Friday 10 June 2011
Highlights: Scenic Coastal Train Trip, Whittier Glaciers and Dolphins
A welcome late start saw me catch the 8.40 am shuttle for the 10 am train from Anchorage to Whittier. The coastal 61 mile trip was down over 2 hours at a slow pace to allow us to look out for wildlife, which worked when a very young moose started running with the train!
The train setup in Alaska is very well done. For this trip I had a seat on the second level giving me a very good view of the scenic coast. To arrive at Whittier the train had to go through a 4 mile tunnel cut through the mountain. This tunnel is use on rotation with cars, and the tunnel is shut at night meaning Whittier is very cut-off from the rest of the world.
On arrival I headed straight for the Philips 26 Glacier Cruise (after going to the wrong terminal – I was the only one who made this mistake, DOH). I’ve been looking forward to this tour of Prince William Sound. I was seated on a table of 6 which was a little tight fit, but it gave me a chance to met my travel mates (US and Mexicans), at least until after the lunch. The lunch included local fish from Prince William Sound.
Not long after lunch as we were nearing our first glacier a group of dolphins decided to play with our boat, a great start to the 5 hour cruise. We also got to see sea otters, sea lions and black-legged kittiwake (basically seagulls) during the day. During the day we had an onboard US Forest Service Ranger provide his insights into the area, including that not all wildlife at recovered from the Exxon Valdez 1989 oil spill, which just yesterday at the Anchorage Museum I was told wasn’t a big deal. Finally someone saying it isn’t all roses.
The glaciers are really spectacular, especially when a part breaks of and falls into the ocean. Having the boat hit a few of this ‘mini’ icebergs was kind of cool and got me excited about my possible Antarctic trip in 18 months. The sea otters floated on their backs and had they young sitting on them, which was very cute, at least all the women thought so.
After the cruise ended I headed back to Anchorage via the Whittier train for a very leisurely trip and instead of catching the shuttle back to the hotel I walked, enjoying the 9 pm bright sunlight.