This afternoon, we headed out for an official whale watching expedition – this time looking for Humpbacks. We elected to take a smaller excursion than offered by the cruise line, and had booked with Dolphin Tours. We left from picturesque Auke Bay (just as all other local trips), and traveled up Stephen’s Passage against a backdrop of snow-covered peaks and tall spruce forests.
It seemed like the trip was over in minutes, but in reality we were on the water for about 1.5 – 2 hours. We did see Humpbacks, not as closely as I would’ve liked, but quite a few. Local laws required vessels be 100 yards from whales and we were not going to get in any trouble violating any laws. We did see four whales together and that is considered unusual, AND that group had a baby and we saw the baby breach. The breech was also considered unusual since it is generally a mating ritual, but the naturalist said the whales were teaching the baby. Humpback Whales are identified by the pattern/color/scars that appears underneath their tail, readily visible when they dive. We did get to see several flutes (tails) diving and looking at my pictures I can clearly identify the whales known as “Spot” and “Midnight” among them.
We were met at the dock in Auke Bay by a dear friend who lives in this part of Alaska and came over to see us. We visited Mendenhall Glacier’s Visitor Center ($3) in the Tongass National Forest and enjoyed the great exhibits and touching the small iceberg on display, as well as the terrific photo-op. Before heading back to the ship we had a tasty dinner at the Twisted Fish Company Alaskan Grill, located near the pier area.
We got to set the clocks back one more hour today, making us 4 hours behind EST. That was a good thing because we were up at dawn for an early excursion to Misty Fjords National Monument Wilderness. On a high-speed catamaran we covered 100 miles, traveling through the Revillagigedo Channel to Behm Canal and around New Eddystone Rock (initially mistaken for a sailing vessel by Captain Vancouver), before entering the National Wilderness through Rudyard Bay. As a glacial fjord, it looked very much like New Zealand’s Milford Sound, complete with narrow waterfalls, deep water and dramatic sheer cliffs. Incredibly, we had another majestic day; chilly but with a dazzling blue sky and sparkling, calm water.
Upon returning to downtown Ketchikan, we walked around and saw famously bawdy Creek Street (the creek having no visible salmon today), and shops, ultimately finding Annabelle’s Famous Keg & Chowder House for lunch. Our Halibut sandwich was fresh and delicious; expensive too.
After dinner we positioned ourselves in the ship’s Sky Lounge (top, forward) to look for whales during the sail through Snow Passage. We weren’t disappointed. We saw a number of “blows” and some surfacing in the distance. Upon learning some were expected starboard in a few minutes, we rushed back to our room and were rewarded by seeing a young Humpback whale flip his tale for us. Mama stayed under.
So far, our starboard cabin has had perfect views.