North to Alaska, Ch. 1: Intro and Wildlife

Lynn and I have talked for a long time about taking a cruise to Alaska.  Since we’re celebrating our 35th wedding anniversary this year, we finally decided to book on Holland America’s MS Westerdam.  We did this early in the year and it seemed like forever before we departed Seattle on September 6th for Glacier Bay, Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan, and Victoria.  We spent some time before boarding with our good friends, the Sullivans who cruised with us in the next stateroom with a shared balcony.

It was our first visit to the US northwest and Alaska, and we saw spectacular things that we’ve never seen before except on TV.  Coming up with words to do justice to what we experienced will be hard.  We came home already talking about plans for our next trip. I hope I’ll be able to share some of the feelings of being there through the photographs I made.  Although far away and expensive, this vacation most definitely qualifies for the “Must do list” .

Instead of a day by day description, I’ll break this up into subjects.  This will help me organize my editing efforts.  I’ll talk first about the wildlife.  We spent quite a bit of time on the balcony and were rewarded on occasion with whale sightings, like this killer whale.

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North Pacific Killer whale from the MS Westerdam; NIKON D90,300 mm,1/320 sec at f / 5.6

We also saw humpback whales and I was grateful that Chuck loaned me his 80 – 400mm lens, since these were quite a distance away – every millimeter helped.

In Juneau, Sully and I went on a “Photo Safari by Land and Sea”, which was a guided whale encounter and glacier trek run by Gastineau Guiding. Our guide  Rick, and boat captain Gary, were both extremely knowledgeable and helpful in finding whales, seals, and sea lions.  Also eagles were quite abundant, feasting on the remains of the salmon run, which was still ongoing although according to locals slower than it had been.  Here’s a few photos:

Breaching humpback whale near Juneau
Breaching humpback; In the full res version, the two white dots in tree to the upper left, behind the whale are bald eagles.; NIKON D90,300 mm,1/1600 sec at f / 5.6

The whale in the first photo is an adult female. Her calf was also with her.  He/she seemed to jump upside down or do barrel rolls most of the time. It’s hard for me to imagine they were not having fun doing this.

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Humpback whale calf breeching; NIKON D90,300 mm,1/1250 sec at f / 5.6

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Humbolt Sea lion and gull watch two male Sea Lions arguing; NIKON D90,300 mm,1/1250 sec at f / 5.6

Rick also took us to Mendenhal Glacier in Juneau, where there were reports of black bear sightings.  Sure enough, as we descended to the lake by the glacier, a bear was seen napping under a bush.  I didn’t get a good photo, but here’s one that Sully made.  The bear had more sense than us.  It was sheltered from the rain taking a nap.  We were out in the rain trying to make pictures of it.  When we got back to the ship, another couple we ate lunch with told us about encountering bears on a different path than the one we took at Mendenhal.  I wonder how common they are?

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Bear in the bushes (photo by Martin Sullivan); Canon EOS 40D,135 mm,1/30 sec at f / 5.6

Clicking on one of the photos above will take you to Flickr, where you can see it in a higher res version. I made many more photos than will fit on a blog page and I’ll post them two different ways.  You can look at them all together as a time ordered single set here on Flickr.  I’ll also post them as galleries on my website, organized by subject:

  • Alaska wildlife photos are here.
  • Alaska glacier photos are here.
  • Alaska other photos are here.

Coming next:  “North to Alaska, Ch. 2: Glaciers.”  I’ll also collect my hints for fellow Alaskan vacation photographers into a single post to follow.

©2009, Ed Rosack and Martin Sullivan. All rights reserved.

About Ed Rosack

I live in Central Florida and enjoy exploring the area. I'm interested in nature and wildlife photography - and many other things. I'm the chief reporter, lead writer, managing editor, main photographer, and publisher of the Central Florida Photo Ops website hosted at www.edrosack.com. You can also see more of my photos on my Flickr stream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/

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