Back on the Bird and One Week Down

Last Sunday I found myself back on a plane at 6:00 in the morning (after spending 4 1/2 hours on a mountain bike the day before for the Tour D’ Valley), heading back to Alaska for yet another contract – this time aboard the National Geographic Sea Bird. The majority of my time working for Lindblad has been on the Sea Lion, so it was nice to switch it up a bit. The two ships are pretty much identical except for a few disparities that are slightly vexing. For example: the latches that keep the cabinets closed are located inside the cabinet door and to open the cabinets, you stick a finger through a hole and press down on the latch. On the Sea Lion the latches are located on the right and on the Sea Bird, they’re located on the left – causing a lot of fumbling and groping around. The items inside the cabinets are also not in the same places on each ship, so in order to find something, I have to open every single door.

After only a two week break, I wasn’t really ready to get back to the ship, but once I stepped on board and saw people I knew, it felt like home again. The two trips I’m on for aren’t normal trips, either. They’re both photo expeditions, which means we have National Geographic photographers on staff and the itinerary and daily activities are based around photo opportunities and learning about how to take better pictures. Of course, I forgot my camera at home.

This past week went really well. The guests were awesome and we had some amazing wildlife sightings. Early in the morning (5:30ish) in Glacier Bay we visited the whale carcass that has been slowly decomposing since April and were rewarded with five brown bears and seven wolves feeding on the humpback remains. Two of the bears were wrestling in the water – splashing water in each others faces and battling with their enormous paws. The wolves were pretty elusive, but we did get a good look at an adult and her cubs as they trotted along the forest edge. I missed my camera, but it was kind of nice to just be able to sit and watch without worrying about getting the perfect shot.

Yesterday was just as amazing. We were at Iyokeen Cove for hiking and kayaking, but when we reached shore to help unload the kayaks, our bosun announced that the pod of humpbacks we had spotted from the ship were bubble-net feeding – i.e. big photographic opportunity. Bubble-net feeding is a cooperative feeding behavior. The pod of whales will dive beneath a school of herring and one whale will swim in a circle and blow bubbles underneath the fish. When the bubbles rise, they form a net around the school and scare the fish into a tight ball. The whales then come up through the bubble net with their mouths wide open to catch the fish.  Our expedition leader decided to still offer shore activities, but about half the guests opted to remain on board to get a better look at the feeding humpbacks. I was in a kayak and if I put my ear down close to the bottom of the boat, I could hear the whales trumpet as they formed their bubble-net. It was amazing.

After everyone was back on the ship, we continued to follow the whales and watched them surface again and again in their bubble-net formation. We could tell where they were going to come up because the birds would flock to that area in hopes of snagging a lone herring. I’ve always wondered how many birds accidently get eaten… Once the bubble nets formed about 15-20 feet from the ship and when the whales came up they were so close that you could actually see the individual fibers in their baleen. Most of the guests had such long lenses that they couldn’t capture it. After, then whales swam right beneath the bow and we caught a whiff of their nasty smelling blow.

Although I didn’t take any pictures, everybody else did, so on the last night the photo staff put together a slide show of everyone’s five best images. I haven’t figured out how to upload it yet, but I’ll keep trying!


One Response

  1. Nice blog, Becks! That bubble fishing sounds so awesome! Looking forward to seeing some pictures. Good to talk to you a little bit ago, though it was hard to hear you with the wind blowing. Two more weeks and you’re off the boat for a while! Hope you get to see some more spectacular wildlife, though I can’t imagine what there is left to see…you’ve seen so much! I’d love to get a look at those wolves. Post them if you can.
    Love you!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: