Posted September 8th, 2010, 05:33 PM
Today's “Adventure Update” indicated wakeup would be at 7am, but expedition leader Kate woke us at 5:30 to tell us there were whales outside. When we got out there were several beautiful humpbacks and every time one surfaced about 3 more would take it's place. We stayed there 2 hours and the views kept getting better. In all, a member of the crew estimated 74 whales total, and that did not seem at all unreasonable. They were visible in every direction, forward, aft, and to both sides, usually at least a half dozen in each direction simultaneously. It was by far the greatest concentration of whales I have ever seen, from a half mile or so out to sometimes 25 feet from the ship (and the main deck is only 10 feet above the water. Often we could look out and see 7 or 8 spouts in a line. I took my walk on the promenade deck at 7 and could not have avoided the whales if I wanted. I didn't need to stop for one, as soon as I turned the corner another came into sight. We finally went down for breakfast at 7:30 but there were still numerous views of whales out the dining room windows. The crew was expecting whales at about this location but had never before experienced this quality and quantity before.
Heading into Tracy Arm we passed Sumdum glacier, so named because it was the way the natives interpreted the sound of the calving glacier--Sumdum, Sumdum. On our ap The 10-hour sail up Tracy Arm, a deep, narrow fjord, was scenic and at the end we arrived at South Sawyer Glacier. Near the end we saw quite a few icebergs, including several with seals floating along for the ride. We approached about a half mile from the face of the glacier. Kate told us that glaciers have a “tongue” extending under water, and that large pieces of ice can break free and rise to the surface, posing a danger if a ship gets too close. The glacier was not very active but we did see one good sized chunk of ice calve off. The day was not quite sunny but it was warmish and dry, overall a much more pleasant glacier watching experience than in Glacier Bay. As dinner started we began our journey back out Tracy Arm. In the evening we had a DVD in the lounge, Syd Wright's Alaska. Syd was a former teacher who moved to Alaska, was “adopted” by Tlingit in Hoonah, became a commercial fisherman, and shared his experiences as a fisherman and the story of John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt's parts in the creation of the National Park System.
Today's parting shot: Today was among the best of the whale viewing experiences I have had. Others have been in /Antarctica and the St. Lawrence by the mouth of the Saguenay River. Each of these has been a once in a lifetime experience, with other visits to the same area not producing nearly the same result, and all have been better experiences than any planned “whalewatch” trips. We must remember that wildlife is unpredictable, and we must accept these experiences as a gift and not an entitlement.
Note: I don't expect to have internet access tomorrow in Metlakatla or on the inside passage so my next post will be Sunday or Monday.