Today was whale watching day with Harv’s & Marv’s in Juneau. These guys operate around 6 small boats that take out 6 people per boat, so you get a far better view of anything you might come across. Russel, our captain, was very knowledgeable and did his most to ensure we had a good trip.
The trip started out with a surprise for me. On board the small vessel a bouquet of flowers (see photo below) awaited me. My husband has gone through the trouble to organize, with the help of the Harv’s & Marv’s staff, a beautiful bunch of flowers for our 21st wedding anniversary. It’s on Tuesday, but he knows how much today meant to me, and as I will be in my hotel room for another couple of nights, it means I can enjoy these flowers for a few days yet. This is the first time that I am away for our anniversary; it was usually Warren who would be away for this day thanks to the British Army.
So the flowers were certainly a first for the whale watching company and were a great conversation starter on the boat, not to mention the tour bus back! Thank you Warren for the most loveliest surprise yet!
The weather had decided to give a break in the rain as we started going out into Auke Bay. We were extremely lucky to come across 4 or 5 Orcas out in the bay. Usually every 1 in 10 trips out is lucky enough to see Orcas. The picture below is the best of a bunch from our Orcas, they just didn’t stay on the surface too long. They were in stealth hunting mode and everywhere they went their prey, in this case seals, made a quick disappearance to avoid being eaten. We stayed with them for about 20 minutes before they disappeared rather rapidly. Now a note on the law here, the boats are only allowed to stay with an animal for 30 minutes, after that they have to move on. There is also a certain distance that has to be kept to not cause the animal undue stress. So although some of these pictures look like we are pretty close, please remember that I used a telephoto zoom lens for these.
After this we made our way around a couple of small islands and came across some humpback whales, two adult females and a young calf. These three spent a lot of time around us and the other boats and as the calf is not able to stay diving as long as the adults, they came up every 10 minutes or so. Their spouts were quite powerful and smell like nothing I have ever smelled before. It was just the most amazing experience ever. They were so graceful and calm and afforded us a lot of viewing time. These humpbacks come up here from Hawaii where In January/February they mate and the pregnant females give birth to their calfs. As there is no food for them in Hawaii they start making their way up north around March/April and spent most the Spring and Summer in the northern waters where there is plenty of food.
We also saw some black and white porpoises; they are related to whales and dolphins and these ones here are also called baby Orcas, as their markings are very similar. They were so fast in the waters that I just could not get a shot of them. Other animals we saw were seals and sea lions, one of which had caught a salmon, and some bald eagles were flying near some of the islands. All in all a great day for wildlife!
I could have stayed out all day, but after almost 4 hours it was time to turn around and head back to the harbour.
This is the young calf going for a deep dive, with the adults on either side of it.
Here is one of the adults diving.
Mother and calf.
After going back to the hotel to drop of my flowers I went back out into Juneau.
Juneau is Alaska’s capital and is one of contrast and conflict. It borders a waterway that never freezes, but lies beneath an ice field that never melts. It was the first community in Southeast Alaska to slap a head tax on cruise ship passengers, but draws more of them than any other town. It’s the state capital, but since the 80s Alaskans have been trying to move it. It doesn’t have any roads that go anywhere, but half its residents and its mayor opposed a plan to build one that would. It’s the only capital in the US that cannot be reached by road – only by boat or plane.
It is cited as the most beautiful and scenic capitals in the US. The city center hugs the sides of Mt Juneau and Mt Roberts, is a maze of small narrow streets, with old and new buildings mixing nicely together interlinked by a network of staircases. The waterfront boasts not just the cruise ship docks, but also fishing boats and floatplanes.
Down by the cruise ship docks a bronze statue of a bull terrier called Patsy Ann stands. In the 1930s and 40s Patsy Ann would sit at the dockside and greet the early steamship visitors daily. She apparently was a dog about town, prone never to be at home, but instead wandering around town and waiting daily for the ships to dock. I love the fact that the town commissioned a statue to commemorate her.
Tomorrow afternoon’s weather forecast is looking like the rain might stop and the sun might just come out, so I have planned to take a drive up to Mendenhall Glacier, which means I might just be able to get a lie in tomorrow morning!