Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Mission Alaska: Juneau

I recently returned from an amazing trip to Alaska. There are so many impressions of nature at its grandest and I can scarcely do it justice. I might have been overwhelmed by the experience were it not tempered to some degree by some of the funny, near goofy stuff that also happened during the week-long cruise.

I'd like to share the journey in pictures as much as possible, but I'd probably blow out Blogger. Everything is so gorgeous that I couldn't keep from snapping picture after picture after picture.  I'll do my best to select enough to give you at least a good idea of Alaska and our adventures. It's going to take a few blog posts.

We departed Seattle on Sunday, May 22nd, cruising up the inside passage.  By Tuesday, we reached Juneau.  After a slow, crowded disembarking at this first port on our journey, we were transferred by bus to a boat for our Wilderness Cruise.  I couldn't wait to see whales and the whales did not keep us waiting.  Within minutes, we spotted the first humpback whale.

I think we saw at least half a dozen humpbacks on that trip, including one who was sleeping at the surface of the water.  The captain killed the engine and we just hung out there for awhile watching the whale while it rested.

The company has been running these tours for at least a dozen years so they know the area well.  The captain cruised to a popular haul-out spot for Steller sea lions.  That big guy in the middle is the beachmaster -- the boss of this herd.  I bet he weighs at least 1500 pounds.

One of the crew members told me that they hadn't seen Orcas in the area, that it was a little early in the season for this species.  I guess the killer whales didn't get that memo.  When we were close to the time that we needed to head back to the dock, the captain thought he saw something out of the corner of his eye.  I turned my head and spotted the distinctive tall dorsal fin of an adult Orca.  There were three small groups around the boat, including some youngsters.  Absolutely gorgeous.

After a few minutes of observation, we really needed to head back, so we said goodbye, leaving wildlife and beautiful scenery in our wake.  Please note the blue sky.  These are rare in Juneau.  Apparently it rains 300 or so days a year, so we were lucky.

After rejoining our bus driver/tour guide, we traveled to Mendenhall Glacier.  We learned that glacier ice appears blue because the blue in the light spectrum is reflected back to us from the deep, compact ice.

I have many more glacier pictures from a few days later in our cruise, so I'll leave you with just one on this post.  After Mendenhall, we were delivered back to our ship.  Our spirits were high from the gorgeous views of mountains and water and the joy we felt over seeing so many whales.  The day could not have been better!

Stay tuned for the next post on our visit to Skagway.


BarbN said...

Gorgeous photos, Mary Stella! Thanks for sharing them. I especially love the contrast with the Florida posts further down.

Hope said...

Fab photos! Your trip looks like it was amazing!