HOLY CRAP WHALES!
I woke up this morning super early to check out the view from my parents’ balcony. What a view! Fishing and cargo boats were floating all over the place. Clouds hung low over nearby mountains as the sun just peeked through them. Another giant cruise line slowly drifted to an adjacent port in what I’m sure is obscenely deep water. I walked to an upper deck to get a broader view, and saw a line of seaplanes along the dock in front of the ship. One plane had it’s engine running on idle, popping and gurgling like it needed some TLC before it went up again.
After a quick breakfast downstairs, we boarded a bus for our first excursion. Including the six of us Holts, there were 13 people in our group. We all boarded a small boat (microscopic compared to the Ruby Princess) and embarked on our journey, which deviated a bit from the original plan.
Our boat guides took us by a couple of bald eagle nests. We saw them fly around a bit and catch some fresh fish we threw out for them. It was really cool, but I’d already been told that bald eagles are EVERYWHERE in Alaska, so before even seeing them my expectations had been reduced.
When we finished with the eagles, we made our way to a dock to see the Tongass National Rainforest, the largest temperate rainforest in the US. We hit a bit of open water on the way, and suddenly one of the boat dudes yelled something like, “Bubbles!” and pointed. A ring of bubbles was forming in the distance.
In this part of the world, humpback whales feed by swimming in a circle, blowing a ring of bubbles to confuse and trap fish. Then, the whales swim up through the ring, mouth wide open, and leap out of the water, catching tons of the little guys. Humpbacks’ mouths are big enough to hold a regulation swimming pool’s worth of water, which it then pushes out through it’s fingernail teeth with its tongue.
After this whale’s first jump, we waited. Then, another ring of bubbles formed a little closer to us. He jumped again! Then a third ring formed EVEN CLOSER to us. The boat dudes were freaking out at this point, grabbing their own cameras. Finally, the humpback lept out of the water not 30 feet away from us. It’s definitely a moment I won’t soon forget.
We eventually made it to the rainforest, which was gorgeous. There were black-tailed deer there that are used to people and let you pet them and feed them. The folks at the lodge there made us a tasty seafood boil, which they dumped on the table in front of us. Crabs, mussels, shrimp, corn, sausage, potatoes, and who knows what else. It was great!
When we got back on the boat, seaplanes were landing mere feet away from my parents’ balcony. Today was completely insane and gorgeous. The bar has been set pretty high for the rest of this trip.