Monday, September 12, 2011

Heading back to Maine

A whirlwind 8 days in Alaska, and i find myself sitting in the Seattle airport again, waiting for my flight back to Boston (via Chicago). The trip as a whole was fun, it was great to see Bob and Michelle and Jennifer again, and I did get to see my first Alaskan Bear, as well as got to enjoy a little of Juneau yesterday afternoon.

The cruise though was pretty much a bust - we managed to sample half our colonies, but that in itself was a miracle. Our first dive all three of us went in the water. We were expecting poor visibility because of the time of year (glacial melt tends to be murky), so had already planned to go in making sure we held onto each other until we got to a coral, then break off do what we needed to do, then rechain to head to the next one. Despite pretty good visibility to 15ft, a wall of silty blackness appeared at 32ft, making it impossible to see even past my elbow, and the reflectivity of the silt meant you couldn't read your gauges, no matter how close you had them pressed to your mask. Jen and I managed to stick together, but we lost Bob within 5 minutes and headed back to the surface.

The visibility improved a little over the few days, making it possible to at least read your gauges, but if you lost contact with the fjord wall or your buddy you were done. So we'd sample by heading to an exact depth, then moving hand over hand across the wall, hoping to bump into a coral colony, and hoping it was one of our tagged ones. Frustrating to say the least, and since both Bob and Jen said it was the worst they had ever experienced, and they have a lot of experience, i'm glad to say I hope never to have to dive like that again! To say it again, we were incredibly lucky to get the samples we did.

Some photos from the trip below. Barkley has apparently been having a ball with Amy, Peter, Stuart, Jackson & Farley all week, and i'm sure is not going to want to come home tomorrow. I can't wait to see her though, i've missed my fuzzy friend!

Heading out of Juneau super early on Wednesday morning. 

The Gastineaux Channel
We were lucky enough to see the humpbacks again - hundreds of them - in almost the same place as last year! 

My "lab" on the Steller - not quite as luxurious as previous boats, but none the less functional. 

The back deck of the Steller - we bring a lot of stuff! 

Entering Tracy Arm

Tracy Arm. 
The Steller, parked up by our sampling spot. 

One of the more important tasks of our Tracy Arm cruises - collecting the glacier ice for the evening gin and tonics....:0)

Getting ready to dive

Going in by the "Bullseye" - which is underwater, but we know where it is from that white mark on the wall. 

Lots of ice and icebergs this year - probably because of all the rain Juneau has had this summer. 

Iceberg. I love the variety of shapes and sizes of iceberg. Of course up here I have to remind myself to not look for penguins! 

Heading back out past the Tacu Inlet on our way back into Juneau. The weather was glorious for most of the trip - just one day of rain. 
The Herbert Glacier just north of Auke Bay. We unpacked (and repacked) like crazy on Sunday so we could have a little of the day to enjoy the sunny weather. Bob and I mountain biked out 8 miles on a great trail to this glacier and then sat and ate donuts (we were hoping for another bear sighting, but alas no). I haven't been on a mountain bike in a really really long time - but it was a lot of fun, and I managed to mostly keep up! 

Sunday ended with a few beers on the beach overlooking the channel. The mountains in view there are the eastern side of Glacier Bay National Park. If you could cross over those mountains you'd be smack bang in the eastern arm of the park. Stunning! 
A beautiful day today meant some great views from the plane. Down below on the other side of the channel there is Juneau. 

And that is Tracy Arm fjord, where we were just two days ago. Just as beautiful as on the water, and at some times of the year, in the water! 

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