Fw: Travel Pool Report #9 9-1-15

From: LaGanga, Maria [mailto:xxx@email.com]
Sent: Tuesday, September 01, 2015 06:40 PM
To: Allen, Jessica L. EOP
Cc: McPhail, Taylor M. EOP
Subject: Travel Pool Report #9 9-1-15

As long as you have a strong stomach, it's hard to find a better backdrop than a big boat, American flag whipping in the wind, plowing its way through the chop of Resurrection Bay. POTUS motored past a group of black and white Dall's porpoises under clear blue skies. At 5:05 the presidential armada (or is it a watercade?) stopped along the east side of the bay at a place called Thumb Cove.

There, an NPS ranger said, the president viewed three cirque glaciers in an alpine bowl. the mountains were rugged, rocky and tree covered. The glaciers are no longer connected to an ice field, said Ranger Colleen Kelly, because of melting. Their names are Prospect, Spoon and Porcupine. "The whole area was occupied by ice 20,000 years ago," she said.

Standing at the bow of the Viewfinder, talking to a park ranger, Obama looked at a wooden house on the shore of Resurrection bay at the base of a tree-covered hill and called out, "When I'm not president, you'll find me over there in that cabin."

The bay is surrounded by the Kenai Mountains and has five islands in it, souvenirs of melting glaciers.

The watercade motored through Eldorado Narrows and then paused, looking for humpback whales. The krill-eating mammals never appeared -- no signs of their spouting, 10-15 foot fountains of fine spray. But POTUS did luck out a little later, when the boats came upon a group of Steller sea lions sunbathing on a rock on the east side of Resurrection Bay as a  black-legged kittiwakes circled overhead.

(Note to birders: The black-legged kittiwakes are a part of the gull family, but do NOT call them sea gulls, Kelly said. "Birders would say, 'No, no, no!' " Kelly said, because they live on land and ocean both.)

There has been a "huge decline" in the Steller sea lion population over the last 40 years, Kelly said, because of a warming trend in the ocean between 1976 and 1997. In 1997 they were put on the endangered species list.

"They've been slowly recovering," Kelly said. "There is a huge concern, because of another warming trend we're now experiencing in the ocean. The concern is will the food they depend on be there for them."

At a little after 6 pm the watercade made its last stop in Resurrection Bay, in front of Bear Glacier, the longest glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park, Kelly said. At its base is a fresh-water lake, with icebergs floating in it.

"The glacier has had a rapid rate of retreat in the last 15 years, about 2.2 miles," Kelly said. That compares to just 1.17 miles of retreat between 1888 and 2000. She called this recent melting "amazing" and "pretty unsettling as well."

"That's double the distance in a fraction of the time," she said.

The best backdrop for POTUS's climate-change tour of Alaska was the president at the bow of the Viewfinder, ranger beside him, pointing at the massive white ribbon of ice. With the boat stopped in front of the glacier, someone shouted a question along the lines of, "What do you think."

Obama's response: "Spectacular. The iceberg is sitting in a lake. Periodically the ice bergs break off from the glacier. Each one is the size of a Costco."

Yes, Costco. Kelly radioed over to the Viewfinder to find out if he really said that. He did.

Kelly's estimation: Those are not the size of Costco. Not any Costco I've been in."

6:20 tour over, we headed to back to harbor.

This time I actually have a decent photo or two. Holler if you want.

Maria L. La Ganga

Seattle Bureau Chief

Los Angeles Times

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