A NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC DAY
We had a brief tour of the main street of Juneau, we passed by the Mendelhall Glacier - a beautiful sight with its blue ice - on the way to Auke Bay to board our whale watching vessel. It was only half full so there was lots of room to move around. We decided to sit on the upper deck which was the only deck that you could move around outside. We missed seeing the Steller Sea Lion that was pointed out by the guide and only I saw the tail of a disappearing Humpback Whale. However, we pressed on. Our first sighting was of a group of lazy Harbour Seals with their white pups lying on a stony beach of a small island. Our second sighting was of a large group of Steller Sea Lions lazing on a stony beach of another small island. Many were frolicking at the water's edge. I finally spotted a marbled murrelet that I had only seen once before at the Cornwall Dam of all spots - it was way off course. I spoke to the naturalist of my interest in birds and she pointed out some black oyster catchers to me. And, of course, the ubiquitous eagles.
As we sailed past another glacier - the Herbert Glacier - the captain announced that a large pod of humpbacks had been spotted so we made our way quickly to the area and there they were - a pod of 10-12. We were fortunate enough to watch them engage in "Bubble Feeding" , a co-operative group effort they are only seen to engage in for two weeks of the year. The lead whale blows air through its blow hole under the water while the others patiently circle nearby. At the appropriate moment, the pod comes together and rise out of the water all at once with their mouths wide open taking in all the fish they can. We marvelled at this behaviour three times and once I had my binoculars trained on the spot where it happened so got tremendous views. One whale actually breached (the whole body came out of the water with the accompanying tremendous splash. I decided to leave my camera in my pocket when the most exciting viewing occurred but did manage some pictures of the pod. We also had a Steller Sea Lion swim very close to the boat. I should mention how close the whales came to the small whale-watching boats. Our larger boat had to stay back but we still had great views. One tiny boat with room for only four people, was close enough to get drenched by the splashes.
The crew served snacks on board and I bought some Sitka jelly made from the Sitka tree after tasting this delicious treat.
The bus driver told us on the return trip that we were extremely fortunate to have seen all the wildlife we did. Sometimes people don't see anything!
We are relaxing until dinner and are looking forward to our shore excusion tomorrow - a river trip to a private preserve. Hope we are as lucky with wildlife sightings as we were today.