After our Mount Hood, Oregon, family-related holiday in late July and early August 2019, Ann and I took off for the wilds of Southeast Alaska on a trip with Bluewater Adventures. This was our second trip with them.
Last year, Bluewater took us to some of the best views of Northern Vancouver Island, and its wildlife inhabitants, by way of Johnstone Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound. Our vessel for that expedition was the “S/V Island Roamer” a 68’ sailing/powerboat.
We were then looking for Orcas and we found plenty of them to admire. They are the ocean’s greatest predator and usually swim in a team. To find out more about the Orca species and the ongoing preservation efforts, go to: www.orcalab.org.
For this year’s journey, we headed further north and started out on August 6th in the seaport town of Petersburg, Alaska. It’s a fishing village, with a quaint museum. It’s known by the locals as “Little Norway” because most of the early European immigrants to Petersburg were from Scandinavia. They fished and worked in its canneries. The indigenous people of the area are called the “Tingit.”
In order to get to Petersburg, however, we had to make three plane trips in one day! We started early in the morning in Portland, Oregon. First, we flew up to Seattle, Washington. From there, we took a two-hour flight to Alaska’s capital city, Juneau. From there, it was only a short fifty-minute trip to finish up in Petersburg.
(I need to mention that my late brother, Richard, served as a seaman first class, in the ‘50s, on the “USS Juneau, CL-119.” Bless his memory.)
A problem showed up on August 6th, it was a foggy traveling day in the northwest! All three of our planes were late, however, so we got the benefit of that oddity. We wisely planned a rest day on August 7th in Petersburg, giving us a chance to catch our breath from our multi-flight day and to take in some of the local sites.
As the fates would have it, the “Island Roamer” was again the vessel for our tour which began on August 8th. We boarded her around 11am, met its captain, along with the first mate, the second mate, (who also served as its “Naturalist,”) and the cook. Not long after that, we were introduced to the other eight passengers on the vessel.
Our naturalist, Bruce Whittington, is also an author of a very informative book, “Alaska Cruise: Wildlife Watch.” The book covers the waterfront on just about any possible topic of interest from the geology and climate of Southeast Alaska to the exotic birdlife. We were fortunate to get the gist of all that wisdom directly from Whittington himself on our exciting nine-day journey.
We soon took off heading north into Frederick Sound. It wasn’t long before we began spotting humpback whales. We were told that this area is a “prime whale territory.” That prediction turned out to truly prophetic as I began taking tons of photos. As we moved into Admiral Island, a few brown bears were spotted along the shoreline.
If you like sea kayaking, this was the trip for you. Every day, the opportunity was presented to explore the protected waters of Frederick Sound, along with its many tributaries. Even on some mornings where the fog was kind of dense, some of the passengers indulged in their favorite water sport.
On three separate days, we visited glaciers — getting up close, too, by boarding one of the ship’s two Zodiacs. They are the southernmost tidewater glaciers in Alaska. Sadly, all the glaciers we got close to are receding. The one known as “Le Conte Glacier” by as much as a mile and a half in the “last fifteen years.” Blame global warming!
I spotted a huge iceberg floating away from one of the glaciers. On some of the ice, the seals and birds were making themselves comfortable. We did get a chance to also view some now-abandoned Native American villages. Along the way, I spotted about three or four harbor seals making themselves at home on a buoy. Cute, indeed!
Our vessel, one morning, took up past the islands, Etolin and Wrangle, as we made our way into Anan Bay. Its creek has the largest run of pink salmon in all of Southeast Alaska. We disembarked at “Anan Creek,” to take a one-mile walk through the forest to get a closer look at the salmon. Much to our good fortune, a black bear, and a bald eagle showed up. They were both looking for their lunch. A peregrine falcon was also spotted hovering around the creek.
On another day, we visited the village of Ketchikan. In is heyday, back in the 1800s, it was known as the “Salmon Capital of the World.” Its museum was a real treat containing a lot on the fishing history of the town and of its earliest inhabitants — the Native Americans.
On almost every day, we continued to see plenty of blue water, coastlines, waterfalls, huge passenger liners, billy coats and snow-capped mountains, which were simply amazing. One morning, I spotted a huge flock of birds of every description: eagles, swans, ducks, and mallards feeding off the salmon. In the evening, the sunsets were usually dazzling. Weather-wise we couldn’t have been luckier – didn’t feel a drop of rain.
On August 9th, on our final day, we headed to Prince Rupert, British Columbia. Our nine-day odyssey was complete. Hats off to our first-rate captain and crew, including our talented cook. I’m giving “Bluewater Adventures,” the sponsor of our fulfilling, captivating excursion, five stars, and the highest recommendation.
More of my photos can be found on my Facebook page.
(Note: All photos ©Bill Hughes, 2019.)
Bill Hughes is a native of Baltimore. He’s an attorney, author, professional actor and hobbyist photographer. In his salad days, he worked on the docks as a longshoreman. Bill also played on three championship soccer teams: sandlot with Jules Morstein; high school at Calvert Hall; and college at the University of Baltimore.