Tag Archives: glacier

Killer (Whale) Trip to Alaska!

Editors note: Today we have another awesome report from our roving correspondent MaryKate. She’s back in Alaska, this time in Seward. Just looking at this gives me some relief from our still hot Central Florida weather – enjoy!

Thanks for having me for my 10th blog post at CFPO, and for a recap of my 6th visit to the majestic state of Alaska!  Over Labor Day weekend, I visited Monette for Emergency Birthday Seven (our annual tradition of a last-minute birthday adventure, almost always involving a road trip, wildlife, eating and shopping).  We met in Anchorage, and road tripped down to Seward and Homer.

In Seward, we went on a 6-hour wildlife watching boat tour.  This time we opted for a smaller boat instead of going with one of the larger companies like we had in the past, and we were really luck that we found Bix from Seward Ocean Excursions to take us out on Missing Lynx!

Orca and Glacier

Orca in front of Bear Glacier

We headed out on the tour, but about an hour out, Captain Bix received word that a pod of Orcas was nearby, so we turned around to hopefully sneak a glimpse of these magical creatures.  That’s the great thing about being on a boat with only six passengers – the Captain is flexible and takes you where you want to go to see what you want to see.  Sure enough, we found the Orcas!

Orca

Orca Coming to Check Us Out

Captain Bix was careful to follow the Whale Sense responsible whale watching guidelines, so we approached the pod slowly and stopped 100 yards away.  We observed a pod of 2-3 adults and a baby.  The Orcas were very curious, and every time they noticed a new boat, they would swim over to check it out – including ours!  It was surreal watching these giant mammals swim towards us, underneath, and around the boat, getting so close that they made eye contact!

Orca

Up-close Orca Encounter

The baby in the pod was a bit of a show off, and not quite coordinated yet.  It was in a playful mood, practicing fluke slaps and exploring.  I did manage to get a fluke photo, but unfortunately missed a shot of one of his elders breaching!

Orca Fluke Slap

Baby Fluke Slap

The Orca Whale pod we observed were residents, meaning they eat mostly fish (likely salmon here) vs. transient Orca Whales that feast on mammals like seals, sea lions, and even baby whales (i.e. Humpbacks and Greys).  Resident and transient Orcas look the same though, so it wasn’t surprising that while the Orcas were out, we didn’t see any seals or sea lions in their normal resting spots.  But these seagulls were very interested in piggybacking on the Orca fishing party!

Orcas Fishing

Resident Orca Fishing with Seagulls

Interested in learning more about whales?  I recommend a book I got for my birthday: Spying on Whales.  It’s a very quick read for a science book, and talks about the past, present and future of these captivating cetaceans in a digestible way.

After observing the Orca pod, we moved on and enjoyed Alaska’s beauty for the rest of the tour, seeing plenty of Puffins, some Harbor Seals, and a Sea Lion.  More photos can be found in the album here.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.  Now – go be amazed by wild whales and make some photos!

©2018, MK Rosack and Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Day Trip to Whittier, Alaska

Editors note:  Today we have another wonderful post from our roving correspondent MaryKate.  Her report includes beautifully surreal landscape images as well as excellent wildlife watching tips and photographs. It’s well worth clicking the link at the end to view the rest of her photos.  Enjoy!

In late September, I had the pleasure of visiting Monette and Jesse in Anchorage, AK for Emergency Birthday Six (our annual tradition of a last-minute birthday adventure). It was the second-to-last weekend of the tourist season, so we were excited to find a company still doing day cruises: Phillips Cruises & Tours 26 Glacier Cruise out of Whittier, Alaska.

To get from Anchorage to Whittier (population 214 people), we drove along the Seward Highway, one of my absolute favorite views ever.  We saw two Beluga Whales fishing along the shore at Beluga Point – and reported them to the Cook Inlet Beluga Whale Photo-ID Project!  I’ve looked for the Belugas every time I drive along this beautiful road, and this was my first time finally seeing them (unfortunately the only picture I have is the memory in my mind).  From Beluga Point, give yourself plenty of time to get through the 2.5 mile Whittier Tunnel – the longest highway tunnel in North America!

Seward Highway

View from Seward Highway

The 26 Glacier Cruise, as promised, delivered many stunning glacier views.  Due to weather, we took an alternate route that the on-board Park Ranger told us he had only done several times in his career and got up close to some amazing glaciers.

Glacier Cruise

View from Glacier Cruise

While the first few hours of the cruise was mostly scenic views, we began to see much more wildlife towards the end of the cruise including Sea Otters, Sea Lions, Bald Eagles, and this Seal floating by on an iceberg.

Seal on an Iceberg

Along for the Ride

But my breath was taken away in the last 30 minutes, when we were on our way back to shore, and the captain spotted a pair of Orca Whales!  It’s always magical seeing these friends in the wild.

Orca Whales

Male and Female Orca Whale Couple

I can’t wait to go visit Monette and Jesse again – in addition to being great friends, they live in an absolutely beautiful state, and I always enjoy exploring Alaska with them!

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.  More photos can be found in the album here. Now – go be amazed by wildlife and make some photos!

©2017, MK Rosack and Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

Our Alaskan vacation – Ch. 2: Glaciers

This is the second installment of our Alaskan adventure, where I’ll show you the glaciers we visited. Chapter One is here and describes the wildlife we saw on our trip.

Our ship, the MS Westerdam left Seattle on Sunday, September 6th and headed north to Glacier Bay National Park where we arrived on Tuesday.  Glacier Bay was one of the main reasons that we picked this itinerary and we were looking forward to seeing it.  The morning started out beautifully, with a very nice sunrise.

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While cruising in Glacier Bay, we visited Lamplugh, Johns Hopkins, and Marjorie glaciers.  Several cruise ships had been unable to reach the Johns Hopkins glacier this season due to ice, so apparently we were lucky.  Here’s a panorama I made from the 4th deck of the Westerdam at Johns Hopkins glacier.

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One of the first things we noticed is that the color of the water close to the glaciers is a very distinct greenish blue.  According to this article on wired.com (which also has some stunning photos of glaciers taken from space) the color is due to the very fine silt that is ground away from the valley walls by the glacier and deposited in the water.  This “glacial flour” can be very reflective and turns the water this color.

At Marjorie glacier, I was in the right place at the right time to photograph the ice calving.  Here’s the middle photo of a three photo sequence (you can see the others when you visit the gallery for this post).

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When we exited Glacier Bay, we headed for Juneau where we also visited Mendenhal Glacier, among other things.

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When we were back on board in Juneau, the captain made an announcement about gale force winds and 40 foot seas that were expected off of Sitka, which was supposed to be our next stop.  To avoid this weather he decided instead to cruise through Tracy Arm fjord, where we spent all of the next day (Thursday, September 10th).  Tracy Arm is a truly spectacular place that isn’t often visited by cruise ships as large as the MS Westerdam.  We were able to get in there since our Alaskan waters pilot was very familiar with the place.  It was amazing to watch the ship maneuver in such tight waters — at times we were within 30 yards or so of cliff walls and we must have seen hundreds of waterfalls.  There was quite a bit of fog and haze, which made photography difficult, but I did manage to get some good shots.  Here’s one example of the scenery:

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I also put my Canon G9 on a Gorillapod, mounted it to the balcony rail and made some movies. Here’s a time lapse video (one frame per second) that I made in Tracy Arm. It has a sequence of clouds forming and moving along with the ship.  We saw this same phenomenon several times that day.  Was it perhaps the great spirit of the northwest accompanying us on our tour?

That night after exiting Tracy Arm fjord, our course carried us back into the Pacific Ocean in order to get to Ketchikan.  It was still pretty rough with about 25 foot seas.  We had a great view of the ocean from the second deck during dinner.  It was like eating on a roller coaster!  The next morning, when we arrived in Ketchikan, we had seaweed on our 6th deck balcony!

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You can view the rest of my glacier photos in two places.  I added a set of glacier photos here in my photo galleries.   You can also look at all of our Alaska photos together in a single time ordered set here on Flickr.  Clicking on one of the photos above will also take you to Flickr, where if you click on the “all sizes” button, you can see the photo in a higher res version.

Coming next:  “North to Alaska, Ch. 3: Miscellaneous photos.  I’ll also probably wrap up with a Chapter 4: Photo hints.

©2009, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.