I decided to create a Legend to accompany the Alaska photo posts, using Google Maps, so that people can have a better sense of where the hell these places I mention are. Behold Alaska, with a little piece of Russia nosing in to the upper left and the Westernmost edge of Canada on the right (you can also see the deep Aleutian Trench where the Pacific tectonic plate slides under the North American plate, causing the Aleutian Islands to rise out of the sea and making the area an active earthquake and volcano zone; one temblor near Anchorage in 1964 caused a tsunami that killed more than a dozen people on the Northern California coast):
The red rectangle at the bottom right shows the Queen Charlotte Islands (Haida Gwaii) in British Columbia, where the myths translated in A Story as Sharp as a Knife come from.
Moving North and West up the coast, past Juneau and Skagway in the Alaska panhandle, past the ginormous Kluane icecap, the next red rectangle shows Prince William Sound, which was also full of Orcas until Exxon spilled more than 10 million gallons of crude oil into it (oil from Prudhoe Bay, which is shown by a red rectangle on Alaska’s Northern coast, runs by pipeline to Prince William Sound because the “city” (pop. 4000) of Valdez in P.W.S. is the northernmost port on the West Coast that remains ice-free all year long). The oil didn’t directly affect the orcas very much, but it did kill off lower animals on the food chain, so the orcas don’t bother looking for food in Prince William Sound for the time being. The ecosystem is slowly returning to its pre-spill state.
The red rectangle West of Prince William Sound shows the Harding Icefield, which is shown in a more detailed image below, with the locations of my previous photographs pointed out on it.
The red X just north of the Harding Icefield shows where Anchorage is. The red oval due North of Anchorage shows where Denali (Mount McKinley) is. You can see a view of Denali from Anchorage in this earlier post. (Wasilla is a strip-malled pitstop on the road between them, about 25 miles Northeast of Anchorage as the crow flies.) The location of Fairbanks is shown by another red X Northeast of Denali. Now here’s the closeup of the Harding Icefield on the Kenai Peninsula South of Anchorage:
The red rectange near the bottom shows Northwestern Fjord. Northwestern Glacier, discussed in this earlier post, is at the very end of the fjord near the upper left corner of the rectangle. The little bird on the little berg shown in this earlier post was drifting near the island in the middle of the fjord. The Anchor and Ogive glaciers shown in this earlier post are near the inlet on the Western edge of the fjord. The photo of water and clouds and fjord shown in this earlier post was taken from the middle of the fjord, looking out toward the entrance. The waterfalls shown in this earlier post were (I’m pretty sure) in a cove just outside the mouth of the fjord. (I will probably post some more photos from that fjord, but I won’t attempt to identify their locations this precisely.)
The red X on the bay near the upper right corner of the image shows the location of Seward, whose harbor was shown in this earlier post. It’s an important port in Alaskan history, because like Valdez (and Whittier) in Prince William sound, it is one of the northernmost ports that stays unfrozen all year. That made it a useful place for a railroad terminus during the Alaskan Gold Rush (there is still railroad service between Seward and the interior, in addition to a road), and a useful place for military installations during WWII and the cold war. Seward is now part fishing town, part waystation for coal being transported by train from the Alaskan interior to points across the sea, part cruise ship stop (I had to work to avoid including an enormous cruise ship in my photos of Seward harbor), and part tourist gateway to the Kenai Fjords National park (the National Park basically consists of the fjords shown in the middle of this image, plus most of Harding Icefield).
The bay that Seward presides over is Resurrection Bay. Most of the wildlife I photographed — the orcas, the sea lions, the bald eagle, the humpback with gulls and puffins — were either in the outer inlet (ha!) of Resurrection Bay or among the islands along the coast between Resurrection Bay and Northwestern Fjord. We didn’t enter the other big fjord in between (Aialik Fjord), although as you can see it has some very impressive glaciers too (the glacier at the Northernmost end of that fjord, Aialik Glacier, is 3 miles wide and more than 250 feet tall where it meets the water. Here is an impressive aerial photo obviously not taken by me.)
Finally, the red ellipse near the top edge of the image shows the location of Exit Glacier, which was shown in this earlier post.
Um, any questions, class?