Our final day at sea is spent exploring the College Fjord. It was discovered in 1899 by an expedition led by Edward Harriman a wealthy railroad tycoon. He took a large group of all different kinds of scientists with him. When they discovered this beautiful fjord they decided to name it after the many colleges in the States. The NW side were named after women colleges and the SE after male colleges. They took great delight in not naming one after Princeton. There are 5 glaciers called Tidal glaciers because they ended in the water. The Harvard glacier goes 200 feet deep into the water, shows you how deep Prince William’s Sound is.
In 1964 a 9.2 earthquake struck close to College Fjord. This was the strongest earthquake in North America and the 2nd strongest in the world. The town of Valdez sank into the sea. The land sank between 9 to 17 feet, which caused “Ghost Forests”, because the trees were killed when they were submerged in salt water. In Anchorage and Valdez, the permafrost that houses were built on warmed up which basically liquified it and whole towns were just swallowed by the sea.
Mark our naturalist pointed out where the Exxon Valdez sunk. The Captain spotted an iceberg and veered so as not to hit it and ended up grounded on a reef. There was tons of damage from the oil, but between the clean-up and Mother Nature, the land has rebounded and become very bountiful again.
Our next stop is Whittier Bay where we will disembark to head to Anchorage before our flight to Vancouver. It will be a long day. Whittier Bay is a tiny town which only had access to the mainland by boat or plane until a huge tunnel was built in 2000 right through the mountain. The tunnel only allows cars and trucks to go one way at a time so you don’t want to miss your turn. There is an apartment building in town that houses basically the whole population. There is a tunnel from the apartment to the school so you can go days without going outside. It was a beautiful drive up to Anchorage, lots of water with an amazing number of Beluga Whales swimming about. Water, Road, Mountain. Our driver once again was a tour guide telling us all about the region.
It is amazing to think the whole world was covered in ice at one point in time and somehow life began. It truly makes you think about how important and beautiful this world is and we need to take care of it. When you visit this land you can understand why our Native Americans gave thanks everyday to the everyday things that kept them alive. The true wonder of the world is still alive in everyday life in Alaska and the Yukon.
Thanks to the crew and staff of Island Princess for an amazing trip. It was our first cruise since 1997 and we will definitely be doing another one.