July 27, 2016: We moored in Juneau this morning in the pouring rain and fog. Unfortunately for us, this is to be our longest day in port, and our first activity of the day is a sea kayaking excursion by which we are supposed to be able to see Mendenhall Glacier. Gritting our teeth, Jim and I bundle up, and set off. Our first (of many) pieces of bad news was that the kayaking firm’s equipment tent had collapsed in the rain, leaving our waterproof gear sitting in puddles and gravel, so putting them on actually guaranteed that we were wetter and dirtier than if we had just braved the rain! Then we put our kayaks in the water, and I remembered why it is that I have a one-man kayak at home: Jim and I are incapable of paddling a kayak together!!!!! After trading insults at each other for about 15 minutes, Jim’s back started spasming, so I had to take on ALL the paddling. All this time, the waves in the bay we were crossing kept getting higher and higher, and we started taking on water. Fortunately for all, this signaled the end of the excursion, and we all returned to shore without having caught a glimpse of Mendenhall Glacier. I think we can all agree that this was an epic FAILURE.
Wet and fairly discouraged, we returned to the ship, and showered to warm up. Feeling slightly more human, Jim and I located a seafood restaurant, and celebrated the survival of our marriage by having a yummy crab lunch!
However, there was still a hope to save the day. All of us signed up for a sunset (read: late afternoon) whale watching cruise. As the afternoon wore on, the rain finally began to lighten up, so it was only a small sprinkle by our 5:00 p.m. boarding time. We boarded the ship, set up our camera gear and motored off to find some whales.
Shortly thereafter, our captain saw a large collection of other boats collected just offshore and we joined the collection. Our hopes were immediately rewarded as we saw a collection of humpback whales all together! We followed them at a respective distance, and watched them feeding right off shore. Along the way, we also finally got a good view of Mendenhall glacier, and some sea lions on a buoy posed to get their picture taken.
Then we saw the whales do the most amazing thing — they formed into a circle and dove beneath the surface to get under a school of fish and drive it to the surface. As the whales are circling under the school of fish, one whale will emit noise/bursts of air, and then the circle of whales drive the fish up to the surface where they rise in unison a scoop up the fish. This behavior is called “bubble net feeding”, and apparently, it is very uncommon to get to see the whales actually doing it. As the fish school was boiling out of the water to avoid the whales, we could watch the sea birds diving in for their kill, and the whales emerging from the water with their mouths open wide. Wow! It was really cool!
Well satisfied with our adventure, we returned to the ship.