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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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Whistler

 

Tuesday, 7 August:

 

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Arrived at Whistler and staying at The Hilton. Beautiful room, very spacious. It even has a small kitchen. I didn’t expect this level of accommodation.   It is excellent.  Whistler is very pretty little village in the Scandinavian style and we are situated right in the middle of it.

 

Inukshuk (pron. in-ook-shook) is an Inuit word meaning “in the image of man”.  Found in Canada’s far northern regions, these rock sculptures were built by the Inuit and served a variety of purposes.  For travellers in a barren landscape, the Inukshuk served as a guide post – a silent message showing the correct path to follow.  Some would have a longer arm indicating the direction to travel.  Others had a hole in the centre – a traveller looking through the hole would see another Inukshuk in the far distance.  An Inukshuk on a river bank would mark a safe fording spot.  Inukshuks were also used to mark a campsite  of a special spiritual place.  By building a series of Inukshuk in a “V” formation, the Inuit used them to aid with the caribou hunt.

 

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First stop was a trip to the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre.  A fascinating look into a world where ancient ways meet modern life.   The native guide gave us a very interesting insight into the history of the First Nation. We learnt so much and it was a real hands-on tour.

 

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Later, we enjoyed a ride on the Peak 2 Peak Gondola.  Joining Blackcomb and Whistler Mountains, this word record-breaking engineering marvel is the highest and longest lift of its kind in the world.

 

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While we were up there, we did one of the hikes around the peak, which was a wonderful experience and something special that I’ll never forget. We’ve had such perfect weather and it was quite hot up there. I couldn’t believe we were actually there surrounded by such beautiful mountains while we hiked (yes, hiked – I couldn’t believe we were doing that either!) around the trail. I just had to keep on stopping to take it all in.

Is everybody Australian here? And do any Canadians work here? Australian accents everywhere in Whistler! There are employment opportunities in many of the shops, but the problem is lack of accommodation. In fact, we noticed that some shops were advertising jobs + accommodation in an attempt to fill the vacancies.

The rest of the day was free to enjoy on our own and that evening we met for a farewell dinner at a local restaurant.  Lovely meal which we enjoyed with such a nice group of people. Tomorrow we will be saying goodbye to Jeanette, our Canadian tour guide, Sheree who was the Wyndham representative and John our wonderful coach driver.