Photo Essay: Road trip to Seward, Alaska

First posted in May, 2002

So what did April hold for Jacqueline? Well, I'll tell you: I went back to work after a glorious two and a half month period of being free to do whatever I wanted. This also means that I went back to work after a two and a half month period during which I had no income. So, I suppose it's good to be back, though admittedly I am currently in a position that involves being tied to the office, the desk, the computer, and (most dreadful of all) the phone. Not that I don't absolutely love talking to the public and answering their questions. I do enjoy that immensely - I just kind of wish that I was able to get out once in a while.

But wait! I didn't spend the whole time indoors (do I ever?). My very first week back in the saddle involved traveling to Seward, Alaska for the first ever Student Ocean Conference, where elementary and high school students from all across the state gathered to learn about the oceans, their ecology, and their stewardship. The conference was held at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward, which is a very nice little aquarium indeed. I accompanied a group of high school students and their teacher from Yakutat; we had a great time, and I think a few of the students really came away with some new ways of looking at the stewardship of our planet's oceans. Who knows? Maybe a future famous marine biologist was made during the trip!

I won't do much more than highlight off-duty pleasantries of the trip here. The trip itself only lasted a few days, so there's not much off-duty stuff to highlight, but I did have my first run-in with a "city moose," and the aquarium had many wonderful exhibits which I enjoyed immensely.

Here is my "city moose," who was obviously very used to traffic, and was not at all afraid of our vehicle. I took this photo from about thirty feet away, and it is but one of many wonderful photographs for which she posed. In this photo she is enjoying a snack of alder... which is pretty much what she's doing in every photo I took.

Such apathy toward humans is a learned activity, born of spending her life in the town of Seward (these photos were taken in a housing subdivision). Her calf, however, was much less willing to show himself, and I have very few photos of him. What's more, all of the photos were taken at an extreme distance and through trees... photographs not entirely unlike many of those taken of the elusive sasquatch, and so I chose not to post them here.

After touring Seward, we finally arrived at the SeaLife Center. We arrived early, well before the conference started, and had some time to look around. I spent my time looking at the exhibits and pouring over items in their wonderful gift store.

One of the exhibits that really impressed me included a variety of flatfish, such as halibut, flounder, and sole. As regular readers know, I enjoy halibut fishing quite a bit, so it was great to see these fish in action - sometimes swimming, sometimes simply lying on the bottom, independently moving their left and right eyes to take in the surrounding scene. At right is a photo of one such fish, who is busy eyeing me while still watching his or her back... or is it his or her fin? I can't tell.

And here's something you just don't see everyday... a shrimp strolling along, enjoying the day, rather than being breaded and fried and served with cocktail sauce (*gasp*). There was actually a big tank with tons of these little guys running around (well, running is a bit of an exaggeration, perhaps), but I thought it best to provide you with a closeup. Isn't he cute?? You don't have to answer that.

Okay, so perhaps not everyone was so excited about my visit to the SeaLife Center. When I paid a visit to this harbor seal, she simply refused to get up, except once, where she was driven from sleep by the need for oxygen. I waited as she got up, swam to the surface, and returned... only to curl up again for another nap.

This was actually a very neat experience for me, as I've seen seals in aquariums before, but never in this light. Given my extreme affection for napping, I feel that this seal and I had a deep personal connection on a certain level.

And finally, for my last "wildlife" photo. We spent the night in the SeaLife Center camped out on the floor next to the bird exhibit. The students from Yakutat started entertaining one another with ghost stories, and suddenly there were jokes about the killer puffins in the nearby exhibit. Fiction? You be the judge...

At left is a photograph of the puffin that attacked me the next morning. Sure, he looks small and unassuming, but shortly after I took this photograph he stuck his beak under the surface and flung water at least six feet to spray me. People told me he didn't mean anything by it.

I, however, am not so sure.