Our day in Hoonah started out in pea-soup fog. The fog horn sounded regularly as we dropped anchor in Port Frederick. The tenders puttered off into the fog heading in faith toward Icy Strait Point. Directly overhead there was a hint of blue indicating the prospect of a better day. After hours of laboring under the drone of the fog horn, the fog, just as Carl Sandberg’s described it on little cat’s feet, rolled back revealing a truly glorious, crisp, early-fall day. It was breathtaking. From the ship to the north you could see across Icy Strait toward the Chilkat Mountains; to the west every peak on the Fairweather Range was identifiable. It seemed as though you could not ask for more.
As planned I was to go to the bridge to watch for whales. Just as we pulled the anchor and headed out of the bay we were escorted by four humpback whales. They rose and dove gracefully as if in a choreographed farewell. Off in the distance was the Diamond Princess, it was heading east. The pilot on-board radioed to our pilot alerting him that they had seen lots of whales. This is a common courtesy to let the guests on other ships enjoy what they had seen, so after hearing this, I passed on the word to our guests. In the back of my mind I wondered if the little farewell delegation we had just seen was what the pilot was referencing.
Out on Icy Strait we continued to the west. Far, far off in the distance I saw several cottonball-esque clouds on the horizon; these “clouds” were too big and too far away to the the blow of whales. I grabbed binoculars. I could not believe my eyes. The horizon was filled with blow after blow of whales and the cottonbal-esque clouds were the splashes of whales breaching everywhere - again and again. Their bodies silhouetted again the setting sun looked like jumping beans popping up out of the water. It was insane! I was so excited I asked Cruise Director Ray Solaire to make a general announcement throughout the entire ship - this could not be missed!
As we continued to approach the area known as Point Adolphus it was evident there were over one hundred whales. They were on all sides of the ship. Thanks to ray’s announcement the decks and balconies were filled with guests and crew armed and ready with cameras and binoculars. Amazingly the advancing ship did not bother the whales, they carried-on as though we were not there. Clusters of up to twenty-five whales rose to the surface in intervals, their blow looking like smokestacks of an industrial city. I stopped trying to make comment as there were too many whales to keep up with. Whales were breaching so close to the ship the folds in their throats were clearly visible as were the knobs on their pectoral fins.
We continued to be surrounded by the whales for well over two hours. I finally called it quits when there were “only” six whales around the ship. I was exhausted. In 23 years I have never seen anything like it. When someone asks,”being out here on the ship for so long, does it ever get old?” My answer is always, “no”, exactly because of days like today.