Thursday, June 01, 2017

Alaskan Cruise: Day 8--Icy Strait Point

Where to start! This privately owned port of the Hoonah clan is brand spanking new having only been in operation for a couple of years as a cruise destination.

Sailing into Icy Strait Point

Sailing into Icy Strait Point

Sailing into Icy Strait Point
Prior to that there was a cannery (now a museum on site). When the cannery failed either due to depleted fish stocks or change in dietary habits, the Hoonah turned to logging. That industry came to a halt when the Clinton administration blocked the construction of new forest roads making harvesting trees too expensive. So they started planting trees in the clearcut areas. They planted two trees for every one they had cut down. BUT they soon discovered that the areas they didn’t plant in yet were doing even better than those they were working to restore! So they turned to the one commodity that seems inexhaustible: tourism.

They put on shows/dances depicting Tlingit life. Hop on a speedy catamaran to go whale watching—and there are plenty of cooperative humpback whales! There’s a ZipRider—said to be the longest in the world--that drops you almost 2000 feet at speeds up to 60 mph! (I bet you get some good views from up top!) They have an interpretive nature trail and some very photogenic Bald Eagles (which I failed to capture.) Want to go four-wheeling in the forest or go searching for brown bears? They can accommodate you. You can take classes on how to prepare salmon and halibut and even get to cook your own dinner. Don’t want to cook? They have a restaurant for that.

Welcome and Excursion Center at Icy Point. By far the most organized group on the trip!

Terry and I chose Whale Watching and Alaska’s Wildest Kitchen as our excursions for the day. (I don’t like the idea jumping out of airplanes or off mountains. Nor do I like the idea of searching for one of the continent’s premiere omnivores—only the polar bear is larger—without suitable firearms handy.)

Humpback whale

Thar she blows! When the whale comes up to breath, there's still some water in its blowhole (nostril). It must expel this before it inhales. That's what forms the mist above them when they surface.

We followed one group of four or five whales around the bay for an hour. The gulls circling above where they would appear helped located them.

It's something of a coup to get a picture of the whales flukes. They don't always appear when the whale arches its back. The usually are only seen if the whale is going to be diving deep or for a lengthy period of time. The white patterns are unique to each individual and can be used as fingerprints are to identify an animal. Having messed up the settings on my camera, I was lucky to get this photo as I used trial and error to get the setting I wanted.

As big a deal as seeing the underside of the tail is capturing a photo of a whale breaching, i.e. leaping clear of the water. No one knows why they do this. They may be trying to stun some prey fish, free themselves of body parasites, or they may just be having fun.

Terry is looking smug because she took the picture of the breaching whale. On her iPhone.

I'm still working on the camera settings.

Stellar Sea Lions congregate on the channel buoy.

Two proud specimens pose on the buoy with the Radiance of the Seas in the background.
Whale watching is always amazing. Such large creatures performing some water ballet tends to awe me.

We could have skipped going out on a boat to watch the whales as the whales came to the docks to watch the people. There were some rising to the surface within 50 yards of the dock as we waited to board the boat. Later, when we returned to the Radiance of the Seas after cooking, there were four or five rising—and bubble feeding—just off the pier and in front of the Radiance.

Attending the little class called Alaska’s Wildest Kitchen was like being a participant in a Julia Child cooking show. If Julia had been a crew member/owner of a fishing boat, living on a raft complex, with her husband and seven children.
 She showed us how she makes salmon dip, salmon patties and halibut breakfast sausage. Better yet, we got to taste them all and washed them down with a little white wine spritzer.

Then she demonstrated how to filet a halibut. They had got the first of the year in just this morning and she had used the other side to demonstrate fileting to the earlier class.

Then we got a piece of salmon and a piece of halibut to spice up and went outside to cook them over an alder fire.

Salmon and Halibut prepped for cooking by Terry.
Terry braves the smoke to get her fish cooked just right.
 Soon enough it was time to reboard the Radiance of the Seas and we grabbed a ride on one of the electric carts the faster to get there without knees aching further. That's when we spotted the whales bubble feeding right next to the pier. 

Time to depart for Glacier Bay.

The five of us went off to the Schooner Bar for some drinks and to play Disney Trivia. (We came in second with 17 out of 20 correct answers. George wasn't much help.)

That evening, we enjoyed a meal at the Samba Grill, a Brazilian Churrascaria Steakhouse where they served seven different kinds of meat. Yes, on top of the salmon and halibut! Now that’s my kind of meal!

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