Sunday, April 13, 2008

Where in the West: Seward, AK

Wayfarer Scientista and "Alaska Al" both correctly pinpointed Alaska as the state in April's Where in the West. Alaska is a rather large, Pacific Rim state. Alaskan cities that can be driven to and that are on the edge of large bodies of water (the ocean and related bays and inlets) are limited in number. Alaska Al came close in his offline guess of Whittier and Girdwood, which are just north of the above Alaska-Airlines-assisted photo. The photo, which looks westward toward the setting sun, was taken in late February, 2007.

The Google Earth image above (click to enlarge) approximates the orientation, altitude, and angle of the airliner photo, and can be used to identify many features including Exit Glacier, a smallish glacier one can drive to from the Seward Highway: take Alaska Route 1 from Anchorage to Alaska Route 9 toward the town of Seward, and turn west onto the Exit Glacier Road just north of Seward. From the end of that road, a short walk will have you standing on the glacier. Exit Glacier is the eastern "exit" to the huge Harding Icefield. Other glaciers you can drive within walking distance of (in Alaska) are the Matanuska Glacier east of Palmer on the Glenn Highway, Alaska Route 1, and the Worthington Glacier just north-northeast of Valdez near Thompson Pass on the Richardson Highway, Alaska Route 4. There may be others glaciers you can drive to - besides glaciers near Juneau that can be driven to even though you can't drive to Juneau - but the Exit, Matanuska, and Worthington Glaciers are the ones I'm familiar with.

It's possible that the volcanoes Katmai and Augustine are visible in the photo, but clouds and probable mirage obscure the far distance.

Much of the terrain, islands, and inlets west of Resurrection Bay to a little west of McCarty fjord are part of Kenai Fjords National Park, which is accessible mostly by boat from the Gulf of Alaska, that large body of water to the south of the photo (left). Exit Glacier is the only part of the park that can be driven to.
"At the tip of the Kenai Peninsula lies a land where the ice age still lingers. In Kenai Fjords, glaciers, earthquakes, and ocean storms are the architects. Ice worms, bears and whales make their home in this land of constant change. Native Alutiiq used these resources to nurture a life entwined with the sea." -from Kenai Fjords Park webpage.
Although the coastline of the park was affected by the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989, wildlife viewing is still reported to be good - wildlife in the park includes mountain goats, moose, bears, wolverines, marmots, bald eagles, sea lions, harbor seals, porpoises, sea otters, horned and tufted puffins, kittiwakes, murres, seagulls, and several kinds of whales: humpback, killer, and minke. Fishing in the area is generally good to excellent - including halibut, Dolly Varden, salmon, rockfish, graylings, and lingcod.


Kim said...

Seward, AK... not to be confused with the Seward Peninsula (which has much less spectacular scenery).

Silver Fox said...

Perhaps a bit confusing that Seward is on the Kenai Peninsula, and Nome is on the Seward Peninsula -- Way Up North... as Johnny Horton once sang.