Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Juneau -- And a Whale Story

When we started on the road we had several things in mind that we wanted to do and after seven years we have added a few to do items to the list.  A new one is to visit every state capitol building.  We have missed a few along the way where we did not stop, so not being sure if we will ever return to Alaska, we decided we needed to go to Juneau and add the Alaska state capitol.  While that was the goal, the trip on the Fjord Express exceeded all expectations with the most fabulous whale story I have ever had the chance to tell. 
No, we were not sitting still, I even got to drive the boat.  I guess Captain George felt safe leaving it in my hands when he knew we were in over 1000 feet of water.
The Eldred Rock Lighthouse was built in the early 1900's.  It has been automated since 1973 and they are now looking for a buyer.  Even Nanc with her love of lighthouses is not interested in a house on a rock in the middle of the Lynn Canal in Alaska.
More Stellar sea lions.  We have seen them on every boat excursion we have taken.  This time one of them was putting on a show rolling and jumping out of the water. 
These ones where hanging out on a buoy.  We stopped and Captain George, who is trying to teach them to ring the bell, was not able to get them to cooperate on this trip.
Something a little different, an eagle overlooking a group of harbor seals.
Downtown Juneau is a compact area between the water and the mountains.  While it is geared to the tourist, it has all the capital city offices related to the state and federal government you would see in any capital.
The houses extend up the side of the mountain directly above the downtown.  It reminded us a lot of Pittsburgh with a few long stairways going to the higher streets.
The public art is all about Alaskan heritage from the animals, to the natives, to the miners.
Ravens are everywhere.  This big guy was giving Nanc the eye.
The state capitol is one of the most nondescript of the capitols we have visited.  Unlike most capitols, you could not pick it out from any of the surrounding office buildings.  The work on the left side is to reinforce and earthquake proof the building while replacing over half the bricks that have been damaged.  
Even the forty seat House chamber was a small, low ceiling room unlike any of the grand chambers we have seen in other states.
The 49 star flag was only used a few months until Hawaii became the 50th state later that year, 1959.  The outline of the state is carved from a piece of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline.  The state seal and a drawing celebrating Alaska's diverse cultures and economy.  Like many of the capitol buildings we have visited, this one displayed artworks done by native Alaskan artists.  
They still have phone booths with real dial phones.  We did not see Clark Kent, but word is Super Sarah used them during her half term as governor.
The old St. Nicolas Russian Orthodox Church is undergoing a major rehabilitation.  
The land part of the tour also stopped at Mendenhall Glacier.  This is one of the easiest glaciers to get close to in the whole state.  We took the one mile trail to Nugget Falls and the bottom of the glacier.
We even had a close encounter with this black bear near the glacier.  Fortunately, we were on a raised walkway and the bear just casually walked right beneath us.  Some people on the tour got to see her catch a salmon, but we missed that. 
On the return trip we had the most spectacular whale watching experience ever.  There are only two pods of humpback whales that have ever been seen using a bubble net to capture food.
Thar she blows, at least seven whales are circling together as they prepare to dive. 
They are now diving.  When they are down they exhale and create a net of bubble to hold the food in place.
We have never seen this many whales together.
When their hump comes high out of the water you know you are going to see the fluke.
Three at one time.
Then they all pop out of the water together in a circle to eat the surrounded prey.  You can tell where they are going to come up by watching the gulls, but it still happens very quickly.
At this point they came up so close to the boat Captain George had to back up.  You can see the water being expelled through the baleen.
The closest one has its month wide open.
And then they do it all over again. Incredible!!!!
More whale's tails
Two diving and one getting ready.  This is without a doubt the most spectacular display of nature we have ever seen.  We got an unbelievably close up look at these magnificent animals doing something that few whales do and very few people ever see.  In a trip of so many highlights this has to be right at the top.
A perfect ending to a perfect day.  If you want a GREAT wildlife experience with a GREAT family run business, make sure you take the Fjord Express from Haines or Skagway to Juneau.  You will not be disappointed.


Sharon Del Rosario said...

Wow! What a whale experience! I've not only never seen anything like that, I've never heard or read about anyone else seeing it! You had a really special day I'm sure you'll remember forever.

Doing It On the Road(Part II) said...

What a whale tale!

Bobbie and Jim said...

We continue to enjoy reading your blog posts. So glad you are enjoying Alaska.

John and Lora said...


Chuck and Jan Moore said...

You really hit the Jackpot in so many ways. That is an amazing set of whale photos bubble netting! You got so close! We are cruising to Alaska & back in September. Your posts on Juneau & Skagway Have given us a wonderful preview. Hugs, J&C