Monday, June 26, 2006

Petersburg





6-20-06 PETERSBURG: We had an early morning start with a visit to Kupreanof Island for another nature walk through the rain forest and muskeg [peat bog] on National Forest trails with board walks over the muddest parts. The rain forest has two tree species, hemock and Sitka spruce, unlike tropical rain forests that have dozens of tree species. The bog has only stunted pine and yellow cedar in the transition between bog and forest. On the forest floor there are bunch berry, skunk cabbage, chocolate lily, ferns, devils club, etc. The forest growth is heavy with mosses growing on everything and dead trees trunks, nursery logs, are covered with new growth. The muskeg has even more moss.

At mid-morning, we went up in a small plane to fly over glaciers. Yes, Judy did it! It was dramatic. The fast moving, Le Conte glacier has a very fissured surface with seracs, and the slow moving neighbor has a smooth surface like a parking lot. We saw many seals on the ice with new pups. Where they had recently given birth the ice bergs were blood stained. They come to the glaciers to give birth to avoid the orcas. The fjiord was packed solid with bergs.

After the planes there was a bit of shopping in Petersburg and a visit to the eagle hangout near the fish cannery. We saw several immatures and adults.

Next we left Petersburg, “Little Norway”, via the Wrangell Narrows and Frederick Sound and had a lecture on Alaskan birds by the AMNH scientist, Carol Griffiths.

Humpback whales appeared and entertained us for hours, before and after dinner, several of them in bunches, close by and far away from the boat. They surfaced and blew dove showing tail flukes and occasionally rolled on the surface displaying pectoral flukes. The tails showed white scars which made each whale individually identifiable. The weather was almost pleasant in the afternoon. There was a occasional patch of blue sky.

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