Friday, August 27, 2010

Juneau, AK- Whale watching

Sun Aug 22nd- We had made plans to go whale watching with Orca Enterprises from 10 am to 1pm. We checked in at their office downtown (a short walk from the Silver Bow) and were taken by van to the boat. Orca’s boat was a 52 ft bright purple boat with inside seats and an open, upper observation deck. There were just nine passengers along with Captain Larry (a long haired, grizzled old man with a long, straggly, grey beard, who was reportedly the “expert” on finding the whales), a first mate, Jim, and Jeff, a naturalist who would be our info person. This tour guaranteed that we would see whales….and so we did! We boated out to areas where the whales have been recently spotted, and watched and looked for the “blow”…….


This is a group of 3 whales – each blowing and surfacing almost in a circle.

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The whales we saw were Humpback Whales – named for the hump that you see when they surface. These whales are in the Alaskan waters to feed from June – Sept before heading back to the Hawaiian waters to breed and give birth. The Humpbacks that we saw were about as long as the boat, but weighed much more.


This whale is just getting ready to do the “tail flip” and dive down.

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And there it is…….the tail flip!  (only about two dozen pictures taken to get one or two in focus at just this moment)        : )

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And….the tail going under the water.


This is Jeff, the Naturalist. He spends his summers in Alaska watching the whales, then follows them back to his home in Hawaii to study them for the winter. Jeff was a wonderful resource – we learned to anticipate the whales feeding behavior and know that once they do the “tail flip” and dive down, they will stay down for 8.5-12 minutes.  We also learned several of the whales by name – Sasha and Spot were identifiable by scars or markings. Jeff has been following them for a number of years (Spot, since he was born in 1998) and sees them in Hawaii as well as in Alaska. Sasha, we were told was seen in Hawaii with her baby this last winter, but turned up this summer in Alaska without him – so many baby whales do not make it. It really made it so much more personal and awesome to feel “connected” with the individual whales.

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This whale is heading away from the boat and getting ready to dive.

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The tail flip………

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And down……  We saw several different groups of 2-3 whales. One time, the boat was just idling in an area completely surrounded by 6 different whales! We would watch each group for a while, until they had moved on….then head around to the next group that had been spotted. We saw at least a dozen whales in the 3 hours that we were out.

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A couple more “tail flips” for good measure……

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We also spotted this sea lion using this buoy as a nice rest stop.

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And a bald eagle perched majestically on a rock.

After the whale watching tour was done, we caught the 3 pm ferry back to Haines and enjoyed the 4.5 hr ride- relaxing and reading, looking out at the amazing Inside passage, and savoring our time with the whales. It had been a wonderfully satisfying day……….


  1. I'm enjoying your trip, seeing and reading what you experienced. The whale photos are great, what a thrill. Safe travels to the two of you.

  2. I just love whale watching! It was very interesting what you wrote about the cruise lines owning all the shops. I've always wanted to take an Alaskan cruise but the more I read from you and Becky, I'm feeling more and more like making it a road trip!