We see a lot of wildlifeon and around our homestead, from shrews to whales. We live close to animals that many people spend big bucks and travel hundreds of miles for a chance to see. We never grow complacent about it. However, Saturday we saw something which, while it’s a comparatively common sight in our state, we never expected to see here.
Despite the warmth of the day, a few ice floes drifted past the homestead that day, probably ice from the upper Katzehin River lifted from the banks by our current high tides. When we sat down to lunch, we noticed a floe that measured 15-20 feet floating about a mile off our beach. As it was the brightest object in our view, it drew our attention again and again as we ate. A while later, I noticed something at one end of the floe. I grabbed my binoculars and looked closer, just as a harbor seal hauled itself up onto the ice. It then laid out to sun itself.
A seal lounging on an ice floe is an iconic image for Alaska. We tend to associate it with the arctic, and with the protected glacial fjords here in Southeast, such as Glacier Bay and Tracy Arm, where the seals haul out on ice bergs and floes to give birth to their pups. We see harbor seals a lot here, mostly in close to shore. We’ve never seen one haul out on ice around here before.
We tried to take photos, but it was just too far away for our cameras. We had to settle for watching it through binoculars.
The seal kept alert, looking all around it the whole time it stayed on the floe, about 45 minutes. We couldn’t tell if it was watching for herring, wary of predators, or just curious.