Wednesday, August 29, 2012

We See the Sea Life at the SeaLife Center

Here is the fourth installment summarizing Karyn and my recent trip to Alaska. This was also based in our final destination of Seward.

After beautiful weather for most of our trip, the storms finally caught up to us. Actually it rained during our trip from Denali to Seward and also during our Harding Ice Field hike. But the forecast increased the probability of precipitation to 90%. They should have just said 100%. No worries, we were planning to visit the Alaska SeaLife Center anyway.

Tufted Puffin.

The SeaLife center is a large aquarium and animal rescue/rehabilitation center. It is also the base of operations for a fair amount of conservation science partnering with the University of Alaska Fairbanks and various agencies. We would spend most of the day there enjoying everything they had to offer. We even left for lunch and came back in the afternoon!

Horned Puffin.

The facility houses an extensive education center focused on marine life in general, native Alaskan cultures, and the life-cycle of salmon. But I was drawn to the large facility housing many types of sea birds. I have been to a number of aquariums before, but never one that integrated sea birds into the exhibit. You could watch them from inside through the glass, outside near the tank, or downstairs underwater.

Juvenile Tufted Puffin.

After taking a hundred or so pictures of the various birds, I went inside to sit and watch. Here I perused the bird guide to make sure that I could identify each of these birds in the wild, focusing on each of the distinctive features. We had a boat trip planned for the next day so I wanted to be prepared.

Rhinoceros Auklet.
Pigeon Guillemot.
Red-legged Kittiwake.

While I was intently studying the birds, Karyn was trying out the video features on our point and shot camera. Watching puffins swim underwater is amazing. They are definitely better swimmers than fliers in my opinion. This first video highlights a Horned Puffin swimming.

Almost as good was watching the Tufted Puffins bathing. They roll fully upside-down in the water. It is hilarious! Take a look.

Being a rehabilitation center, the "I Sea U" are regularly called upon to take care of stranded mammal pups. Harbor Seals, Sea Otters, etc. They recently rescued three stranded Pacific Walrus calves. Two didn't make it, but one is still alive and kicking. They require a great deal of contact so an employee or volunteer are always in the cage with the animal, 24 hours a day. The walrus would play in the pool and then interact with one of the volunteers. We were lucky enough to be there during feeding time. That was easy to do since we spent all day there! The staff mixed up and heated about a quart and a half of formula and delivered the goods. It was gone in less than a minute! Wow, that was cool. This guy weighs over 300 pounds and is growing quickly.


The Harbor Seal on display was another rescued animal. He was cool to watch as he swam deep under the water, surfaced, then swam belly up across the surface of the tank.

Harbor Seal.
Harbor Seal.

There are at least two more reports to follow. Next up is a summary of our Sea Kayak adventure observing all kinds of wildlife. Check back soon.

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