July 9th stands out in my mind for several reasons. First, Jerry and Wendy had made it safely to the RV park! They got there around 1am; Jerry told me later that if it hadn’t been light out past midnight, they would have stopped. One of the advantages of the long days! And our visit to the Alaska Sealife Center is one of my favorite memories. I got what I think are some outstanding pictures.
Last post I asked if anyone knew who William Seward was, as he’s the namesake of the town we’re parked at in this post. No one got back to me, so I assume you all knew. He was the Secretary of State for the U.S. under Abraham Lincoln. Everyone in America is taught that John Wilkes Booth assassinated the president at Ford’s Theater. What I don’t remember learning is that Booth had recruited associates to simultaneously kill Lincoln, Seward and the Vice President, Andrew Johnson. The same night that Lincoln was shot, a man named Lewis Powell burst into Seward’s home and managed to stab him in the face and neck 5 times, along with stabbing multiple others who got in his way. Seward managed to survive (as did the others in the home) and the assassin assigned to kill the Vice President decided not to go through with it, therefore Lincoln’s was the only death achieved by the men.
Seward continued to be Secretary of State under Johnson’s Presidency. The Russian government, who owned most of Alaska, was concerned they’d not be able to defend it as they had no great settlements or population residing there. They decided to sell it rather than watch it be taken from them by force. Accordingly, Seward negotiated the addition of over 580,000 square miles for the incredible price of $7.2 million. While some did think it a waste of money (“Seward’s Folly; Seward’s Icebox” were labels for the land by some), most Americans were actually in favor of the acquisition. And we have certainly greatly benefited from it since then!
We had to make our own way to the Center; I hitched a ride with Jerry and Wendy. The idea of a Sealife Center was conceived after the Exxon Valdez oil spill in March 1989. There was no response plan in place for such a disaster and a paucity of research into how to respond, how to rehabilitate affected wildlife, etc. In 1993, some of the funds from the criminal settlement were set aside to build an institution that could conduct research, rehabilitate animals, and educate the public. The grand opening was in 1998.
Our first activity at the Center was to go into a closed room where an aviculturalist named Caitlyn introduced us to the types of birds they have, what makes alcids (puffins, murres, auklets, etc) special and then brought out a horned puffin and a rhinocerous auklet for us to meet in person. It was very cool!
Alcids are the family of birds who can both fly and dive in water. They have solid bones instead of hollow, like almost all other birds. Their wings are just right for diving/swimming and just enough for flying; unlike penguins who’ve given up the ability to fly to gain better maneuverability in the water. So, let’s get started on the pictures! Warning: lots of them coming.
First we met a horned puffin. We saw puffins in the water when we cruised in Valdez, but now got to see one in greater detail. Puffins are monomorphic, meaning that the males and females look the same. In fact, the Center has to do DNA tests on the birds to figure out if they are a girl or a boy. Another fun puffin fact is that they spend all of their time out in the ocean, except for nesting. They are great swimmers, pretty good fliers, but awkward on walking.
Next, she brought out Klinger, who is a rhinocerous auklet. You can see where they get that name! Klinger is very imprinted on humans and far prefers to be with them versus other birds. He gets in trouble periodically for bothering the other birds.
After the birds were safely stowed back in their cages, we got to wander around the center. There are a lot of cool things there, but my favorite by far was the aviary. It houses quite a few different species. I was using my 85mm prime lens for these shots. I love that lens, but for most tourist type pictures it’s useless. But in this application it really shone.
There were other displays besides the aviary, though it was hard to drag myself away from the birds.
The Center also had seals, salmon, and other cool animals that I didn’t take pictures of. And they had some really cool art along the walls as well.
And Wendy and I found some pretty flowers outside the center. I practiced my macro technique, though without a macro lens.
I spent the rest of the day doing some errands and chores. But, I did get a good shot of Abby, the dog who owns Steve and Bevely S.
The next post will deal with the cruise we took the next day. A lot of pictures again!!!