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Part 4 - Icy Strait Point

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Part 4 - Icy Strait Point
 

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Icy Strait Point is a former salmon cannery near the village of Hoonah. From the adjacent mountain, a zip line goes down and is said to be one of the longest of its kind. The small village of Hoonah itself doesn’t even count 800 inhabitants who live from tourism, fishing and the timber industry.

Here we had booked a whale watching tour with Captain Colleen (www.icystraitwhaleadventures.com), independently from RCCL. We liked the fact that this tour would only take small groups, which proved to be great. Later in the evening, other passengers told of the tours they had booked with the cruise line, where they felt like being in a group of 100. And indeed, the boat used for that excursion which lay in Icy strait Point was quite large.

In preparation of the tour, Captain Colleen had asked us to take the earliest tender boat and to meet as early as possible at the parking lot in front of the shops. We did as we were told, and shortly after anchoring we sat in the first tender boat. The boat hadn’t quite left the Radiance, when a cheer could be heard throughout the boat. Right next to us the back of a humpback whale had appeared from the water, and seconds later we saw the tail of the animal. Since I hadn’t expected anything like this, my camera was still in the bag, but we were thrilled by this start of the day.

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The drive from the pier to Hoonah didn’t even take 5 minutes. This was where our very personable Captain Colleen presented us her two boats.

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We were with her on the „Monkey“, from where we had a view of the huge city of Hoonah.

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After a short safety briefing and general explanations we took off. Together we were on the look-out for whales.

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After a rapid, roughly 20-minute ride, Captain Colleen headed directly for a whale whose spout we could see at the horizon. Unfortunately, we only got to see this whale’s back once or twice again before he disappeared. Needless to say that we were already very pleased with this.

One of the other four guests asked Captain Colleen whether you’d ever get to see a breaching whale. Colleen smiled and explained that this was very rare. “And if there is one, you are probably on the other side of the boat, and everybody yells ‘Did you see that?!’, and you just think ‘No, don’t rub it in’...”, she added charmingly.

Shortly after that she got news on the radio that another boat had spotted a whale. So we headed for the location it had indicated. From a distance we could make out the fin of a whale coming up and saw spray splashing up.

We had no idea what this whale had in store for us. We had hardly arrived when he waved his fin at us, turned around near the surface and seemed to be having a lot of fun.

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In no time, all of us were totally excited. The whale just wouldn’t stop. He didn’t dive off, which is where you’d get the typical photos of a whale’s tail, but he waved his fin, beat it on the water, turned around and “waved” at us with his lateral fin. Maybe the following photos can convey the dynamics of his flaps of the fin.

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Then he dived off and was gone for a few minutes. At first we thought that was it...
And then something incredible happened...

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The whale breached right in front of us. Just as if tons of weight were really nothing at all – and he did it again and again.

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These were moments were I was actually glad that I could hide behind my camera.
I had tears running down my face – tears of joy, tears of awe ... and tears because at that moment I had to think of how many of these wonderful and amazing animals are pointlessly slaughtered.

The following sequence of photos give an idea of the huge mass and, at the same time, the grace and elegance of the animal.

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This spectacle lasted for over half an hour. Half an hour which I’ll never forget in my life.

After that the whale leisurely swam at the surface towards Hoonah. Not without turning around from time to time and beating his chest fin on the water. Whenever he exhaled, the sound we heard went right underneath our skin. In the video you can hear it quite well towards the end.

 

 

On our way back I took the following photo of the Radiance. Only when I looked at it in the evening did I realize that it also showed the back of another whale behind the ship on the right.

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After this extraordinary experience we left the boat in Hoonah, thanked Captain Colleen for this exceptional excursion and decided to walk the way back to the ship enjoying the sights along the way.

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When we sailed away from Icy Strait Point the sky cleared up and we got to enjoy a beautifuk sunset. What a day!!!

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