Sunday, September 13, 2015

Alaska: The Last Frontier, Part IV - Valdez

Valdez is beautiful. It is a quaint town surrounded by soaring mountains, lots of glaciers and their resulting waterfalls. Its marina is resplendent with the authentic fishing boats for which Alaska is known, and the hardy fishermen to go with them.

Valdez is also the terminus of the famous Trans-Alaska pipeline. The reason Valdez was chosen for the delivery of the oil to tanker ships is because Valdez is the only port that remains ice-free throughout the harsh winters. 

The town of Valdez has endured a couple a serious events in its history: The 9.2 earthquake on Good Friday in 1964, and the resultant liquefaction, landslides and tsunami, from which 32 of its residents died. Once located at the end of Port Valdez, the town, deemed unsafe, was moved four miles away to a more northwestern location; and, the 1989 oil spill by the Exxon Valdez. Although the oil spill did not actually reach the town of Valdez, the devastation has had a lasting effect on the marine life. The Captain on our glacier tour said it is still recovering to this day. And all because of a lack of communication on the bridge of the ship did it go aground.

The only sunny day we experienced in Valdez was the day we left. Each day was either gray, rainy and gray, or partly sunny then rainy and gray. We got lucky it didn't rain, except for a little in the late afternoon, on the day my sister, Pamela, and I took the boat tour to see the Meares Glacier. That was an amazing day. Besides seeing a behemoth of a glacier, waterfalls, otters, seals, sea lions, a humpback whale, puffins, working fishing boats and towering mountains, just getting to see it all from a different perspective was so worth the day-long voyage.

On another day, we hiked close to the Worthington Glacier accessed from the Richardson Highway that leads from inland down to Valdez. Pamela and I had a choice of two paths to take to get to the glacier so we took the high road. We should've taken the low road. If we had, we would've managed to actually walk on the glacier. Doh! If it hadn't been for the fact that we were beat from traversing the rocks and boulders strewn there by ancient glaciers, and if Rob hadn't been patiently waiting for us, we might have persevered. But we did get close and that was pretty awesome in itself.

This was one of our views as we were driving to Valdez. 

A panoramic landscape of the Chugach Mountains.

Some of the beautiful mosses and wildflowers we found of the side of a cliff. Notice the band of quartz running through the rock.

Another Bridal Veil Falls. Its so mesmerizing that you just want to stand there and watch it. 

Rob at the foot of the aptly-named Horsetail Falls.

Another angle of Horsetail Falls.

Rob waving from The Beast. He wanted to get going so he could put an end to the day of driving.

Here is one of the many tugboats fueling up. After the 1989 oil spill, strict protocol was put into place for the ingress and egress of oil tankers from Port Valdez. They are guided by tugs until they safely reach deep channels. Emergency oil containment crews are also on duty 24 hours a day.

Facing the eastern end of Port Valdez where the original town once stood.

Those vertical, white lines are rushing waterfalls.

Our boat Captain brought us closer to one of the falls.

More waterfalls but, this time, we got an eagle as a bonus.

A fishing boat with its nets in the water and a waterfall for company.

I couldn't get enough of the waterfalls. So majestic.

Just a normal day at work.

This crew is starting to reel in the net.

You can see this boat's catch.

The ice that calves from the glaciers gradually float into more open water. They look white until they roll over. That is when you see that beautiful aqua color.

The otters are keeping a close eye on our boat. If you get too close they will dive in.

Seagulls readying for landing on this tiny island.

Yes, more waterfalls. This was taken along the Unakwik Inlet on the way to the Meares Glacier.

Seals ice-bathing.

This is a shot of the Meares Glacier on the far right side.

A close up of one of the icebergs that floated by our boat.

A small portion of the Meares Glacier just as it started to calve.

The calved ice crashing into the water.

This next photo is of the Meares Glacier. This photograph is comprised of seven or eight shots that I took, hand-held, in order to get a panorama of the entire glacier. The glacier is one mile wide and we were stopped a quarter mile away. Click on the photo to open it full-screen. Notice the tiny, red circle. The following photograph is of that area. Consider how small the bald eagle appears. This will help put the size of this glacier into perspective. Quite impressive to say the least.

My sister enjoying our day out on the water. An exhilarating nine-hour trip.

Cute little fella.

And we saw one humpback whale—from a distance. Better than seeing none.

Love the Puffins. This one is a Tufted Puffin.

An oil tanker being escorted out of Port Valdez.

Our Captain took us on a short tour around Jack Bay.

It was misty and foggy the day we explored Old Valdez. The streets where stores and houses once stood were still well delineated. The pilings that once supported the docks now support seagulls instead. An oil tanker can be seen in the background.

Rob having some fun. The rope is attached to an old barge that sits aground in the original town of Valdez. I've searched for how and why it is there but can't find any information.

One end of the old barge. It looks like some folks got together and painted a mural with many positive words.

A view from just below the Worthington Glacier.

Pamela getting ready to take her own photo of the view.

The Worthington Glacier. We were very close to it, but it is still farther than it appears. Those rocks are not small.

Another lovely view from the Worthington Glacier.

We took an afternoon to visit Dayville Road, which runs long the south side of Port Valdez. Along the road is camping, a fish hatchery and the tanks and docks for filling the old tankers.

Fireweed is found everywhere and where there is Fireweed there are bees.

Seagulls built nests along this ledge under a bridge.

They built their nests even with this deterrent endangering their lives. If they are going to nest there anyway, then I think the authorities should remove the deterrent. No sense in harming the birds.

The salmon were running.

Another of the many…

Our view during our stay in Valdez.