I was inspired by the naturalist on my last trip to Juneau (this past July) to experience whale watching up close. I talked my wife into taking the Whale Watch and Nature Quest excursion on this trip; although she was somewhat relucant to do so. She was aprehensive about the size of the boat. Her fears were quickly eroded when the tour boat was in fact a large three level catamaran and not some small vessel.
The weather was absolutely perfect. Sunny, warm, perfectly clear, and no wind at all. The crew of the boat said they had not had such good weather nor seen the surrounding peaks in two weeks. The water was smooth as glass, the boat gliding across the waters with about 140 excited cruisers with high hopes of viewing whales.
The captain of the excursion boat plyed the waters north of Juneau in search of whales and in short order, out in front of the boat, we saw a Humpback whale spout followed by its’ arched path at the surface and then diving with the tail flipping up and slowly disappear below the surface as if waving to us. The captain stated that we would return to this area on the way back because Orcas, also know as Killer Whales, had been sighted at the south end of Douglas Island.
As we approached the area of the sightings, ahead of us we could see the dorsal fins of Orcas break the surface followed by the back of the Orca before going below the surface to feast on more salmon. When we were in the middle of their feeding grounds there were Orcas surfacing all around our vessel. Orcas travel in a pod of up to 40 whales. We must have seen at least 20 Orcas, most of which surfaced several times. The boat stayed as long as possible before it was time to search for the Humpbacks.
It was not long before we sighted a Humpback once again performing its feeding dance of spouting, arched back coming out of the water, followed by the flutes of its tail flipping and once again seemingly waving at us as it dove to feed on herring. The Humpbacks stay underwater feeding for about 5 to 10 minutes before surfacing again to breathe. Just as we were about to stay at this location waiting for the whale to surface again, the captain spotted two whales a little further ahead. Off we sped to view these magnificant animals in this new location. Just as we were waiting for these two to surface again there was a sighting of more Orcas, including a baby Orca. We seemed to be zig zagging all over the open waters chasing every new sighting.
The baby Orca was accompanied by three adults. One after another they would perform this beautiful dance. We were so close on several occasions that you could hear the spouting. A deep toned ‘woush’ sound, almost like you were blowing out birthday cake candles but only much deeper and much more exhaled air. At one point the baby Orca breached the water. It came totally out of the water parallel to the surface and then came crashing down horizontally with a thundering splash.
OMG! What an awesome experience. It was the fastest three hours I have ever spent on the water.
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