Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Alaskan Cruise (Tuesday Glaciers)

After we got done whale watching, James and I went out to the Mendenhall Glacier. There is a great little visitors center there that explained a lot about the glacier. Learning about the beautiful things you see is always a great way to appreciate them a little more.

Notice the green water. There is so much fine silt in the water that it changes to that eerie green.

Close up of a recently calved part of the glacier. The deep blue comes from the compacted ice. It's so dense that there is no air left in ice crystals and therefore reflects a different color than most ice.

Glacial ice. Notice how fractured the crystals look.

Striations left in the rock from the glacier.

Salmon spawning had just begun when we got to Alaska, so in Juneau, we could actually see salmon in the creeks. I wanted to go fishing sooooo badly.

We had to board the ship in the early afternoon so we could sail up the Tracy Arm to see the Sawyer Glacier. The Tracy Arm is about a mile wide and "S" curves all the way to the glacier. It seemed crazy to take the ship down such a narrow arm, but the scenery was so magnificent that I thoroughly enjoyed it.

When we started down the Tracy Arm, James and I found a nice place on an upper deck to pull up a lounge-chair and relax the whole trip. I took my knitting up and thought I'd just enjoy the day relaxing and taking it all in. That totally didn't work. Within an hour every person on the ship had gathered to our spot. So we gave up on the relaxing, found a place near the railing, and enjoyed the scenery while packed like sardines.

Again, notice how green the silt even makes the ocean.

The captain got on his loud speaker and informed us that because the weather was so great, he was able to get closer to the glacier than he's ever been in the five years he's been sailing with Norwegian. He then proceeded to turn the whole ship around on a dime. I don't think the center of the ship moved more than 10 feet as he pivoted the ship in a tight circle.

The rest of our day was spent sailing out of the Tracy Arm and then hitting the open sea on our way to Skagway.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Alaskan Cruise (Tuesday)

Tuesday morning we woke up in Juneau and headed off the ship for a day of whale watching. Along the way, we saw a ton of bald eagles.

Our whale watching trip was the first of the day, so the guides didn't exactly know where the whales were hiding, so we ended up just boating around a bit looking at the scenery and other wildlife for a while.

We found harbor seals sunning themselves on an island.

We also saw sea lions warming themselves on a buoy. The one in the water kept trying to jump up on the buoy with the others and failed for about 15 minutes straight.

Finally we found a group of humpback wales.

They never fully came out of the water, but we did get some good shots of their "blow."

And some awesome pictures of their flukes.

Best of all, one came within about 50 yards of our boat. It was crazy to see that huge animal so close.

All in all, we saw six or seven different humpbacks in the couple of hours we were whale watching.I've always thought that only weird people went whale watching. It was never anything that appealed to me, but after seeing them in the ocean, I fell in love with it and would absolutely go again.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Alaskan Cruise (Monday)

Monday morning we disembarked in Ketchikan, Alaska. James and I had signed up to take the Misty Fjords sightseeing trip. Once more, I have to say, it was amazing.

As we were leaving Ketchikan, we saw a pod of Orca Whales. Evidently, Orcas had been absent from Ketchikan for several weeks due to a red tide, so the guides were all really excited to see the whales and the tourists were just plain excited to see whales period.

The fjords themselves were magnificent. Being a desert dweller and now a Midwesterner, I've never seen how a glacier can carve a landscape. These fjords rise out of the ocean to 2,000 feet and plunge another 1,000 under the water.

The major landmark in the Misty Fjords is New Eddystone Rock. Somehow this basalt formation escaped being worn down by the glaciers.

It was also during this trip that we discovered our camera was only taking what pictures it wanted to and was saving some pictures like this:

Sadly, we don't have all the pictures we took in the first three days of the cruise. We think we had a bum SD card. Luckily, we had a spare on the ship.

We were able to walk around Ketchikan for a couple of hours before we boarded this ship. Alas, no pictures turned out from the town. Not even the one of the Sam McGee Store. It's a shame.

Once we got back to the ship, we ate dinner (of course) and just relaxed while watching the sunset.

Can you tell that these clouds were my favorite scenery in the trip?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Alaska Cruise (Sunday)

After staying up way too late on Saturday, trying to catch the stars, James and I got up about 5:30 in order to see the inside passage. The views were spectacular. Everywhere we looked, there was a new breathtaking scene. We didn't know it yet, but that turned out to be the theme of our trip. So much beauty that we could hardly take it all in.

One funny note about taking our morning pictures, James is the one that kept getting cold and wanting to run inside to warm up. Usually, I'm the one super sensitive to cold, but I was loving it.

By about 9:00 am, we were exhausted again and took a nap in our tiny stateroom.

Since this was an at sea day, we spent the rest of the day, lazing about, reading, eating, and just enjoying relaxing on the ocean.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Alaska Cruise (Saturday)

I'm finally getting around to blogging about the vacation we took from July 24th through the 31st. I think it's been a bit daunting to try and start. There's just so much to write about. We had an amazing time cruising up to Alaska and enjoying the amazing scenery that the inside passage and southern Alaska. Over the next few days, I'll get the whole thing up.

We boarded the ship in Seattle on the 24th and immediately did what EVERYONE else did and found food. Looking at people (us probably included) you'd think this was the only meal they'd get on board. Everyone's plates were just so full.

After we ate, attended the mandatory emergency briefing, and were allowed into our staterooms, we unpacked and then set about the ship taking photos and getting a lay of the land. Most of the following pictures came from just outside Seattle.

Last look at Mt. Rainier from the back of the ship.

We watched the sunset and tried to stay up to watch all the stars come up, but we'd been up so long that by 10:30, we were completely tuckered out and turned in for the night.