Juneau

Saturday, 11 August:

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Island Princess

This morning by 8.00am we had moored at Juneau’s Franklin Dock.  Interesting to note that Juneau is the only state capital in the USA which has no road access.

 

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It was only a few minutes’ walk to the town, which made it very convenient to come and go from the ship during the day. One of Juneau’s top attraction is the Mount Roberts Tramway, conveniently situated right near the ship. Stunning views of the Chilkat Mountains, Douglas Island and downtown Juneau as we glided 1,800 feet up the side to the top of Mt Roberts.  So lucky with the weather once again, blue skies with temps in the low 20’s (c).

 

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After re grouping, we set out on an alpine nature trek which was a little precarious to negotiate, having a few areas of mud and large rocks on the trail and some parts were quite steep. Luckily, we were with a tour guide who did a good job guiding those of us (most of us) not used to hiking trails like this. Lots of fun though, we enjoyed every minute.

Back at the tramway entrance, we took the opportunity to relax at the Alpine Tea House and sample some Alaskan made products from the rainforest. Other attractions were the Mountain House, which displayed many fine crafts and artefacts and a continuous free movie on the history of the indigenous people.

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Bronze, weight 13,000 lbs (5,896kg), height 25 feet.

On our way back to town we stopped at a fountain featuring a humpback whale. I was in awe of its size considering that we had watched 12 of them bubble-hunting in a pod the day before.  When you see them from a distance in open water, you don’t fully appreciate how magnificent they truly are.

The rest of the morning was spent exploring the downtown area and, in the afternoon, I ventured out on my own to spend some money in the local quilt store!

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There is so much to do in Juneau; I counted over 50 ship excursions, surely a record number! Everything from private tours, to helicopter rides, dog sledding, whale watching, glacier viewing, zipline and much more.  Something for everyone.  Very nice town and lovely, friendly people.

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Icy Strait Point

Friday, 10 August:

Yesterday, Thursday, was a relaxing sea day, as we cruised the waters of British Columbia and Queen Charlotte Sound, making our way into the open waters of the Gulf of Alaska.

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Today we arrived at Icy Strait Point located on Chichagof Island and headed out to search for brown bears and to do some whale watching.  We drove for about 30 minutes through the interior forests to the Spasski River, where we hoped to see some bears out feeding.  We walked the trails to three viewing platforms, but not a bear in sight.

We had better luck on the next part of our day out when we boarded a catamaran for Port Adolphus, which is one of Alaska’s premier whale-watching sites.

We found a pod of twelve whales “bubble net feeding” and we watched them do this for a long time.  It is a feeding method unique to humpback whales where one whale will dive beneath a school of fish and begin to exhale out of its blowhole to create bubbles.  More whales will start to blow bubbles while circling their prey.  They corral the fish into a tight circle by creating a net of bubbles which will surround the fish and stop them from escaping.  One whale will sound the call and then all the whales will swim to the surface with their mouths open to feed on the trapped fish.

 

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Seagulls take advantage of the abundance of fish coming up to the surface and we saw a large flock of gulls waiting for the bubbles to appear.  They would float on the water and suddenly take to the sky and circle over the area where the whales would appear.  Food for all!

We had a naturalist on board who was a fund of information about the whales behaviour, and she said it was the first time she had seen so many whales bubble net feeding at one time.  The whales completely ignored our boat, even swimming across the bow a couple of times as they searched for fish.

Before we left, the crew lowered  a hydrophone (an underwater microphone) into the water and we could clearly hear the whales communicating with each other.  How lucky we were to be able to see and hear these amazing and majestic creatures.  It was an experience we will never forget.

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Heading back to the ship at the end of the day

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

North to Alaska

Wednesday, 8 August:

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Departing from Vancouver

After arriving back in Vancouver we were dropped off at the Terminal where we said goodbye to a few of our group.  Some were boarding a Holland America ship for a 7 day cruise, disembarking back in Vancouver and flying home.

The rest of us were boarding the Island Princess for a 7 day Voyage of the Glaciers cruise disembarking in Whittier, where we would fly back to Vancouver and then home.

The Island Princess is the smallest ship we have been on, with a maximum capacity of 2390 passengers and 810 crew.  Very nice ship and we were looking forward to getting on board.

Lucky for us, most of the passengers were new to cruising, so our Elite level enabled us to have priority boarding which made the process of getting on board very quick indeed.  We had all been booked into rooms with balconies, which we were looking forward to, however a surprise awaited us – Princess had upgraded us to a mini suite!  It was lovely having the extra space – and the bathroom even had a bath!

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Then we discovered that having the mini suite included “Club Class Dining” which entitled us to the use of a separate dining room –  or in this case, a separate entrance to the dining room for all meals and our own waiters for the entire cruise with no fixed dining times.

Normally, there wouldn’t be any delays for dining but being a smaller ship with fewer choices people were lining up, especially for dinner.  However, no queues for us – fantastic!

 

 

 

 

 

Lessons from Geese

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Canadian geese at Jasper Park Lodge

Here is a nice little story that our Canadian tour guide passed around to us during our tour.  She didn’t know where it came from, but after doing a bit of research since I came home, I discovered that the author’s name is Milton Olson.

It’s a charming life lesson which I enjoyed reading and I hope you do too…..

Next fall when you see geese heading south for the winter, flying along in “V” formation, think about what science has learned about why they fly that way.  As each bird flaps its wings, it creates uplift for the bird immediately following it.  By flying in a “V” formation, the whole flock can fly at least 72 percent further than if each bird flew on its own. 

Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it feels the resistance of trying to do it alone, and quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of flying with the flock.  When the lead goose gets tired, he rotates back in the wing and another goose flies on the point.  The geese honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.

Finally, when a goose weakens or is wounded and falls out of formation, two geese fall out and follow him down to help protect him.  They stay with him until he is either able to fly or until he is dead, and then they set out on their own or with another formation until they catch up with the group.

If we had the sense of a goose, we would stand by each other like that!!

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When I was walking around the lake, I came to the edge of the golf course and there was a flock of geese on the green.  The golfers were trying to gently herd them into the water, but every time they picked up their clubs, the very determined geese were already back standing on the grass.  After several unsuccessful attempts the amused golfers gave up and just had to move on!

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Whistler to Vancouver

Wednesday, 8 August:

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After breakfast, we boarded our coach for the last time, leaving Whistler, travelling on the Sea-to-Sky Highway to Vancouver.  As we made our way back, we noticed we were driving parallel to the train tracks for some of the time.  So we were seeing some of the same scenery that we saw from the train, but from a higher perspective.

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