Alaska Exploration (Full)
Active date:2018-08-11

6N7D ALASKA EXPLORATION


Day 1  Travel day from Valdez, AK to Lodge.  Depart at 12pm. Lunch not included.

Day 2-6 Day  We travel to dive sites for 3 dives each day. Some are known dive sites while others will be exploratory sites that are completely virgin and untouched. We plan at least three dives per day (except travel days), but an exact number of dives cannot be given and depend on weather conditions and travel time to dive sites. Day ends at 2pm and travel back to lodge. 2pm-6pm is free time while tanks are refilled. Group excursions after dinner.

Day 7 - Travel day back to Valdez, AK.  Depart Lodge at 9am for Valdez.


DIVE ALASKA - FALL TOUR

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Temperatures will rise to around 15 C at the surface, and the visibility will be around 10m during the fall season.  The mass migration of salmon to Alaska and a new cycle of nature and animals start to come into view.


The tour revolves around 3 dives each day (weather dependent) with unique activities scheduled during the week.  Bear activity occurs more often during this month and guests have the best opportunity to see brown and black bears walking along the beach and at creeks during evening skiff excursions.  This is a tour that combines the best of what Alaska has to offer above and below the waterline.


SALMON FISH SNORKELING

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Snorkeling with salmon is more fun than you would imagine.  You get to see one of nature’s greatest migration stories unfold its last chapter as these fish return to the very stream they were born.  


Almost every creek that produces a stream of freshwater into the open ocean will have salmon trying to navigate it to spawn and then perish.  Each year, the amount of fish that return can vary. But the numbers usually end up in the thousands, so it’s hard to see any real changes that occur.


During the spawning season, when salmon hit freshwater a unique metamorphosis will happen changing male fish to deform making for interesting photo’s.  The Pink Salmon will have the biggest changes with teeth becoming long, develop a hook jaw and large hump back.  Chum salmon will develop what look like tiger strips on their skin, with colors becoming more bright as they stay longer in freshwater.


DIVE JELLYFISH BLOOM AND SMACKS

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Ever felt like you were visiting another world?!  Moon Jellyfish blooms (aurelia aurita) or aggregate jellyfish blooms occur every summer along the coast of Alaska.  Port Fidalgo in Prince William Sound offers the clearest water in the area, free from silt and glacier runoff so that divers can get a extreme view of just how massive these blooms get get in size.  Ranging in the thousands, these jellyfish don't sting and congregate in huge numbers to reproduce.  They are a carnivore, often feeding on small zooplankton.  Found almost always blue in color, some will be lucky enough to see a purple one.  If so, you've just spotted the female surrounded by endless males jocking for position with her.  One very unique characteristic of jellyfish blooms around the world is the fact that is doesn't happen very often or under conditions that allow for pre-planned trips to catch a bloom in the act.  


During this explosion of jellyfish, both divers and snorklers can swim in these vast migrations.  These blooms usually appear on the surface of the water and allow snorkelers the chance to swim on the surface, while divers will sink down mid column.  The blooms can reach hundreds of feet so there's plenty of space to get a shot free from other divers.  This is a extremely unique adventure and there are but a handful of area's in the world where jellyfish congregate like this, but nothing truley like here in Alaska!


Along with Moon Jellyfish, the Lions Mane Jellyfish is another beautiful species to photograph. But divers beware, these one’s sting.  Although not deadly, they will leave you with a sting hurting like a bee might hurt.  The bells are harmless, but the trailing tentacles that can sometimes reach 15’ or more can sometimes be hard to see.  So, make sure to swim around the front and stay away from the rear of this orange invertebrate.


SEA LION ROOKERY & PUFFINS TOPSIDE PHOTOGRAPHY

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During the course of the week we will travel to an area of Prince William Sound where hundreds of Stellar Sea Lions call home along a rugged and rocky beachline.  This rookery holds many interesting characters making for great subjects to photograph as a group or as a single sea lion.  They can often be found perched on high rocks from a recent high tide or forging in the waters that surround the area.  Depending on the tide, there may be times when waves will crash onto shore allowing beautiful photo’s.  But make sure to set your shutter speed correctly as there is much action that usually occurs here.  You’ll want your telephoto lens along for this trip as we are not allowed to approach no closer than 30m to the rookery.


We’ll spend time taking in the sights, sounds and even the smell of this large colony of pinnipeds.  These lions are the largest member of the family Otariidae, the “eared seals,” which includes all sea lions and fur seals.  It is the only member of genus Eumetopias.  Otariids differ from phocids, the “true seals,” in having external ear flaps, long forearms resembling flippers used for propulsion, and rotatable hind flippers that allow quadrupedal locomotion on land.

We’ll also find a nesting colony of birds that inhabit the same rocky beachline.  There are 3 main birds that are found here, which include Pelagic Cormorant, Tufted Puffins and the more famous Horned Puffin.  These birds will be seen leaving their cliff nests in search for small fish and often rest outside the protection boundary that surrounds the sea lion rookery.


After viewing the lions and birds, we’ll turn our attention to the rich waters around the island to search for migrating whales.  Then turn our attention to Columbia Glacier and dawn our wetsuit or drysuit to swim with icebergs.  This trip is weather dependent and will often make the run across the sound during the best weather day.


ICEBERG SNORKELING

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This iceberg snorkeling tour is reserved for those willing to brave a little colder water for epic shots of floating and grounded ice that have recently calved from the mighty blue behemoth, Columbia Glacier.  But guests should know that this adventure is dangerous and ice can move or even flip without any visual indication ahead of time.


Some interesting facts about the area is Columbia Glacier descends from an ice field 3,050 meters above sea level, down the flanks of the Chugach Mountains leading into Prince William Sound.  It is also one of the most rapidly changing glaciers in the world and the largest tidewater glacier in Alaska.


The Columbia is a large glacier flowing directly into the sea. When British explorers first surveyed it in 1794, its nose—or terminus—extended south to the northern edge of Heather Island, a small island near the mouth of Columbia Bay.  The glacier held that position until 1980, when it began a rapid retreat that continues today.  Since that time it has moved over 10 miles and has been in catastrophic retreat, often calving tremendous icebergs into the bay.

In Columbia Bay there is a calm area where kayaking tour groups will spend traversing slow moving and grounded icebergs, which is where we also partake snorkeling with them.  There are numerous icebergs to choose from and we'll look for the safest one to swim with, as these bergs tend to roll with little, to no notice.  We don’t approach any iceberg and carefully pick the most stable one that we’re able to gain access to through the ice pack.  We will give you a safety briefing on how to approach and navigate along one.  Floating flat icebergs are not as top heavy and grounded icebergs flip less often, but snorkelers inevitably have the decision to get in or not to swim with an iceberg.


We don’t allow diving with icebergs without extended training, experience and numerous logged coldwater, dry suit dives.


NORTHERN LIGHTS

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During spring, when the sun still sets, guests that stay up are often treated to an amazing and dazzling light show.  The colors of the Northern Lights depend on what gas is involved and how high in the ionosphere the reaction takes place.  Blue and green lights form at lower altitudes while red color comes from the highest altitudes.  Green is the most common color of all auroras. Then it is pink, a mixture of green and red, followed by pure red, yellow and finally, pure blue.


The impressive light display that we see in the sky, seemingly just above our heads, is very far away – usually more than 60 miles above Earth.  The most distant red lights take place at heights of over 400 miles up in the sky.  Astronauts on board the International Space Station are at the same altitude as the Northern Lights and see them from the side.


Apart from a spectacular visual display, the lights also produce faint sounds such as claps, crackles, and static sounds. However, the aurora noise is so rare that hearing it is probably possible only during times of maximum aurora activity, on windless nights away from other noise sources.  Some Inuit tribes believed that the Northern Lights were the spirits of animals that they hunted – seals, salmons, deer and beluga whales.


August 1st, the sun will set at 11pm and August 31st the sun sets at 10pm.  Weather plays a huge factor and clouds can spoil your success to capture a solar storm erupting into a beautiful and colorful display.  But we are far enough north to be able to offer this to our guests.  So if you’re an avid photographer or just a sky watcher, brave the cold night and set your clocks to wake up and see earth's greatest natural spectacle.


EVENING TOPSIDE PHOTOGRAPHY SKIFF RIDES (Additional charge)

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After dinner, grab your telephoto lens and look for topside wildlife.  Your guide will take you to known watering holes for prime big game animal encounters.  These smaller boats allow us to gain access to area's closer into shore where the larger boat would not be able to go.  Possible animal sightings for this time period are whales, porpiose, eagles, sea-otters, land-otters, sea lions, harbor seals and various bird.  Weather changes from sun to rain faster than you’d expect.  So don’t forget to dress warm and bring rain gear on every outing.  It’s always better to drop a layer or two than not have extra to feel comfortable.


There are many interesting animals to photograph, but there are also equally breathtaking landscape photography.  A wide-angle lens will prove useful as well on most evening excursions.  Skiffs are equipped with life jackets and marine radio's. 


Your hosts have enjoyed working with amateur to professional photographers and videographers throughout the years.  And are eager to show you unique, yet divers populations of wildlife and natural beauty that resides in Prince William Sound.  Our prospective is to approach every encounter with deep appreciation for the moment.  We genuinely love the outdoors and the animals that inhabit our area.  Boone has years experience mapping and documenting wildlife migrations in the area and are excited to be able to show you around our neck of the woods.