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Prince William Sound

Prince William Sound (Sugpiaq: Suungaaciq) is a sound of the Gulf of Alaska on the south coast of the U.S. state of Alaska. It is located on the east side of the Kenai Peninsula. Its largest port is Valdez, at the southern terminus of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System. Other settlements on the sound, which contains numerous small islands, include Cordova and Whittier plus the Alaska native villages of Chenega and Tatitlek.

prince william sound

In 1790, the Spanish explorer Salvador Fidalgo entered the sound, naming many of its features. Some places in the sound still bear the names given by Fidalgo, as Port Valdez, Port Gravina or Cordova. The explorer landed on the actual site of Cordova and took possession of the land in the name of the king of Spain.

Most of the land surrounding Prince William Sound is part of the Chugach National Forest, the second largest national forest in the U.S. Prince William Sound is ringed by the steep and glaciated Chugach Mountains. The coastline is convoluted, with many islands and fjords, several of which contain tidewater glaciers. The principal barrier islands forming the sound are Montague Island, Hinchinbrook Island, and Hawkins Island.

Prince William Sound encompasses 3,800 miles of coastline, bounded to the east and north by the Chugach Mountains and to the west by the Kenai Peninsula. Commercially important for the fishing and oil industries, the sound is also prized for its abundance of marine and coastal life, its rain forest of Sitka spruce and western hemlock, and its glacier-studded landscape. The sound contains 150 glaciers including 17 tidewater glaciers, known for dramatically calving huge ice chunks into the sea.

More than 220 species of birds, 30 species of land mammals, and at least a dozen marine mammal species are found in the region. Bald eagles are plentiful along treetops and shorelines. Among the estimated 200,000 seabirds that summer in the sound are marbled murrelets, black-legged kittiwakes, and glaucous-winged gulls.

There is a local monitoring network in Barry Arm that includes two seismometers, an infrasound array, a ground-based radar, several weather stations, and four cameras. Additionally, there is an infrasound array located in the town of Whittier, Alaska, approximately 50 km (31 miles) from the Barry Arm landslide. The National Tsunami Warning Center also operates three water level sensors in Barry Arm.

The project area consists of Odiak Channel, Columbia Glacier, College Fiord, the approach to Whittier, and Harriman Fiord. Each area provides different obstacles to traverse and exemplifies the need for high quality charts in the sound. Odiak Channel is wide open with little defining features or hazards, but the mud flats here run shallow and are impossible to see underneath the murkiness of the silt-filled channel. Columbia Glacier runs deep and has impressive sights from afar, but close up there are calving glaciers and treacherous icefields. College Fiord is long and potentially the most beautiful of the fiords, but shallow moraines run along its path like mile markers. Thankfully, our expert helmsman and conning officers navigated the area safely and avoided any unintentional impacts with ice.

While in the sound in April, the survey team took a moment to occupy the Cochrane Bay tidal benchmark. The team set up a base station overnight to recompute the local tidal datum relationship with the ellipsoid. The base station consists of a GPS receiver and antenna which gathers satellite information specific to that benchmark, a laptop that gathers and processes the geodetic data, and a willing survey tech to construct and deconstruct the station.

The sights and sounds of the actively calving glaciers from the unique viewpoint of our ocean kayaks will indeed be the highlight of your trip! Along with safe and beautiful paddling, Blackstone has some short hikes to offer. Weather and time permitting, we can hike along the side of Lawrence Glacier for an "up close" look and enjoy one of the most spectacular views in the Sound. This trip is rife with wildlife photo opportunities from eagles to otters and more. At the end of our paddling day we will be taken by charter boat back to Whittier, a perfect day trip from Anchorage.

And while salmon are seen as a success story, the ecosystem in the sound is crippled by the failure to see a return of the huge schools of Pacific herring, which were hit by the spill just as they were spawning. The herring fishery, which provided up to half of the income of Cordova fishermen, has been closed to commercial fishing except for a few brief periods since the spill.

The food chain has magnified the effect of the spill in other insidious ways. Orcas, or killer whales, in the sound are afflicted by bio-accumulation of toxins. Fourteen out of the 36 killer whales in the resident Prince William Sound pod disappeared shortly after the spill. Researchers believe their lungs were seared by the toxic fumes, though orca carcasses usually sink, so no autopsy was possible.

In keeping with the nature of an expedition, we keep our schedule flexible to take advantage of the unexpected, adapting our course to the conditions and opportunities that arise. Your expedition experience can be tailored to the activity level you choose, whether it\u2019s light or moderate or a little bit of both. Travelers should be in good health, comfortable walking or standing for extended periods of time and over uneven surfaces, and able to get in and out of unstable expedition landing craft. Daily activities may include Zodiac cruises, easy hikes, walking tours, and visits to cultural or historic sites, with options for more physical activities such as longer hikes, kayaking, and paddleboarding. 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