19
Aug 2013

Captain’s Log: Whale-Watching and More in Alaska

Submitted by: Amsterdam Captain Jonathan Mercer
Captain's Log: Whale-Watching and More in Alaska

A glorious week, the sun shone, the whales frolicked, the glaciers calved, what more can one ask for? A sunny day in Juneau, I did what I always try to do, at least once a season and that was the Juneau whale-watch tour. There was room on the evening one and what a lovely evening it was too, orange sky, and beautiful scenery added to which were the whales; the Saguenay and Favorite (sic) channels had them and their spouts were easily spotted with the low sun making the mist sparkle.

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I went for a stroll in Skagway, just to stretch my legs, enjoy the sunshine and take photos for you. Pullen Creek runs through the town and it’s Salmon-run time; a walk along the bank revealed hundreds of salmon, battling their way through the murky water, trying to get upstream to spawn.

The salmon making their way upstream.

The salmon making their way upstream.

I wander into the town and it struck me that, apart from the signs hanging from the buildings, Skagway hasn’t changed much since those days of the gold-rush.

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Tracy Arm and this time the Sawyer Glacier was kind to us, the thick ice of past visits had dissipated into the Arm itself and the area near the glacier was clear; we managed to get within a ½ mile of the face and watched in awe as chunks of ice tumbled into the water below. Always conscious of guests with balconies, I had sufficient room to manoeuvre and swing so that both sides had their fair share of the vista before them.

Ketchikan is approached through the Tongass narrows and here, as we make our way south, the Coast Guard join us, 2 boats escorting us as a security escort, to the dock.

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When we leave, they accompany us again through the southern section before leaving us as we reach open water. Then on towards Vancouver once more and as we approached Blackney Pass, one of the British Columbia Inside Passages, we sight more humpback and then ,once through, there before us are a pod of Orca and as we turn into the Johnson Strait, we are fortunate enough to have a good view of them on our starboard side. We pass several tug and tow on the way south. One takes it for granted that, when walking in your local supermarket, the shelves will be stocked, the goods having been brought to you by a truck. Well, in Alaska, the ‘truck’ is a barge, all one’s needs are brought north by this method, massive barges, each containing everything, including the ‘kitchen sink’; boats, trucks, RVs, fuel, food; you name it, it comes north. Obviously more perishable or urgent supplies are flown in by air, however even they, somewhere in their journey, will be on a plane or a boat, it’s the only logistical way to transport it all. Most towns have few roads, excepting those in the area, Skagway is an exception, having a link through the passes, Juneau has more miles of road in its underground mining tunnels, (disused) than it does above surface.

A tug and barge.

A tug and barge.

4 Comments

  1. Hi Captain Jonathan:

    Favorite (sic) Channel. Being Canadian, I caught your tongue-in-cheek on the spelling.

  2. We are looking forward to joining you on the next whale watching opportunity. Sailing with you on September 13 – we are excited!

  3. Hello Captain Mercer:
    My bride and I just completed the Inside Passage cruise on your marvelous ship. What a pleasure it was!
    As a retired United States Navy Captain I truly appreciated being back “at sea” on your ship. The pride your crew displays is an obvious tribute to your leadership.
    I curled up in the beautiful library with a cappuccino and read your wonderful book.
    Thank you for a memorable week!

    Fair winds and following seas.

    Captain C.T. Ryan
    US Navy
    Retired

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