A great 8 hour tour in Katmai Fjord National Park out of Seward. Heading to the N W Glacier the captain saw several boats around a location where a group of Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) were Bubble-net feeding in Resurrection Bay.
Humpback whales only feed for six months of the year while they are in the rich seas of Alaska and in particular the Kenai Fjords National Park. For the other six months of a year they go south to warmer waters in order to focus on breeding. In fact once a calf is born the mother feeds it with her rich milk and will not eat herself until she is back in Alaskan waters.
What is Bubble-net Feeding?
Bubble-net feeding is a hunting strategy requiring close cooperation of the whales in a group for a mass feeding. In the group of whales one calls for the dive. As a group they dive well below a shoal of fish. Another of the group calls for the bubbles. The whales blow bubbles from their blowholes and swim in decreasing circles. The fish are trapped in the centre of the circles and are forced up to the surface by the wall of bubbles and the loud noise made by the bubbles. Yet another whale calls for the feed move whereby the whales swim to the surface in the centre of their bubble-net, with their mouths wide open, catching tons of fish.
Our captain told us to watch the birds. The circling gulls are the first to see where the bubbles are coming to the surface, which tells us where the whales will break surface. He was concerned that the number of boats might be causing stress for the whales so he moved us on to the glacier and planned to revisit the whales on our return. Luckily for us this enabled us to witness a magnificent glacier calving (another blog will deal with that). If we had stayed with the bubble-net feeding we would have missed this.
So this was our return to the Humpback whales and their bubble feeding. This was a particularly inclement and grey day so I have converted the image to black and white in order to add some contrast and maybe historic feel to the image.
Gear: Nikon Z 8, Nikkor Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S, Nikkor Z TD-1.4x, Delkin Digital Film
After we spent 5 months in Alaska in 2016, we knew we had to come back. It was so incredible. Finally on May 8, 2023 we headed north from Chilliwack, British Columbia to Haines, Alaska, arriving on May 12, 2023. It feels so good to be back. This first leg of our summer journey took us 5 days (1,873 miles) through some of the most incredible scenery and wildlife – with overnight stops at Quesnel BC, Dawson Creek BC, Toad River BC, and Little Atlin Lake, YT.
Day 1 to Quesnel gave us beautiful and varied scenery along the Fraser and Thompson Rivers on mostly 2 lane highways with well positioned passing lanes. Only minor delays around a few flooded areas and some smoke and haze from the wildfires burning in Alberta. (Sorry about the bugs on the windscreen – we do clean at the end of each day)
Day 2 to Dawson Creek was sunny but the smoke haze continued to build which you can see in some of the photos. We got to see the first of the wildlife – Elk, Mule Deer and nesting Trumpeter Swans but not close enough to photograph.
Day 3 from Mile 0 of the Alaska Highway to Mile 422 at Toad River, BC was beautiful, warm and sunny. Judging by the leaves on the Aspen trees we moved in and out of spring several times. So much more wildlife today including Mule Deer, Black Bear, Caribou, Big Horn Sheep, Beaver and a variety of birds. Encountered some very BIG mosquitoes – fortunately not all were biting yet.
Day 4 to Little Atlin Lake near Jake’s Corner, YT was our longest day of driving – 10 hours. Toad River to Liard is a gorgeous section. The wildlife put on quite a show for us with multiple sightings of most – Big Horn Sheep, Stone Sheep, Porcupine, Caribou, Moose, Black Bear, Wood Bison. The Watson Lake Signpost Forest (Mile 635), started in 1942, has certainly grown since we last saw it.
Day 5 of our drive to Haines, Alaska was from Little Atlin Lake, YT through Haines Junction, YT to the Oceanside RV Campground on the water in Haines. We stopped in Whitehorse at Mac’s Fireweed Books on Main St. for a copy of The Milepost (2023) as we forgot ours and this was the first place that had it in stock since we crossed into Canada in April. Lesson learned: never be without Milepost. What amazing snow capped mountains to Haines Junction and then Haines – one of the most beautiful drives on the continent. Kluane National Park and Reserve is majestic. Fewer bugs on the windscreen, probably because of the intermittent rain.
Oceanside RV Park is our new home, right on the shores of the Lynn Canal, North America’s longest fjord. We have amazing ocean and mountain views right out of our windscreen. Some mornings we wake up to humpback whales and thousands of scoters diving for mussels. Aa few Bald Eagles are always perched nearby. And local fisherman sell us their fresh catches.
The COVID delayed Paris to Prague River Cruise with Viking eventually happened. On a guided tour of Bamberg in Germany the guide pointed out these Stolpersteins. I must confess the concept of the Stolperstein and the research and caring that must have taken place, so long after the events I found really moving. Pulled at my heart strings.
A Stolperstein is a concrete cube with a brass plate that is placed in the pavement outside of the last residence or workplace that was freely chosen by the person before they fell victim to the Nazi terrors. Their name, date of birth, deportation, destination and date of their death, where known, are inscribed by hand into the brass plate.
The Stolperstein project was created by a German artist, Gunter Demming in 1992. The majority of the Stolpersteins commemorate Jewish victims of the Holocaust, but they also commemorate other peoples who were sent to the prison and extermination camps.
This distributed memorial is primarily a “grassroots” project and the research is often performed by schoolchildren and their teachers or residents of a particular street. In this way the victims names are remembered and never to be forgotten.
To date over 75,000 Stolperstein have been installed in Germany, Austria, Italy, France, The Netherlands, The Czech Republic and Hungary – other countries occupied by Nazi Germany.
Each Stolperstein is still hand made to prevent the process from becoming anonymous.
The Shetland Islands are the most northerly part of Scotland, and the windiest. The Shetland pony originated in the Shetland Islands and has lived there for more than 4000 years. They are the smallest of the pony breeds found in the UK but the most immediately recognizable of all equine breeds. They are easily tamed, wonderfully hardy, sagacious and surefooted.
They are the most wonderful example of adaptation to the environment and of natural selection. Their small size, thick double layered winter coat, neat ears and protective tails, manes and forelocks all combine to produce a pony of incredible hardiness to withstand the worst of Shetland’s winter storms and able to find food and shelter in heath and rocky strewn hills in the windiest part of the UK. So the scarcity of food, the need to conserve heat in spite of the wind and the effects of being an isolated population have combined to ensure that the smaller, more compact ponies have survived the best.
As we learned when visiting a wild horse ranch in Wyoming a few years ago, wild horses rely on mutual grooming for a variety of beneficial reasons. And so do Shetland ponies, with the young ones imitating their elders.
Throughout their history they have been used for transport and carrying heavy loads. They can pull up to twice their weight; most horses can pull less than 30% their weight. In the past when their owners did not have enough food to feed them, they were marked for ownership and set loose to run wild. Nowadays all ponies are chipped for ownership.