Day 4: Whales and glaciers


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North America » United States » Alaska » Juneau
June 11th 2015
Published: June 25th 2017
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Geo: 58.3677, -134.58

Well, I ask you, "what next?" First it was his lip, now it's his fingertips. Mac woke this morning with all the pads on the fingers on both hands swollen and inflamed. It seems his fingers suffered hundreds of small lacerations in the crab feast. While I was twisting and turning the leg joints, sucking and slurping the crab meat from the body and monopolising the single claw cracker like a professional, in desperation to keep up, Mac was crumbling the legs, shells and claws with his bare hands and is now suffering the consequences.

I ask you again, "What next?" All we could do was look on the bright side - at least they don't put you in quarantine for having ten bloated sausages on the end of your hands. We just had to hope border and customs people didn't come on board asking for his fingerprints cause he's "got nothing."

There was no crazy eating in today's Whale Watching and Mendenhall Glacier Tour. But it is appropriate to say it was a feast for the eyes. The first three hours were out in a catamaran looking for whales. We were only on board for 10 minutes when the first plume of mist from a humpback's blowhole was visible and we made a beeline for the action. We joined a circling crowd of boats to watch a baby humpback frolicking on the surface. He was showing all of his tricks - showing his fin and underbelly and waving and splashing his tail. About 20 minutes later he was joined by his mum - a bigger entertainment proposition who nudged and cajoled her baby into diving and disappearing beneath the surface to feed.

The calves grow an amazing 7 lbs an hour nursing on the fat-rich milk - I can empathise after eating on the cruise for 5 days.

Our Captain headed further south into Stephens Passage and there was wild excitement on board as we drew up alongside a pod of six orcas including a very small baby. Have to say they were absolutely beautiful as they flashed their distinctive black and white markings. The boat's crew were as excited as we were to see them and of course they drew a crowd of other boats.

The best views were experienced in this first hour. We spent the next two hours spotting and chasing the distinctive plume of mist from the blowhole of the humpbacks. We would track them as they dived and then caught fleeting glimpses of them as they resurfaced. Nothing as impressive as that very first hour. We had been lucky.

I meant to mention it was freezing cold! The maximum predicted for today was 3C hence the Oompa Loompa look of six layers. And even with all the layers on it was difficult to stay warm because various elements and parts of the clothing kept lifting up and attempting to fly away. The weather is also constantly changing - it may be clear with blue skies one minute and then in a heartbeat, big fat drops of icy rain are falling from the sky. It can be completely calm and the water as smooth as glass and without warning, as the boat changes direction, the icy gale force winds hit the upper observation decks of the small craft and you are grabbing at your headgear and trying to hold onto cameras and binoculars while maintaining your balance. The Captain actually has to shut down the observation decks during these mini squalls which means a scramble down the stairs and taking refuge inside with a hot chocolate and a donut hole!

Glad Mindy talked us into the back pack. It is like a Mary Poppins bag - you can reach into it and pull out another layer.

The afternoon adventure was at the Mendenhall Glacier in the Tongass National Forest. We had seen the ice cream sandwich view of the glacier from Stephens Passage and the Lynne Canal all day but didn't appreciate the size until we were up close. This was the first view of the floating icebergs and the glacial ice really is a sparkling clear blue. The surprise is the dirt and discolouration of the glacier on the moraines.

The visitor centre was set up to answer every question and query. Manned by park rangers and featuring a movie and interactive displays, a series of high powered telescopes to give views up and down the valley, pop up informative lectures and full glass window views of the glacier this was another space you could spend hours. Unfortunately we only had one hour so we had to split up to have a look around. I explored the Visitor Centre while Mac took on the challenge of the bears and completed the Nugget Falls Trail for a closer view of the glacier. We met up at the Observation Trail with 10 minutes to go and headed to the lake for Mac's obligatory sample of the glacial water to keep his youth and vitality.

The tour was rounded out by a walk through Juneau the capital of Alaska. With a population of 23 000 who brave 300 rainy days a year, the tourist strip was made up of dozens of jewellery shops, the famous Red Dog Saloon (?), TShirt and fudge shops. We only made one purchase ... yep, it was the fudge and we still have no idea what the Red Dog Saloon is all about.

Dinner tonight was at Le Bistro, the French restaurant. And yep, escargot was on the menu and Mac was a taker. A bit cf a different texture but very flavoursome. My "starter" was four delicate parfait ice cream cones individually stuffed with mouthwatering delights including a pear salad, chicken, duck and vegetables. For mains a chicken burgundy and pork and dessert was a fruit bowl and hot chocolate...a fondue for two!

We are planning a restaurant progressive dinner...so far the starter is sorted at Moderno (Seafood Chowder) and dessert is at La Bistro (Fondue). We may need to separate for the mains!

Following the "how to avoid sea sickness" tip from @AuntyGail and Paul, our dinner tonight was accompanied by an enormous glass of champagne. Buoyed by the bubbles we headed for the Casino for a spin on the Dreamcatcher. True story: we were losing and had one last spin...and up popped the payer that got us out of trouble and evened up the ledger. We live to play our $10 another day.

Way too much bubbly tonight. I was done for! No show in the Stardust Room, no coffee in Dazzlers, no dancing the night away with DJ Viper. Barely made it back to the stateroom. Collapsed at 10 pm and woke next morning. Not sure what Mac got up to but he swears he didn't leave the room.

Thursday
Temperature: 3
Pedometer: 5 396
Bear Sightings = 0

Total Bear Sightings = 12

Things @AuntyGail and @Paul forgot to tell us about cruising:

1. It is very cold in Alaska.

2. Always carry dry socks on any excursion.

3. There are CCTV cameras scanning the balconies.

4. There is no way two people can fit in the shower cubicle.

5. Some people should never be in the hot tub....ever.

6. Queues and turn taking are only for North and South Americans, Europeans, Africans and Australians ....Indian and Asian guests are exempt .... apparently.

7. Don't bother putting the rainproof gear in the backpack, you need it at least twice every hour.


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14th June 2015

Well not envious about that boat trip and the squalls and wild seas. A Free Willy DVD would have been easier!Glad you both survived. Back to the mother boat and continue more eating.
14th June 2015

Fancy that!!!!! You found our Alaskan cruise ship - The Zandaam......wish I was still on it.....on second thought, wish I was on your ship with you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.....xxxxxx

Tot: 0.097s; Tpl: 0.054s; cc: 8; qc: 24; dbt: 0.0135s; 1; m:saturn w:www (104.131.125.221); sld: 1; ; mem: 1.2mb