When I was eight, my best friend’s father used to zip us to Stellwagen Bank in his maroon cigarette boat on humid New England summer afternoons. He’d turn off the engine, and we’d drop our jaws at the riveting sight of dozens of humpback whales surfacing just feet away
At twenty-three, I still feel the tingle of goose bumps when a whale breaches or slips its tail fluke into the sea. A daylong boat cruise through Kenai Fjords National Park at the beginning of my eighth week in Alaska brought me up-close again to these gargantuan marine creatures. We spotted a few humpback and gray whales; plenty of puffins, murres, cormorants, bald eagles, auklets, guillemots, and murrelets; a sea otter, harbor seals, Steller sea lions, and Dall’s porpoise. As a New England-now-California girl, I’m extremely fortunate to have already glimpsed many of these animals.
Hence the best part of my day was Northwestern Glacier. Our boat literally plowed through clouds of haze— and past harbor seals sleeping on icebergs— to reach this tidewater glacier at the very end of Northwestern Fjord. Watching the glacier calve, or release gigantic blocks of ice that roared into the ocean below, was one of the most moving half hours of my life.