Alaska

6/5: A Rainy Day in Idaho

Lou confirmed we were going to be in Idaho Inlet for the morning, then headed to Icy Strait later in the afternoon.  We were still moving at 5am, and the weather didn’t look too promising.

Our agenda for today included just one activity.  As usual, we picked the Skiff Tour (predictably boring, I know).  I had considered switching to one of the hikes, but thought better of it.  Good thing – today one of the groups got stuck by a tidal change and had to ford a waist-high stream.  We probably wouldn’t have enjoyed that.

Here are a couple more photos as we cruised to our anchorage:

Cinnamon French Toast was a good start to what was going to be a rainy day.  I think Lou slept in this morning – I know he decided to skip the Skiff Tour, having had too much fun the previous day.  I was excited about today’s tour.  While waiting, we heard the guides talking on the two-way radios about seeing three bears along the shoreline.

Two groups were doing a serious kayak paddle and hiking trip today.  They took a boxed lunch with them, and after kayaking to some distant point on shore, they further punished themselves by hiking in the rain.  The plan was for us to pick them up on our way to Icy Strait after lunch.

Finally into the Skiff Tour, and we’d heard the bears were still out there.  Here is Indy, our guide, looking for the bears:

On the way to the bear hunt, we saw both an otter and a curious harbor seal – not sure if the photos show it, but it was raining now…

Indy spots one of the rumored bears:

That’s not a very good photo, is it?  I wasn’t worried, we were planning to get much closer (but still maintain a safe distance and not disturb the bears).

Ker Plunk !!!  Uh Oh !!!  We hit something out in the middle of the small cove – don’t know whether it was a rock or a tree root, but that put the kabosh on trying to navigate any closer to the bears.  Oh well, time to go back to the ship and dry off.

After lunch, we were cruising out of Idaho Inlet.  We passed some kayaks on the shore … hope nobody got lost.

It was close to 2pm when we spotted some wet, but apparently happy, kayakers hitching a ride.  Someone (one of their spouses, I believe) suggested taking a vote to see if we should pick them up or not, but consensus was they deserved a ride after all their hard work.

We saw more otters as we cruised towards Icy Strait – the waterway was not too wide, so it was easier to spot the otters:

Thar She Blows !!!  At 4:30pm, we saw our first humpbacks.  It was still raining, but not too much – not enough to keep the serious whale watchers inside, at least.

We had a good show for the next 10-15 minutes as there were several humpbacks diving near the shore.  And then, I saw something just a little bit different.   This humpback wasn’t diving; he was slapping his fin – also called a peck slap.  I’ve read this can be a form of communication.

I may just be easily amused, but this made me happy – we’d now seen tail slapping and fin slapping.  And then there was that breach we almost saw last week …

Just five minutes after the fin slapper, we had a humpback come fairly close to the ship.  While there are separation distances you must maintain when watching the whales (and other wildlife), the whales don’t always follow the rules.  This one did the classic gather up and dive routine. We’d seen this before – many times.  But, this one gave us the best look at the pattern on the underside of its fluke; like our finger prints, the fluke pattern is unique to each humpback whale and allows researchers to identify them:

Less than five minutes after the fluke display, we heard a cry for “Orcas!”  They were in front of the ship – not close, but we could see them with a lot of zoom. As we got closer, we could see there were at least 5, maybe 6.  The sea lions slumbering on the buoy didn’t seem in the least concerned as the killer whales circled them.

Lou captured photo of the little one, when he popped out of the water for just a second:

More Orcas:

Not bad for a rainy day that didn’t start out too promising.  I put the camera down and took a break for a while – Lou enjoys wildlife photography, but he confessed to me later that he found the whales on the boring side: “They come up, they go down … over and over again.”  He was a good sport, and did pop out every so often to see what was happening.  We heard we were going to hang around Icy Strait into the evening, so there might be more action later on.

As we prepared to go in for cocktail hour and dinner, the whales had other ideas. It turned out to be a busy evening in Icy Straight – see the next post for more whale action.

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