The next shore day on our July 2013 Alaska cruise was Juneau. This was the day I’d been waiting for, as we were going on a whale watching excursion.
For years, seeing whales in the wild had been on my bucket list. We’d gone on a whale watching excursion in St. Lucia, but did not see any whales (although we saw a huge number of dolphin).
Knowing the huge number of humpback whales that feed in the Stevens Passage, I was expecting it to be a good day. I was not disappointed.
We were taken from the dock to Auk Bay via shuttle bus. On the way, we saw Mendenhall Glacier and bald eagles feasting on salmon.
The boat we were on had a large, heated indoor area with windows giving a nearly 360 degree field of view. A deck was available behind the boat for the entire trip, and a second deck was above the indoor area that could only be used when the boat was at trolling speed.
I stayed on the back deck, as I was using my 300mm f/2.8 on a monopod. The idea of climbing the ladder to the upper deck with such a lens did not appeal to me.
The idea of having to climb down every time the captain wanted to take the boat to a different place appealed even less.
After seeing a few whales, we stopped by a buoy that several sea lions were using as a condominium complex. I have no idea how the one got up high.
After that, one of the employees on the boat spotted a bald eagle sitting on a rock at the shore line. How she spotted it, I don’t know. I was only just able to see it with the 6x magnification in my 300mm lens.
The captain swung closer to the rock on the way back to Auk Bay, but the eagle had departed. Too bad. It would have made a wonderful photo.
Late in the trip, we saw a group of humpbacks what consisted of at least four animals. I could not even get them all in the field of view of my lens, the group was so large.
So, check one item off the bucket list. I’d still like to see orcas in the wild, but that day will have to come in the future.
The captain of our cruise boat announced that there were some port side of the boat on our first “at sea” day. Along with everyone else, we rushed to that side (lucky the boat didn’t capsize), but all we saw was some movement and a splash out of the corner of our eyes. That doesn’t count.
Tech Notes: Shot on a Nikon D700 using a Nikkor 300mm f/2.8 monopod mounted. Images were taken in RAW and processed in Photoshop Elements.Brian Combs