Leaving our anchorage, we passed a few Sitka black-tailed deer along the shore. We were marveling over the 10 or so bald eagles off the rocks of Cannery Cove Fishing Lodge when we were treated to an orca sighting. Two, perhaps three, whales spouted and sliced the water with their tall dorsal fins before slipping back into the flat calm water like some mysterious apparition in the fog.
Our route from Cannery Cove to Petersburg took us through Frederick Sound for a second day of spectacular humpback whale encounters. About half way through our travels, we are greeted by 4 or more spouts on the horizon. Off the bow of Ajax, Telita, and Navigator – all of whom have fallen behind Deceptions course – there are no fewer than 6 whales that we can see. We stop to watch a show of tail slaps and pectoral slaps, and even a spectacular full breach. The whales show their flukes for a dive and we decide we’d better press on.
However, we don’t get too much further before Deception announces that they have a whale at the surface not too far off their starboard side. The whale’s pectoral fin is swinging out in the air and it seems to be floating at the surface. Deception admits it seems odd to find a whale so stationary near the surface. What is this about? Best to make sure and provide it a fair amount of room as we pass. Navigator spots the whale directly ahead of its course though and, idling its engines, we break out the binoculars to give it a watch. Could it be a mother and calf?
The whale is resting at the surface, rolling its pectoral fin in and out of the water, its movements seem slow and deliberate. After a while, it resumes swimming, this time as its dorsal side slides to the surface it is accompanied by a second smaller dorsal – YES – A mother and calf! She dives, and the little one next to her slips under the water. Navigator is delighted!
Giving both whales a wide berth, Navigator pushes on in an effort to catch up with the fleet which, by now has disappeared from sight. But there are literally dozens of whales in these waters surfacing and blowing and diving and no matter the course, several appear directly off the bow providing excellent opportunities for a show. Tail lobbing and pectoral fin slaps from some, others seem to simply be on the move – albeit slowly. They even get a show of lunge feeding! Craig aboard Ajax has landed a beautiful shot of a full breach. Indeed, Aquila has discovered the enjoyment of listening for exhales and vocalizations from the fly bridge, as some of the whale’s surface close to their idling boat.
It’s a difficult thing to move on from all of these gentle giants in the waters around us, but we need to ensure we have slips in Petersburg at the harbor which is first-come first-serve.
We pass several trollers as the fog begins to close in and we know we are getting close to Petersburg, which maintains an active fishing fleet.
These waters are rich enough to not just to support the whales and the fishermen, but the stellar sea lions and bald eagles that we encounter (perched in the case of the eagles, and resting in the case of the sea lions) atop the numerous channel markers leading into the Narrows and Petersburg Harbor. Great photo opportunity!
Petersburg remains a small town, but with a year-round fishing fleet supported by salmon and halibut and several fish processing plants and canneries still in operation. Up from the docks the town reflects its Norwegian heritage in the Norwegian flags and painted shutters of the homes.
The fleet heads to town shortly after docking to provision. Aboard Deception we are celebrating Carlos’ birthday with his family of Eldeanians. The naturalist takes the kids just down the dock to investigate the collection of sea anemones and tubeworms that grow on the underside of the dock, to give them a chance to get off the boat a bit while Brian grills up the hotdogs and hamburgers. We celebrate with the ice cream and cake and with the crew aboard Navigator, who come over to sing Happy Birthday.
What a way to mark the passage of another year.