Departing from Whittier, the Surprise Glacier Cruise travels through Passage Canal and into Port Wells, featuring waterfalls, bird rookeries, sea otters, sea lions and other wildlife. Cruise along the rocky cliffs of Prince William Sound, inhabited by over 7,500 birds.
To your right, before entering Barry Arm and Harriman Fjord, you will see College Fjord, which was named by Edward Harriman in 1899. The glaciers in College Fjord are named after elite East Coast colleges such as Harvard and Yale.
As you enter Harriman Fjord, you'll see several glaciers, including Harriman and Surprise Glacier. These are active tidewater glaciers, meaning that they flow down from the mountains all the way into the water. You will also see other types of glaciers in the nearby mountains, including alpine or cirque glaciers and valley glaciers.
As you travel farther into Harriman Fjord, you'll begin to see chunks of ice called icebergs floating in the water. You will come to a stop in front of the towering Surprise Glacier, where the Captain will turn off the engines so you can hear the ice crack and groan. Often you will see harbor seals and sea otters lounging on the floating ice. You'll spend about thirty minutes watching the glacier so you have as much time as possible to see it actively calving.
Your return to Whittier takes you through Esther Passage, a small waterway that only small vessels can navigate through. Watch the shoreline for possible bear and bald eagle sightings as you cruise through this spectacular marine waterway. The high mountains of Esther Passage provide protection from high winds, making this a very calm cruising area.
While in Esther Passage, you'll visit a salmon hatchery on Esther Island. This is the largest salmon hatchery in North America, where 300 million salmon fry are released every year. At the hatchery, salmon eggs are fertilized, baby salmon are born and are raised until they are two inches long, and then they are released into the wild. The salmon’s natural instinct causes them to return to the exact freshwater where they were born to spawn and die. About 20-25% of the salmon originally released return to this area.
Before ending your cruise, you'll visit the second-largest black-legged kittiwake rookery in Prince William Sound, where thousands of black-legged kittiwakes have built their nests on the steep sea-side cliffs. These migratory birds, part of the gull family, travel as far south as Baja, California and Costa Rica every year. During the summer they mate, lay eggs, and raise their young in rookeries built into rocky cliffs.
After leaving the rookery, return to the Whittier harbor to end your cruise.
Prince William Sound
Major Marine Tours - Prince William Sound Glacier Cruise