Archive for May, 2012

Full Frontal Orca

Today is what I would like to refer to as another miserable rainy day here in Southeast Alaska….haha yea right. It is my last day off while aboard and I switched to have the day off at a little area called the Inian Islands, south of Glacier Bay National Park. Spent the morning hiking through the forest and muskeg, while there was not much wildlife to be seen, it was quite enjoyable to have a little change in elevation, view a rufous hummingbird, and some beautifully colored bright yellow warblers. We also stumbled on a bear skeleton and a sitka deer skeleton exhibiting the trials of life out in the wilderness. Among the muskeg were also a few prominent brown bear tracks which… were simply amazing. Not only is this animals paw print bigger than my face,  but it also weighs enough to create a deep muddy foot print among a bed of moss. Pretty spectacular.

my cute little house

I took the day off at Inian islands because it is suppose to have some crazy sea lion viewing. I do not get overly excited about sea lions, but was secretly hoping that it would be a good day to get a good view of a sea otter as well since I was yet to get a close view of one.

After the morning hike it was time for guest lunch and some of the zodiacs needed positioned. Occasionally when out afternoon ops are near our morning ops we just have a few people drive the zodiacs to the new location instead of lifting them back on the top of the boat. Bernadette had the day off as well and I jumped in with her to help position zodiac. On our way over I expressed my dream of seeing a sea otter close enough for a decent picture and she suggested we get closer to this little peak that was sticking out of the top of the water surrounded by kelp. Sure enough, in the kelp was a little sea otter all wrapped up in kelp enjoying the afternoon. It was simply amazing, and after being able to watch it for ten minutes. We decided our day had been made.

sea otters are the cats meow

I was hoping my main highlight of the day would be the afternoon zodiac ride around the Inian Islands, but with a full boat the purser told me all the seats had already been filled. I let her know that I would be sitting in the crew lounge with Bernadette with our life jackets on just in case that were to change. The weather seemed pretty wet for the first round of zodiacs that went out, so we were hoping the weather would deter some of the people that were signed up in the second round. Sweet as can be, Bernadette said if there was only one spot that I should take it since she thought I would enjoy it more, and my time on this beautiful little vessel is almost over, so when the purser called for just one, I jumped out and hopped into the zodiac. Almost right away we see a little otter relaxing in the kelp not far from the ship, but before we can even get close enough to get a good look at it a humpback whale surfaces just a little further off. Not spending much time at the surface, we decide to keep an eye out for the whale as we get a closer look at the otter. Although sea otters might have some less than ideal personality traits, they are still 110% on the cuteness scale. After spending a few minutes with the otter we move along around the point to see what the whale is up to.

At this point the other 2 zodiacs are already in the channel looking for the whale, who is traveling solo, and not spending barley any time at the surface. With the two zodiacs in front of us, I can tell everyone is getting a little anxious waiting, and as soon as the first zodiac speeds up to head on to something else the whale pops up right next to us, only to take a few short breaths and flip his fluke before diving back under again.

hey friend

With the beautiful tail show from the whale we sped off to possible greener pastures.  Rounding the corner we were obviously headed towards unprotected waters. The extremes in the currents were very apparent from the surface as the water was white cap choppy to the left of the zodiac and a very concrete section where the water was almost describable as glassy. We crossed over the line and headed for rougher seas. In the unprotected water we passed steller sea lions lounging all over the rocks. These sea lions are much larger than the ones you may have seen in California, weighing upwards of two thousand pounds.

The further we went the crazier it got. The water was full of the humongous animals coming to the surface with mouths full of fish thrashing about trying to rip the fish into as they were swarmed by sea gulls trying to gather a scrap. It was simply amazing to watch the all around the zodiac as these creatures popped up at the surface in the crazy miserable rain and watching the Island Princess pass our zodiacs by. The Island Princess is a moving city, and with its empty decks I realized that all the probably saw were a handful of crazy zodiacs driving in circles in the pouring rain, and all we saw watching them float by was a ghost ship that had no idea what they were missing.

All of a sudden all the sea lions started going crazy, simultaneously sticking their heads out of the water, growling and barking towards the sea, looking out in their direction I begin to understand why they are perturbed. Out in the distance there was one killer whale fin headed to shore, and I continued to look the fins began to multiply.

Lee put the zodiac in full throttle and headed out towards sea. It wasn’t long before we were surrounded by the killers. Spy hopping with kelp on their head they were enjoying themselves. The other zodiac seemed to think they had some prey, but nothing was visible by the time we arrived.

With the other zodiac on our left, things felt safer with the killer whales moving in so close to our boats. As the other zodiac was looking at the whales passing super close to our right side, we had to scream “left left left!!!#$” to make sure they saw the ones that were popping up right next to them. Looking over at the other zodiac, i was so happy to see Bernadette sitting in it, two zodiacs watching the whales, holding the two of us, perfect.

the little green smudge in the corner is someones jacket from my zod. just to show how close the killers came.

As amazing as an encounter it already was, one of the killers decided to breach right in front of us and show us the whole white underside of his belly just to add the cherry to the top of our cake.

The ride home was fast and freezing, but still to this moment I can’t even feel the chill of the afternoon as the activities were to exciting to be deterred by any amount of awful weather.

Back on the boat and finally warmed up, there is finally enough sun in the sky to light up the water like a handful of glitter has been thrown out there, and there is a minke whale casually swimming by.

Yep, just another awful rainy day in Southeast Alaska.

2 yin and yang flukes, one blow. pretty magnificent

And that’s what I thought would be the end to my blog for the day, until we caught up with a pod of 7 humpbacks that were swimming closer together than any other pod I have seen, and almost simultaneously rising and diving. I watched for over an hour, just awe struck with how all day I was thinking “nothing gets better than this” and then something would prove me wrong.

 

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The tides they are a changin’

Pretty was a pretty full day today. Back in the galley for my last week on the ship, which is nice since the pace in there is pretty calm and we are back to having a full boat again. The morning was pretty quiet, but of course once I lay down in the afternoon I can feel the boat slowing down. Letting my curiosity get the best of me, I climb out of bed to find everyone one deck watching a mother and calf humback mosey on by the boat. More likely than not, they are usually busy eating or traveling and not overly exciting to watch, but I sat up in the bridge and watched them for a few minutes before one of the naturalist spotted something else.

familia

Along the shore there was a brown bear forging in the field with her three little cubs. Although we were unable to get too close, it was still exciting to see them, and thrilling to see her with triplets. Brown bears are huge, and it was awesome. Worried we were going to stumble on something else amazing during my break, I took a little nap in a zodiac on top of the ship while the sun shone. The sun definitely isn’t around every day, and sometimes it is just wonderful to be reminded how nice laying in the sun can feel.

I got ready for work in the evening a little early since I could feel the boat had slowed down again, and I figured I would like some time to get  a peak of whatever it maybe going on out there. Once back on deck I see we were surrounded by killer whales. Its amazing how there will be a few close by, on either side of the ship, but they are also fins in the distance in every direction as well. Back in the dining room for dinner I was able to see one get very, very close to the ship before swimming underneath us.

mum and babe

I don’t usually know what is going on too much when I am working in the galley since I work in the back and we just enjoy music all day. After I finished all the dinner dishes I was going to hurry down to my room to get a shower before my roommates we done with work. Hurrying through the lounge and flinging open the foc’sle door, something out the window catches my eye. I ask the bartender what is going on, and he assures me there are humpbacks feeding outside.

I race downstairs to grab my jacket and head to the deck to watch. Not only are there humpbacks lunge feeding in groups of up to 3 right off the bow, but they are also in every direction as far the eye can see. It must have been a very nutrient rich area because even from the small outlines of the whales in the distance you could tell they were all lunge feeding with mouths open wide.

I stayed up there and watched for over an hour before the light became to poor and the temperature began to drop. It was simply magnificent, and the perfect way to end the day full of constant surprises.

Glacier Bay Day

I seem to be running out of adjectives, but today was nothing short of magnificent (besides the fact that my little cold has turned into something of an all consuming ameba). We spent the day in Glacier Bay National Park, our first visit to Marble Island to view the ridiculous amount of sea lions, and occasional chance to see puffins and sea otters as well. A little over cast it was it impossible to know what was in store for us. The sun came out and didn’t disappear all day. It was easily the most gorgeous day of the season thus far.

 

After breakfast we were able to view a small black bear close to shore, but I was truly hoping to see a brown bear. There is something indescribably awesome about their size, coats, and the way the move carrying so much weight.

Thankfully though it wasn’t long until lunch time, since meal service is always a hot time for wildlife to show up. On the shore hunting for an intertidal snack were two large brown bears. We were able to get the boat pretty close to shore to view them until they started taking off running. Much faster than you would imagine for such a large meaty animal, it was amazing to watch them take off and run for hundreds of yards. Unfortunately for them, it takes a lot less energy to move the boat a couple hundred yards, so that’s what we did. Drove by them as they raced along the shore till they decided it was safe enough to slow down and rummage around a bit. This only lasted for a few moments until they decided that had enough of us and took off running again. This time we let their jiggly bodies fade into the distance.

There were a couple of opportunities throughout the day for our usual mountain goat spotting, and glacier watching. I slept through most of this. Apparently though, the Margerie glacier had a wonderful clap inspiring calve.

I did happen to wake up in time for what I feel was the best sigthing of the day. A mother black bear and her cub walking along in the brush along the edge of the snow. Oh wait, make that a mum and her two cubs. Oh wait, I believe one of those cubs is a glacier bear… yep, definitely a glacier bear. It was amazing enough to watch the mother and her two cubs climb up onto and walk across the snow. For one of the cubs to climb a tree while the other two bears paid no mind. To be able to tell the mother would have stopped letting us watch her much early, but with a look of annoyed patience, was waiting for her cubs to scurry along. Yes, that was all amazing enough, but to know that one of those cute, curious cubs was a glacier bear, was out of this world more amazing then I could have asked to see, and I am grateful.

its hard to tell, but the fur color of the cub in the middle is not due to the lighting. the little cub actually has hints of blue and grey in his coat.

To give you an idea, two of our naturalist have been doing this kind of work for over 20 years and have thoroughly explored the back country, and this was their second sighting, ever.

wednesday wednesday

I would start this out by saying that its been an amazing few days, but truth be told, its really been a typical few days. Which at this point, means completely amazing. Spent Monday morning watching a bear on the beach, and spent the evening watching Dalls porpoises bow ride in bio-luminescent water, the fastest of all the cetaceans in the world, they were sure to put on a show.

Yesterday we went to Petersburg, and I was able to hang out with my friend Sarah and her husband Steve.

Today I went SCUBA diving with Carlos. It was awesome a disappointing at the same time. We went down, but I was only able to stay under for about 15 minutes before I was having too many issues with the gear. I have been trying to make it work just because I am so excited to be here and to be diving, but I think today will be my last attempt diving with this gear. I will be sure to bring my own up, or request more adequate sizes if I come back soon. It is silly since I am only one of four people aboard certified to go diving here, but everything is just a little big on me, and with the compression from reaching depth, it just becomes a little too big. I mentioned to my boss that I felt defeated, (an emotion I am not accustomed to experiencing) and he kindly assured me that I couldn’t be defeated since I wasn’t properly set up for success.

Other than that, really had the most amazing experience watching humpbacks today. Working in the dining room setting up dinner service I look out the window and witness and blow very close off the port side. “whale whale whale” I screamed, then “AAAHHh two whales, oh wait, three, no FOUR!” all consecutively coming up one after the other. Unfortunately dinner service was not pushed back late.

Lots on my mind, and thinking of you all. Things are good here except for this little cold I have developed, but so far I am the only one not feeling well. So that is wonderful

xo

my life is overly buoyant today, not in the best since

i just . i just cant for now . i will have to finish with pictures instead. things have been overly crazy. i have been trying to update for what feels like forever.

 

 

big killer

bubble netter blow misting away and reflecting in the water

bubble netter blow misting away and reflecting in the water

 

humpback, port side, the bubble netters were on the starboard

 

beautiful reflection

frozen river waterfall

killer family

happy whales. part of the family that we watched for a couple hours. the babies were tail smacking and rolling on their backs showing off their bellies. one even spy hopped and another little one breached.

 

 

 

perfect humback whale tail. most people say they only fluke when they are going down for a deep dive, but this one was fluking every couple of minutes or so swimming along the same path.

 

more whale tail

 

maybe getting to the point of excessive whale tails, but this one was just gorgeous

alaska is pretty perfect

 

calving margarie glacier. Glacier National Park, Alaska.

 

Coastal brown bear digging along the beach for some delicious treats

 

sea lions are obnoxious but still so much fun to see.

 

Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau. Receding around 200 feet per year. As recent as the early 90’s it was receding 60 feet per year.

 

Things on the boat have been going very well. Had my first chance to go diving up in Alaska yesterday, but was unable to go down due to buoyancy issues with the suit. Hopefully I will get another chance soon.

Other than that just staying really busy. These guest get off the boat on Saturday, and I only have two more sets of guest till i get to get off the boat too. Headed to Ketchikan for a week, and then to Boston for a moment, and then starting working in Maine beginning around June 18th.

The whales have been amazing. The bears have been amazing.

Watched 5 different humpbacks from the same spot for over an hour yesterday,(2 which were working on the cooperative bubble netting, the water was so calm we could see the actual bubbles form at the surface before popping), , saw brown bears on the beach, and watched killer whales for the 2 time this trip while there were humpback breaching off in the distance.

It sounds completely make believe, but it isnt, just another day on the boat. This whole trip has been going this way.

Excited to have tomorrow off for our first time to Tracy Arm for the season.

Iceberg, Right ahead!

Mountain Goat

My first picture of the day, my favorite picture of the day.

Went to Endicott Arm today. Saw my first glacier. The ice in the water is increasing in quality and quantity. I am excited to have my day off tomorrow in Juneau. Juneau is typically our turn day spot, so no on gets the day off, but since we are currently having a 12 day trip it isnt our terminal destination and i get the day off.

Turned my voicemail back on and things should be sorta closer to normal cell phone wise. I may even be getting service up to 3 times a week.

Alaska is beautiful. I hope you can feel it through my pictures.

 

love you

 

 

 

Little ice chunks in the water. Dramatic Landscapes all around.

Back to Alaska for me

Having guest back aboard is a quick reminder of how hard it is to update my blog daily. The hours are long, and with my shifts always split, I am constantly up too early and too late, neither of which is conducive for writing. Don’t let these observations come across as complaints; I am still happy as a clam and already a little sad about leaving my boat. With less than a month left in my contract I was nervous about what I would be up to next. Luckily for me, my friend that started working on the boat the same day as me, Cameron, and who will be getting off the boat the same day as me, has helped me get a job with him for the summer in Maine watching whales.

 I have never been to Maine before, but the more whales I see, the more I want to see, so I am thinking this will be a good fit.

 We are currently going through a 12 day itinerary, and it is a little strange not knowing what is going on or who the guest are since I am working in the galley through this whole cruise. Most stewards are scared of the galley, or just hate working in there, but I am still thoroughly enjoying it. It seems everything I may have had any apprehensions about recently were wasted apprehensions since I have been enjoying everything and so happy here. Again, I am sad to leave my little boat. With all of the places I have lived and loved, I have found myself only crying when I left once. I am starting to feel like the boat might make it 2 times.

 The weather was suppose to get rough last night, up to 10 foot seas, but if it did I slept right through it. We spent the day yesterday traveling up through the Behm Canal in the Misty Fjords National Monument (on the back side of the same island as Ketchikan), and are currently headed towards Petersburg, which sounds like favorite stop amongst the crew. It was so magnificent to travel all the way through the Behm yesterday as it seemed more of a distant dream than something I would actually get to do. Not much different than the Panama Canal I guess.

 No extreme wildlife sightings as of yet, saw a lot of Dalls porpoises yesterday, and was even able to watch a few as the rode the bow.

 I have a new roommate who has been … not the most courteous while getting ready in the morning, but thanks to her I was up early enough this morning to watch a humpback whale as we made our way through Snows Pass before work. I wonder if I will ever tire of watching at whales.