ALASKA:  A STORY OF A WHALE

I have always wanted to see a whale, but I figured…yeah, right.  Even if I DID get somewhere in the correct vicinity, AND could afford to go a on “whale watch”, what are the real chances of seeing a whale?  Probably not very high.  So I had mixed feelings about going to Icy Strait Point, Alaska, and signing up for a whale watch tour where we were GUARANTEED to see whales.

Icy Strait Point is a geographical area that is one of the premier places in the world for whales.  Celebrity Cruises built a dock nearby, with a few shops and touristy things, so that cruising folk can take tours out to the Point.

This was the day I cried.

Our ship docked and my alarm clock told me it was time to wake from sleep.  I walked to our room’s verandah, opened the curtains, and SAW A WHALE!  Just like that, just a glimpse, the beginning of another amazing day.

Before our excursion, my husband and I decided to walk to the island’s Tlingit village of Hoonah, a beach stroll that promised bald eagle sightings. 

Walking along, we suddenly heard a very loud noise behind us.  We turned and saw the most unexpected thing I ever thought to see:  right along the shore, not too far from us, a humpback whale roared up with his mouth wide open to the sky.  I almost fell to the ground.  I think I exclaimed, “Jeez Louise!” or “Holy Moley, Batman!”.  I was a little scared, it was that close.   A memory-maker for sure.

Here is a harbor view of the same whale coming up with his mouth open, when we were in the boat for the official excursion.

 

We learned that he was fishing for herring, using a technique called “bubble-net feeding.”  When he finds herring, he will circle around them and blow bubbles.  The bubbles confuse the fish and they tightly bunch up together.  Then with a roar, the whale will come right up from underneath them with his mouth wide open to get a nice big mouthful.

At times, we were able to actually see the bubbles.  “Get ready, get ready….” we would say as the circle formed right before our eyes.  And then up he would come.  The thrill of it was stupendous.

If you look closely, you can see the circle of bubbles here:

 

Because I’m a planner and a reader-of-things-ahead-of-time, I was able to book a whale tour excursion with a retired man who has a small boat and lots of experience.  His name is Floyd.  He took 5 of us out for a trip.

 

My cousins signed up with the cruise ship and went in a big boat.

 

 

My brother said our boat reminded him of Gilligan’s Island, but actually ours was smaller than that.

 

 

We tooled around watching the humpback in the harbor, went along the shores and saw a brown bear, a sea otter, and sea lions, who looked so silly popping up in a row like comedians, trying to see what we were.

 

We also had rare and close sightings of 2 male orca (killer) whales.  They are actually of the dolphin family and have large fins.

 

 

When we arrived at the Point where whales are “guaranteed”, there were so many humpbacks we couldn’t possibly count them.  The horizon was filled with whale plumes as they came up for air.

This one isn’t my photo, but you can get the idea.

 

 

I think this was the point at which I began to cry.  Each day of the trip was better than the one before, and I was so grateful to be there.

 

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