Glacier Bay, July 14-20, 2011 Photo Tour with Don Paulson
Our trip started in Hoonah, a small native fishing town a short flight from Juneau. Within minutes of leaving the harbor we spotted our first humpback whale, with several more sightings on our way to Glacier Bay National Park. One large whale swam under the boat, its huge tail visible under the water.
But with avid birders and bird photographers aboard, our main focus turned to the abundant population of sea birds. Captain Ronn identified each species for us while keeping the boat in good position for photography. Large flocks of red-necked phalaropes took to the air in beautifully choreographed motion. We drifted by limestone cliffs with black-legged kittiwakes nesting on every available ledge. I was lucky enough to photograph a tufted puffin with several fish in its bill.
The following day we negotiated our way through a maze of ice bergs in the Zodiac to get a close-up view of a tidal glacier, its shear face towing above the saltwater. Being able to photograph the amazing shapes and colors of the ice bergs from the Zodiac was a big bonus.
Captain Ronn led us on a walk through a muskeg bog with carnivorous plants, drifts of orchids and contorted pines that would honor any bonsai garden. We paddled kayaks through a shallow bay to a seldom visited meadow filled with wildflowers. That evening’s desert was topped with wild strawberries.
Our visit to the Margarie Glacier required that I be stationed on the bow with a long pole to push away chunks of ice as we slowly worked our way toward the glacier. As I was pushing a piece of ice away from the bow of the boat, a large orca whale surfaced with a loud exhaling of breath. It was so close I could have touched it with the pole.
We spotted a lone wolf and a few brown bears from the boat. Sea otters were quite numerous but hard to photograph up close because they quickly shy away. Sea lions weren’t the least bit shy. In fact dozens frolicked and played alongside the boat while we took photos.
Our memorable trip came to a close with a breaching whale that came completely out of the water and a serene sunset with shafts of light streaming through a golden mist.