June 28, 2016
The day began with a splash today! Orcas were spotted dead ahead only a few minutes after we left the bay, and we coasted to a stop to watch a fascinating series of events transpire. There were approximately 6 orcas in the pod, two large males with characteristically massive dorsal fins, two or three smaller females, and a couple of smaller juveniles. We watched them transit eastward for some time, breaking at times into two groups before rejoining into one. After about ten minutes, we noticed disturbances in the water nearby, and suddenly saw a large group of very agitated Dall’s porpoise, evidently fleeing from the larger predators. Chaos erupted as the orcas descended on the porpoises, and for nearly half an hour sleek black bodies leapt and trashed at the surface. We were unable to see if the orcas were successful in catching any of the swift creatures, but nonetheless it was a captivating display.
Eventually the drama lessened and we moved on, passing the trim blue, yellow and white Alaska state ferry Aurora on her way to Whittier before we passed along the north side of Glacier Island and then north towards the Columbia Glacier.
The Columbia Glacier is the largest glacier in Prince William Sound, but has been rapidly retreating since 1984. It has retreated over 10 miles in the last 30 years, and the charts cannot be updated quickly enough, so soon enough we passed into uncharted waters and out chart plotters show us motoring miles onto the surface of the glacier! This glacier tends to calve larger icebergs, many of which run aground in the shallows at the edge of the fjord and sit listing at crazy angles like derelict battleships. The ice here lies thicker in the water than at any of the other glaciers we have visited and we inch forward in a tight line behind Deception until we emerge into a small patch of clear water with a stunning view of the massive Columbia Icefields stretching back into the icy peaks beyond.
Safely stern tied in our anchorage at Heather Bay we find it to have excellent walking through the mossy lowland bogs, and climb an easy hill for a massively rewarding panoramic view of the icy fjord we just traversed.