Leaping humpback whales, pods of orcas, grizzly bear, seals and icebergs!!

Location: South Sawyer glacier, Tracy Arm, southeast Alaska
What a day we had today!!  Got underway at 6 a.m. from our anchorage at Admiralty Island for the run across to Tracy Arm. Our plan was to push through the ice to the head of the inlet to watch the south Sawyer glacier calving icebergs and to launch our divers and kayakers to play in and around the bergey bits of ice. We were just sitting down for one of Enrique’s great breakfasts when we spotted a large number of orcas spread out all the way across Frederick Sound. Wow, loads of killer whales everywhere.  We maintained our course for a while and tried to count the number of orcas but there were just too many and too spread apart. So we shut down the main engines, deployed our hydrophone and drifted along listening to the orcas singing and whistling.  What a great start to the day!! Headed off to the entrance to Tracy Arm when we got distracted and diverted by the 
beautiful sight of 2 humpback whales slowly swimming along the shoreline in flat calm mirror-like water. It’s vitally important that we don’t disturb these animals when we are observing them and our normal procedure is to maintain a steady course and speed and not approach closer than 100 metres.  Everything was tickety-boo when the whales “fluked” and did a long dive.  I wasn’t expecting what happened next.  Heck, in 10 Alaska seasons I have never seen what happened next!!  My heart just about jumped out of my chest when a full grown 100,000 pound 40 foot long humpback whale breached out of the water 75 feet off the bow of the Nautilus Explorer. Any closer and he would have splashed us. No idea where he came from or why he decided to jump right in front of us but it was a sight I will not forget.   It 
was such a surprise that only one of our guests got a photo of the leaping humpback but the image he captured was awesome and perfect with the whale almost fully out of the water, the sun glistening on the spray of seawater and a perfect reflection of the whale in the glassy calm water below him.  Hard to top that but we did our best when we spotted a grizzly bear on the beach 10 minutes later and drifted by for a closer look. It turned out to be a perfect “ice” day with loads of seals and pups hauled out on the icebergs, beautiful sunny skies later in the day (I have to confess to some rain in the morning) and lots of good fun in, on and around the bergey bits.  My only concern is whether we need to get a separate liquor licence when we are delivering beer, champagne and other assorted drinks via crew in kayaks to guests sitting on icebergs!!!   Captain Mike
Surface Conditions: Mix of surface weather, air temperature high 60’s, calm seas, calm winds.

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