Friday 8th May
Woke at 7am and had a decadent breakfast on the rear deck.
We managed to fill in our day doing mostly walking from deck to deck and eating at appropriate times.
We will not starve on this trip.
The scenery changed overnight.
We were passing through the Inside Passage, the mainland and islands were often close to us and many more mountains are coated in snow. A USA Pilot Boat cruised beside us for an hour or so as we passed through the narrowest part of the passage. We sighted lots of sea birds, small dolphins and in the distance, always in the distance, whales. The sea birds seemed to be in groups of hundreds and hundreds of groups as we progressed. Always they were flying over or sitting on the water above what seemed to be something black just below the surface. Some were sitting on floating logs. I could never quite see what was below the surface. As the day ticked away and the mainland and islands receded, almost all the mountains are now covered in snow. From this latitude north we may be able to see the northern lights.
By nightfall the sky was overcast and heralding rain.
After a wonderful dinner we went to the Stardust Theatre and saw a nostalgic ” swing” musical.
Our ship continues to cruise at a leisurely 26 knots.
Bed was midnight.
Saturday 9th May
Frank…awake at 5am…again.
Heavy mist and low lying cloud obscured much of the view but we are now in a narrower passage between mainland and islands. The sun burst through the clouds for a few minuters to brighten the snow capped mountains with rivulets running down the slopes towards the sea.
Naturally breakfast was overwhelming with the variety and volume of food choices.
There is a jogging track on deck 13 and a walking promenade on deck 7 both of which I have used to ensure at least a 2 Klm walk every day. Of course walking up and down decks and around those decks ensures some exercise
We arrived at the Alaskan State Capitol of Juneau.
Interestingly, the state capitol has no access by road to/from the outside world. There is a main highway covering about 45 Klms and many smaller roads but they go nowhere. All goods and tourists arrive by sea or air.
The day turned out to be a mixture of cold followed by colder with some sunshine followed by rain followed by sunshine. Mostly it rains in Juneau – the average is 322 days of rain per year. The city is a bustling mix of the usual stores…downtown there are heaps of jewellery, watch and gold stores… and schools and traffic (mostly big trucks of the Ford 150 and bigger variety) rushing around. We were surprised to see traffic lights.
Locals are distinguishable from visitors. The locals are the ones dressed in shorts n Tshirts, the tourists are dressed in layers including quilted coats. The locals soak up any chance of sunshine.
The local indian tribes are known as Tinglits and are expected to be at every destination. Their local customs, art, speech and dress are evident everywhere.
We were told our ship is the first of the summer rush lasting until September. From now on there could be as many as 6 cruise ships per day.
First up we took a bus to Mendenhall Glacier…
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mendenhall_Glacier … Mendenhall is known as a receding glacier, that is, its end is melting and now 1.75 miles shorter than it was in 1955. I do not know what I was expecting, a wall of sheer ice perhaps. The reality is the glacier slopes from high up in the valley peaks and slopes down to the face. From our vantage point the face looked like a wedge. However as we were probably two or more Klms from the face we were told the face is a sheer wall of ice. Recent falls of ice, called calves when they fall but icebergs when they are floating are a brilliant blue green, floating on the bay.
We had little time to explore as our bus for the next attraction was waiting for us. We found ourselves in a small marina where we boarded our boat, thankfully all seats are inside, licensed for 16 persons. Our tickets promised a 100% guarantee of seeing a whale. Of course there was no mention of a refund if a whale was not sighted.
On the way way out of the harbour we saw a Bald Eagle sitting atop a pole.
We saw more eagles on a rocky outcrop just a short way from the harbour.
We also saw Sea Otters and Sea Lions and a few short dolphins but no whales. Eventually we did see a spout which confirmed a whale sighting. In the distance we saw a whale but too far to be sure of what we saw except the skipper kept insisting it was a whale. That sighting was our 100% guarantee confirmed!
On the way back to the harbour we saw a group of Sea Lions lounging in the wan sunlight on a channel marker buoy. Another Sea Lion was attempting to eject himself from the sea onto the tiny space available on the buoy while others were trying to keep him off.
Gold was found in Juneau somewhere around 1860… The actual date is a little obscure – the last of the gold was pulled out of a mine situated near the present day harbour in 1942 and the mine shut down. The only money made out of the mine now is by guided tours.
Before boarding “PEARL” we took a cable car trip up the sheer sided hill named Mt Roberts. The brooding mountain looks down on the harbour and downtown. The gold mine was situated in this steep mountain.
We left port at 10 pm.