Under wheeling choruses of Kittiwakes Glaucous-winged gulls we left the friendly harbor at Cordova behind and pulled out into Orca Inlet to begin Leg Five of our Alaskan Adventure! Off the waterfront, larger ships that work as middlemen tending the salmon fleet lie at anchor, including several ships who famously appear on “Deadliest Catch”. They spend their summers in the comparatively placid waters of Prince William Sound before heading out in to the wild Bering Sea to catch crab through the freezing winter.
For the last couple of days, the annual Salmon Jam festival has been in full swing in Cordova, and many of us got the great opportunity to take part in the festivities, view and shop for great local art, and eat all the fired food you could dream of!
This summer has been outstandingly warm and sunny by Alaskan standards, and shirtsleeves and shorts are the order of the day as we travel across the mirror calm expanses that separate the eastern edge of Prince William Sound from the cliffs and forested peaks of Naked Island. An enormous oil tanker fully loaded with North-slope crude heads for the open ocean escorted by a small fleet of powerful tugs and response vessels who work diligently to avoid repeating the mistakes that led to the disastrous Exxon Valdez spill of 1989. A large spill response barge sits on a mooring in the channel between Peak and Naked Island as added insurance against catastrophe. Although now nearly 30 years ago the impact and memory of the spill can still be felt across the Sound and in the memories of the people who inhabit it.
Anchoring in a cove on the north side of the island we explored the coastline with our dinghies, watching Black oystercatchers feed and whistle among the seaweed covered rocks while eagles soar overhead. In the evening we gather aboard Deception for cocktails and a brief lecture from the Naturalist about the Oil Spill.
The long days and sunny weather have warmed the waters of Naked Island sufficiently to make the swimming pleasant, and a before dinner dip makes for an enjoyable way to close out the day.