June 15 we woke up in Juneau, Alaska’s capital (the largest and best known city is Anchorage, but Juneau is the official capital).
After breakfast, we attended a very rare screening of a 7 minute animation film called “Destino”, a little known collaboration between Salvador Dali and Walt Disney started in 1949, but unfinished until 2007 when Roy Disney decided to hire a team of French animators to complete it. It is a shame that the exclusive rights of the award-winning short film are given to Park West art galleries, who only give a copy of the DVD to customers who purchase one of the very expensive limited edition print sets.
Around noon we disembarked to go hiking up Mount Robert, and through Perseverance Trail. Apt name for a very perseverant couple. We walked through the most gorgeous forest for several hours, stopping only once at a cute creek bend with pure crystalline water. It was fairly warm, with the sun shining bright. But as we walked in front of an old gold mine entrance, the air coming out of it was colder than standing in front of a refrigerator with its door open!
We were back just in time to shower, change and board the St. Phillip catamaran to go on an evening humpback whale watching cruise. Although it was already 6:15pm, in the summer Alaska gets 18 hours of sunlight a day. The sun rises at 4am and does not set until 10pm.
In the 3 ½ hours that the expedition lasted, the Australian oceanographer onboard the catamaran explained many interesting facts about the humpback whales, while we looked though our binoculars trying to get a glimpse of a distant whale. Little did we know that minutes down the sailing, three whales started swimming next to us, and soon after, nine whales formed a ring and dove at the same time, blowing air bubbles as they came up, trapping the herring and krill in those bubbles, pushing them up, and gulping them as they rose out of the water in what is called “bubble net feeding”.
The excitement of everybody onboard was obvious, for this was a very rare event, that not that many people get to see. Our oceanographer could not believe how lucky we were. But it got better, since we saw that happening three times!!
The seagulls flying above the area where the bubble net feeding was about to happen and the herring trying to swim out of the water a second before the whales came out made it easier to spot and take pictures (sorry for my low quality pictures, I will get a pro camera next time) of this impressive feast.
Most people feel exhilarated after seeing a couple “sprays” or a “tail”. We were blown away after witnessing three bubble net feedings in a row!! This tour has been recommended by Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society. And I could not agree more.