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Cruising Alaska: May/June 2006

Radiance of the Seas (Royal Caribbean)

Page 3: Icy Strait - Hubbard Glacier

Vision of the Seas
    Page 1: Whitehorse - Seattle - Juneau
    Page 2: Skagway - Icy Strait - Victoria - Seattle

Radiance of the Seas
    Page 1: Vancouver - Juneau
    Page 2: Skagway - Sitka
    Page 3: Icy Strait - Hubbard Glacier
    Page 4: Seward - Whitehorse

Click on each photo to greatly enlarge it.

    This is what the inside of our tenders look like. It can get pretty crowded, but the trips are always short, and there's an open top deck if you prefer.

    A broad view of Icy Strait Point. We were met at the gates of Icy Strait Point by Floyd Peterson of F.I.S.H.E.S., who we had booked for a 4-hour whale watching trip ($150. per person). He drove us the mile and a half to the small boat harbour at Hoonah.

    Downtown Hoonah as seen from Floyd's boat. A commercial fisherman for all of his adult life, Floyd knows the area intimately.

    Passing Icy Strait Point heading for Icy Strait itself, 12-year-old Ryan yelled that he saw a whale near the dock. I thought he was imagining it, but Floyd came around and we met a very active humpback close to shore. The whale was bubble net feeding, and we followed it for a half hour, almost back to the harbour where we had started.

    In bubble net feeding, the whale releases air from it's blow hole as it swims upward in a spiral pattern. The bubbles trap small fish and krill that the whale is after. The whale then swims up through the centre of the bubble net with its mouth open, as you see here. To make it even more impressive, the whale sings as it does this, and we listened to the singing on Floyd's hydrophone!

    The same whale passed by an old Tlingit cemetery as it headed for open water.

    Up close and personal with an Alaska brown bear. We stayed with this handsome young bear (3-4 years old) for about 10 minutes, and he wasn't particuarly concerned about us being there.

    Captain Lokling out salmon fishing from our rescue boat.

    Okay, we got a great whale and a great bear, how about great bald eagles? "No problem," said Floyd, and soon we were at this offshore nest - if you look carefully at the enlarged photo, you can see the head of another eagle in the nest.

    The tree above actually has 2 eagle nests, and stands on this island. During our trip, we saw dozens of eagles, including 6 in a single tree. Some people think that 4 hours in a small boat will be too much - none of us could believe how fast the time went!

    When you step onto the dock at Icy Strait Point, you're handed an envelope with a cedar chip in it, and instructions to go to this fire and toss it in. Once Floyd brought us back to the facility, Cathy and I went to the fire and added our chips to the little blaze, with a wish that we get to return.

    This picture gives you an idea of the quantity and variety of traffic on the water in front of Icy Strait Point.

    This gory-looking salmon processing line is all plastic. Someone with a love of horror films must have had fun creating this replica!

    The beach and forest walks around Icy Strait Point offer some wonderful views, and see little use.

    The museum section of the facility shows how the cannery used to look.

    A new addition this week is the presentation of a souvenir coin to each visitor as they leave. Comments I heard back on the ship always included impressions of the genuine small-town friendliness of the people.

    Cape Spencer, where Cross Sound meets the Gulf of Alaska. Just to the left of centre is the Cape Spencer Lighthouse, one of the most remote in North America. This photo was taken at 8:10 p.m.

    I was up at 05:30 to enjoy the mountain panoramas as we approached Yakutat Bay, at the head of which is the Hubbard Glacier.

    At 06:20 we met the boat carrying 3 Tlingit Indians from Yakutat - they would be our guides for the morning at Hubbard Glacier.

    To get an idea of the scope of the glaciers in the region we were sailing into, have a look at this map of the Hubbard Glacier area.

    Two tenders and the rescue boat were launched once we reached the glacier. There was a lot of discussion about who might have gotten that choice ride - we found out that it was crew members who had won a draw. Having the boats gave some of my photos an excellent scale to judge just how large the glacier is.

    Hubbard is the most active glacier in North America, but even our guides had never seen calving like we had. The photos below need little explanation - just imagine the sound and power of the ice and the immense waves!

    The captain must have just about had a heart attack when he saw this "tsunami" headed towards 100 members of his crew! He called the boats back in, but said later that the crew members thought it was fabulous ride - I'd sure love to see their photos!




    Just before reaching the sea, the Turner and Haenke Glaciers join so they appear to be a single glacier. The Turner is on the left, Haenke on the right. The black stripes on the Turner are medial moraines caused by several glaciers meeting higher up in the mountains to form the Turner, while the Haenke has no medial moraines as it has no tributaries.

    Enjoying a late breakfast at the back of the Windjammer as we pulled away from Hubbard Glacier.

    Some of the impressive peaks behind Hubbard.

To Page 4: Seward - Whitehorse