In the surroundings of Valdez, on the edges of an asphalt road which runs along the beach, I noticed a lot of black bears hiding behind the rain water drains because salmon instinctively streamed into these gutters which they believed to be small torrents.
Across the road, because of low tide ,tens of thousands of dying salmon gave life to an unreal scenery of death with their bodies lying on the shore like a banquet laid down for bears, eagles, ever-present seagulls, with a terrible stink all around.
Other animals could hardly find their own way into the gutters which furrowed through the beach : there was such a big quantity of them that the bears just pressed their belly to eat their roes leaving the bodies on the shore.
People think of Alaska only as of an extremely cold place characterized by boundless expanses of snow, desolate tundra ,bears and elk. Instead ,they seldom reflect upon what appeared to me as one of the most impressing spectacles of nature, that is the running up of salmon .Every year ,following an unchangeable seasonal rhythm ,they run up the river in an endless number. The whole echo-system draws a great advantage from their death. The phenomenon is so imposing that only if you can watch it on the spot you can perceive its real dimension. I have seen beaches full of dead fish or just pools which seemed to boil for the pangs of dying fish.
In Valdez ,in Prince William Sound you can also go on boat trips, choosing from among the several options offered: in a scenery of glaciers and cliffs at a sheer drop from the sea, seal life explodes with unespected force .In the rocky islets near the coast sea lions have a rest after fishing ,In spite of this there is always inevitable clash among males.
Instead, the expanses of sea facing the glaciers are the favourite habitat of seals ,which often lie down on the slabs of ice floating adrift or can be very frequently seen together with sea otters , while these are, entirely taken up with cracking the shells of bivalves lying down on their back ,as it is common for them.
Luckily, the echo-system of Valdez Bay is recovering from the most disastrous environmental catastrophe in the United States. It was 24th March 1989 when the tanker Exxon Valdez discharged tens of thousands of oil into the sea causing the death of about 250,000 sea birds, 2800 otters , 300 seals, 22 killer whale, beside an incalculable number of herrings and salmon.