Yesterday, we flew to Ketchikan and then to Sitka, Alaska where we boarded our ship, the Sea Lion. Almost everyone on our plane was going on a cruise or a fishing expedition. There were also several young men who were headed off to work on different fishing ships. The ones we talked to were on summer vacation from college. What a fantastic summer job. Before we boarded they took us to a raptor center where they take care of injured raptors. As much as I have studied birds, I must admit that I didn’t know that “raptor” was the name of birds of prey. All raptors hunt using their amazing eyesight; have talons and tearing beaks, for example eagles and osprey. I guess the amazing part of this center is how they prepare the birds to return to the wild. There is a full time vet who is a specialist in how birds fly. After the surgery to fix broken wings or whatever, if it is determined that the bird can be returned to the wild they go to this huge building where they can practice flying once again. The building has different perches, a water fall so the birds cannot hear human voices and one way glass so they cannot see us. It also has a slotted roof so they are not protected from the elements. It also has ninety degree turns to see if they can once again maneuver around obstacles. They brought in an eagle that had an injury where he can now only fly straight and down so he could not be returned to the wild. They also had a video of many birds that were returned to the wild. That was very moving.
Well the humpback whales didn’t let us down this morning. We saw them bubble feeding. I had never heard of that before, so to witness it first hand was quite a phenomenon. One whale swims around a school of fish blowing bubbles and another makes screeching sounds. The bubbles and sounds scare the fish and they get tighter together. Then the whales swim underneath and all together they swim up through the school of fish with their mouths wide open. We were lucky and got some pretty good shots of this. One of the ship’s naturalists hung a microphone over the side of the ship, so we could hear the whales blowing bubbles and making sounds. That way we could predict when the whales were going to surface. This is the reason we are on a small expedition ship. Breakfast was delayed about an hour so we could watch whales.
After breakfast we went on a nature hike. It was very nice to walk in the Tangas Rain Forest. With the lack of true soil, the forest is very different from anything I have even seen. I am very glad we didn’t see a bear. I want to see one but hopefully not while on a hike. We were told that our guide had a gun filled with pepper spray. It looked like a pretty puny defense compared to what I imagined to be the size of a bear.
This afternoon we took a zodiac cruise into a small bay, called Basket Bay, filled with limestone grottos, caves and water falls. It was truly beautiful surrounded by snowcapped mountains. After dinner, our expedition leader announced that there was a mother brown bear and her yearling cub walking on the beach. Our captain got as close as he possibly could and we all stood in silence on the deck marveling at the sight.
Sun rise here is about 4:15 and doesn’t set until after 10:00.
“When one tugs on nature he finds it is attached to the rest of the world.” John Muir
More to Follow
Tom and Holly