June 1, 2017 Yakutat Tern Festival Part 1, flight to Cordova

Anchorage to Cordova

After driving 120 miles from Seward to Anchorage on a hot, sunny day, I flew to Cordova on a Boeing 737-400 on the first leg of the trip to the Yakutat Aleutian Tern Festival.

It was fascinating to see the city below, then Eagle River. Urban sprawl into previously intact habitat was evident everywhere, even high up the Eagle River valley. I spotted the Nike Missile Site, still surrounded by patches of snow, and Eklutna Lake, the source of Anchorage’s water.

Soon, all signs of civilization disappeared. I could not stop gaping out my tiny window at the wild tableau of Prince William Sound unrolling below. The eagle eye perspective over snowy mountains, monstrous glaciers, icebergs, and sparkling blue fjords was spectacular!

By comparing my photos to Google maps later, I recognized Harriman Fjord and other glaciers named by the railroad magnate Edward H. Harriman on his epic expedition to Alaska. The Harriman Expedition of 1899 is an interesting compilation of observations; I especially enjoyed the sections written by glacier pioneer John Muir. So many changes in this dynamic landscape!

Icebergs littered Columbia Bay, the giant glacier retreated just out of my view. Next up, Valdez Arm and the ill-fated Bligh Reef of the Exxon Valdez disaster of 1989. The Arm looked so very wide, it is hard to understand how the oil tanker managed to hit the reef, damaging that pristine ecosystem forever. Tiny Tatitlek dotted the opposite shoreline.

Next, the harbor and town of Cordova appeared, packed against the surrounding mountains, then the green waters of Eyak Lake. The jet’s shadow grew ever larger, paralleling the Copper River Highway. Soon we landed at the Merle K (Mudhole) Smith Airport to discharge a few and load a few before continuing on to Yakutat.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Traveling Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter


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