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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Alaskan Photo Safari - Day Eight

Big Male Orca leading the pod

Orca Calf keeping up with Mom

Baby Orca stuck to Mom like glue

Beautiful Frederick Sound, Alaska

South East Alaska is an archipelago, comprising of thousands of small islands. The higher mountains around these islands are snow capped year round and the others are partially covered in snow most of the time. The verdant small islands juxtaposed against the snow capped peaks are simply breathtakingly beautiful. It is hard to take good landscape photos while bouncing around on a small boat so this photo does not do justice to the wonderful scenery, especially on a nice sunny day.

We went out looking for Orcas after hearing from the other boat captains they are around the Sound. Looking for whales is hard work and comes down to a lot of waiting and vigilance. Orcas usually travel in a pod of around one or two dozen animals. There are resident and transient pods. The resident pods generally reside within a large territory of water but they remain there over time and feed mostly on fish. Transient Orcas roam the seas and oceans with no particular pattern and they hunt anything they can kill, including seals, sealions, dolphins and other whales.

After a long search, we came across one lone male Orca. His huge, six foot dorsal fin filled my binoculars when I spotted him in a distance. When we got closer, a couple of females appeared but they were rather scattered. Followed them for a while and they led us closer to the shoreline and more and more Orcas appeared, including calves. They were traveling quite fast, clocking over 10 knots per hour at times.  Followed the pod for about an hour and broke off to find Humpbacks. After about an hour, we came across another pod of Orcas coming the other direction.  This pod also has calves and they stick right up against their moms.  Every time the mother Orca surfaces or dives, the calf follows in unison.  It was just wonderful watching the entire pod on the move and interacting with one another.  After an hour of this action, I was quite exhausted. Will be looking for more Humpbacks tomorrow.

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