JOURNAL : August 21, 2010
|Series||Whale Watching in Alaska|
After a morning of milling about on Mendenhall Glacier and a quick trip up the Mount Roberts Tramway we departed from Auke Bay harbor for a whale-watching expedition in Stephens Passage and Lynn Canal.
The wildlife was out and looking its best. We spotted several whales, a pod of orca, an eagle or two, and some lazy sea dogs lounging about on buoys. They call ‘em sea lions, but they bark and look like dogs with flippers to me.
Sea Lions on a BuoyView All Sizes
Whale TailView All Sizes
About halfway out to where humpback whales had been sighted earlier in the day we came upon a pod of four female killer whales. The captain identified them as such due to the short height of their fin. The males, he said, have very long fins up to six feet in length. These four females swam fairly close together and often seemed synchronized, surfacing rhythmically, one after another, in a wave-like fashion.
Our Whale-Watching CrewView All Sizes
Seeing orcas surface reminded me a bit of bodysurfing the outside breaks at Black's Beach in San Diego, watching as a pod of dolphins cut through the water within a few feet of me.
The first time it happened it gave me quite a jolt, as I was bobbing like a cork in the water waiting for the next set. OMFG was that a shark?! No, only a beautiful dolphin.
Creatures of habit, that same group of dolphins traveled up and down the coast regularly, and it's very probably that the orcas here were on a similar daily jaunt.
Given the choice I would prefer swimming with dolphins over killer whales, when in fact neither eat humans.
We passed an old lighthouse on Benjamin Island before intercepting our first humpback whale. We saw a total of three on this trip, with two of them travelling together as possibly a mother and calf. Evidently they travel Alaska's Inside Passage in summer, then head to Hawaii for the winter. It's possible (but very unlikely) that I've seen these same whales while back home in Hawaii, perhaps on that sunset cruise from Hale'iwa.
Eagle standing guard in Auke Bay HarborView All Sizes
Heavily Barnacled and Musseled RocksView All Sizes
That's what we did while maintaining a respectful distance, much like paparazzi stalks celebrities. And whales are certainly celebrities — rare, beautiful, graceful mammals of significance, gliding effortlessly under scrutiny. Unfortunately, most of the photos we capture are when they breach or show a bit of tail. And photos tend to only be a single frame of that action.
Whale Watching BoatView All Sizes
Although it was a typically cold and overcast Alaskan day, the scenery was magnificent. Highlights include the aforementioned lighthouse, numerous islands and distant glaciers (like Herbert and Eagle Glaciers) high up in the surrounding mountains. We passed Shelter and Lincoln Islands against the panoramic backdrop of the Chilkat Mountain Range in the west. But the stars of the show were the local wildlife like orca, humpback whales, sea lions, and bald eagles.
If you have the opportunity, see the whales down in Hawaii during sunny weather conditions.
About this day
August 21, 2010
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