Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Alaskan Adventure--Part IV

Hard to believe, but that's Alaska's capital city--all of it--Juneau. Some 30,000 people live in Juneau. Actually, the whole of Juneau encompasses 3,248 square miles, but so much of that is the lovely glaciers, mountains, and unspoiled scenery that Alaska is famous for.

We disembarked late and wandered about town for a couple of hours before our whale-watching tour. As usual, Juneau had the obligatory jewelry shops and Alaska T-Shirt Company, native carvers, etc. I stopped and got some fudge to sustain me, and we left the tourist track and tried to find something worthy, but to tell you the truth, it was just a town. Besides, it was time to board the shuttle for our whale-watching tour.

Our driver was not a native-born Alaskan, but had come to Juneau in the seventies. He told us that Alaskans were tough people. He said they had a saying: "Alaska, where the men are men and the women are too."

We got off the shuttle and stood in line for the whale-watching boat. Ahead of us were two other couples who we struck up a conversation with. They were from our cruise ship. The women were both teachers like me, one of them even taught English. Our chatting continued onto the tour boat where we all sat together, excited at the prospect of seeing whales. We had already been trained in whale spotting the day before by our cruise naturalist, so we knew what to look for. The boat cast its lines, and we were off.

One of the first things we saw was a brightly colored buoy in the distance. The boat's spotter told us we'd be pulling alongside it to see a few stellar seals resting.

Then we cruised out for a while, but believe me, even though there were no whales yet, there was plenty to look at.

Isn't that gorgeous? Makes Rick seem like a professional photographer, not like a guy with a new digital camera standing on the top deck of a tour boat, huh? Not hard with a subject like Alaska.

Suddenly, the cry went up--"Whales! Whales!" Sure enough, I could see two plumes in the distance. Can you see them?

We followed these whales, and their 4-5 buddies for quite a while, watching them surface, roll, arch, and feed. At one point, these whales were only 30 feet off the side of our tour boat. I was absolutely thrilled, along with everyone on the boat. Whenever the whales would dive and expose their flukes (tails) in the classic whale poster pose, the boat would yell, "Nice tail" like we were redneck boozers at a stripper bar. Rick took loads of pictures, but not all of them will look like much to you. But this one will:

And then, before we had to leave the area (there are federal restrictions on whale-watching of 30 minutes within a 150-foot area, then the boat has to move), three of the humpbacks came alongside and gave us this great photo:

On our way back to the dock, we were also privileged to see something called "bubble net feeding" by a group of 5 humpback whales. We got a picture, but it's not easy to make out. It's a fascinating process whereby one whale is underwater, blowing a stream of bubbles to herd a group of fish into a manageable clump. The rest of the whales then form a circle around the grouping with their enormous mouths wide open and circle and scoop the fish in. It's almost like a ballet. We also saw two bald eagles standing side by side on a long, narrow spit of land in the middle of the water. They were only a few inches apart, just standing there, looking out to the horizon. It was almost poetic. I knew I'd never forget this experience for as long as I lived. I was falling in love with Alaska.


  1. Anonymous4:43 PM

    "Where the men are men and the women are too."

    I don't suppose they wear purple nail polish there. Hmph.

    But I have a whale of a tail, so I guess I'd fit in somewhere. : )

  2. Nance, these pictures have been incredible. What an experience the two of you have had! I am seriously green with envy. Our 25th anniversary is in 11 years. Maybe if we start saving now...

  3. J.--
    Not a bad idea to start a little Alaskan Adventure Fund! And you don't necessarily have to cruise there, either. There are lots of options, including RVing, tenting, etc. I know E. would love it, and the twinners as well. It's something you'd all remember forever.

  4. I just discovered your blog. Love it! Great pictures!

  5. anali--
    Well, welcome to The Dept! I'm glad to have you here. Hope you clicked on the pix to really enjoy them enlarged. Pick out a cubicle and stay around. There will be a few more posts about my Alaskan Adventure, and then it will be back to business as usual. Again, thanks for visiting and the kind words.


Oh, thank you for joining the fray!

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