many sea otters, harbor seals, and some Sitka black tail deer. The boat, the Valdez Spirit, was modern and comfortable.

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About halfway to the Mears Glacier, we passed the Columbia Glacier, which deposited zillions of little icebergs into the water. A bald eagle perched on one of them. Later, we encountered many sea otters, many with pups, in the water and on a few of the icebergs.

The Mears Glacier is a very impressive wall of blue-white. There were icebergs in the water here too, but not nearly as many as near the Columbia Glacier. The boat stopped about a quarter-mile from the glacier and shut off its engine so that we could hear the glacier. As we drifted out, they restarted and moved in a couple of times. After seeing and hearing several smaller calves, a sizable chunk of the glacier broke off right in front of us. Very impressive:

On the way back, we took a somewhat different route that took us past a Steller’s sea lion “haul out area” (essentially a sea lion lounge), then stopped to view a group of humpback whales, then stopped again to view several orcas.  Overall, we could not have asked to see more!

We went to a considerably more modest place for dinner, Old Town Burgers, which despite the name turns out to have excellent fish and chips (both salmon and halibut) and grilled salmon sandwiches, all prepared fresh. We were very happy to enjoy the local specialities. While walking back to the hotel, some noisy birds were flying overhead.  We looked up:  more bald eagles!

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