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Auke Bay Harbor

Auke Bay HarborView All Sizes

members of a pod of killer whales

Part of a pod of four female orcaView All Sizes

JOURNAL : August 21, 2010

Whale Watching in Alaska

Alaska > United States

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 Buoy

Sea Lions on a BuoyView All Sizes

Whale Tail

Whale TailView All Sizes

A Pod of Killer Whales

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 Crew

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.

An Eagle Sentry in Auke Bay Harbor

Eagle standing guard in Auke Bay HarborView All Sizes

Heavily Barnacled and Musseled Rocks in Auke Bay Harbor

Heavily Barnacled and Musseled RocksView All Sizes

Whale Stalkers

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 Boat

Whale Watching BoatView All Sizes

Whale-Watching Expedition Summary

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.

Auke Bay

The ferocious cascade of Lower Yosemite Falls showered the whole area with a dense mist that was refreshing on a hot day.

Lower Yosemite Falls

Cedar Creek in San Diego County, California

Cedar Creek

Sharp, craggy quartzite ridge of Seneca Rocks

Seneca Rocks

Lower Manhattan, Financial District, Brooklyn from the Empire State Building

Lower Manhattan

Monongahela Forest, Stuart Recreation Park, Shavers Fork River, Elkins, West Virginia

Shavers Fork River

Lijiang Riverfront

Lijiang Riverfront

Descending the vines of the first leg of Crystal Canyon.

Descending Vines

The palapa of the vacation rental we stayed at in Sayulita.

Vacation Rental

View of Helms Bay and beach, Mokuleia, Oahu, Hawaii

Mokuleia Beach

Random Adventures!

Mt. Waialeale and Hanalei Valley, Kauai, Hawaii

Mt. Waialeale

The grassy lawn and monument in front of Griffith Park Observatory.

Griffith Park Observatory

Jiuzhaigou Valley Shuzheng Lakes Fallen Tree

Jiuzhaigou Valley

A huge model of a killer whale suspended above the gift store.

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Mineral Wells Picnic Area is a set of large grassy lawns covered with shady trees. It is adjacent to a driving range and there is plenty of parking and hiking trails in the area.

Mineral Wells Picnic Area

The classic shot of Yosemite valley that everyone takes as they first come in. A rite of passage as a tourist. On the right is Bridalveil Fall, on the left is El Capitan, and in the back is Half Dome and Clouds Rest.

Yosemite Valley