Arrival In JuneauJuneau in alaska picture 

boat trip in Juneau picture glacier over juneau

Juneau, Alaska

lynn canal alaska picture There are only two ways to arrive in Juneau, the capital of Alaska, sea or air. Hemmed in by Mount Juneau, Mount Roberts and the  Mendenhall Glacier, this city was founded in the 1880's when gold was discovered. We arrived at the pier just after 10am, and after disembarking the ship we joined our tour onboard a waiting motorcoach. After a short drive through Juneau, we arrived at the boat docks in Auke Bay. Our vessel was a water-jet powered catamaran. Our wildlife quest was to take us through the island studded waters of Stephen's Passage, passing by spectacular scenery, snow-capped mountain peaks and glaciers.
 The on-board naturalist pointed out all the places of interest, and soon spotted a bald eagle perched on a navigation sign. More eagles could be seen high up in the trees, their bright white heads looking like golf balls in amongst the dark foliage. Before too long, a spout was seen, and all eyes pointed towards our first whale encounter. The humpback could be seen as it glided through the water before it submerged briefly. Another spout and then it arched it's back and 'fluked' deeply down under the surface. It's immense tail, or fluke, was an incredible sight, small barnacles could be made out on one edge of its tail, and nicks where also noticed. These markings enable individual whales to be identified. Once a whale dives deeply to feed, it can be quite some time, 30 minutes, before it resurfaces. We scoured the sea for signs of more whales, and another creature was quickly spotted.

humpback whale picture                 humpback whale fluke picture

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Humpback whales have two blowholes through which they force out water at incredible pressure. Spouting is an easy way to spot whales, even from a distance. We motored towards the whale, careful not to encroach too close. It swam along on the surface, occasionally taking shallows dives, before finally arching it's massive back, indicating a steeper, longer dive. The fluke once again gave us a beautiful view of this massive creatures tail as it slid beneath the waves.

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 It was a wonderful experience to see these giants of the ocean, they possess such power but are very graceful in their movements. They seemed not to care about our presence, and although I'm sure they could have inflicted great damage on our relatively small vessel, no danger or fear was  felt, but instead a feeling of serenity and awe.  

As we approached a navigation marker, the naturalist announced that there were some sea lions on the buoy. Steller sea lions were relaxing, with a couple more in the water, trying to dismount their rivals. The bell rang out on the buoy as the wave from our boat rocked their perch.  



sea lion picture

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lighthouse in alaska picture eldred rock lighthouse alaska

As we continued our tour we passed the Eldred Rock Lighthouse, which commanded a wonderful view across the Lynn Canal to the distant mountain peaks.

After spotting a couple more whales, our time was up and our boat returned to the dock.  

Mendenhall Glacier

Back on board the coach, a short drive took us to Mendenhall Glacier visitor centre. A path led to the bay and a great view of the face of the glacier where it meets Mendenhall Lake. Large chunks of ice slowly made their way past us towards the sea, having recently calved off the glacier. A nearby waterfall thundered down into the lake. The ice was a myriad of different colors, black, white, many hues of green and blue.

mendenhall glacier alaska
mendenhall glacier near juneau alaska ice flow at mendenhall glacier alaska

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 PART FOUR - Ice in Yakutat Bay 

More photos from Alaska can be found on our new website or on the links below
Departure Sunrise Juneau Yakutat Bay Sitka Sitka Wildlife Ketchikan
Misty Fjords Flight Butchart Gardens Eagles Sea Lions & Otters Seals Whales Hubbard Glacier
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