|A juvenile orca learns how to swim next to his mother, south of Vancouver, near U.S. waters with Wild Whales Vancouver.|
|Juneau Tours offers up close, personal opportunities to see|
whales, with skilled drivers and guides to get you "there."
ORCAS, HUMPBACKS ENTERTAIN, INFORM-- AND EVEN PROVIDE EYE-POPPING ANATOMY
STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER
CAN ONE ever get enough of whale watching? I think not. It's sheer magic, eye-popping, time-stopping magic.
Each outing is different -- we've logged more than 100. Because of weather, waves, the boat's speed, ability of the naturalist and captain, mood and travel patterns of the whales, you'll always see something new.
We've watched these splendid creatures from Santa Barbara to Maui, Seattle to Iceland, Alaska to our winter base, San Diego.
|The erect penis of an orca can reach more|
than eight feet as this undersea image
suggests. Art courtesy ChainedBirds
I grew up in Montana and have spent time on ranches, but this was a new experience for me. Accurate measurements of the erect orca penis are tough to make, because the whale's erect length can only be observed during mating. We were lucky a few days ago, captain Michael said. There it was: a huge penis above the water, waiting for action -- some passengers thought it was a squid or octopus. But no, Michael assured us, as his crew Luke and Christopher smiled. It was the male's sex organ. When the thrashing began, a female orca had answered the call.
Our naturalist, Amila, shared scholarly insights on the ride from Vancouver. She, too, had never experienced mating whales.
|About a 30-minute boat ride from Juneau, you'll be treated|
to diving whales -- here just a thrilling spot.
EARLIER IN THE trip we'd been thrilled with Puget Sound Express, which we boarded at Edmonds, Washington after a pleasant coach pick-up from the Hyatt in Seattle.
|Aboard Juneau Tours, Alex and Luke provided lively|
commentary and a successful afternoon of viewing whales.
I've seen the sperm and the blue, but never the elusive narwhal, known for his spectacular tusk.
So in Alaska's chilly waters, we were thrilled to hear "Thar they blowed" against the majestic backdrop of the Chilkat Mountains and Juneau's Ice Field. The pleasures of whale watching are enhanced by other wildlife sightings -- bald eagles, playful harbor seals and plump Stellar sea lions, sea otters and black-tailed deer.
To be yards away from something greater than you, something far more powerful and more spectacular, is a humbling experience.
|The fine mist from the humpback's spout as he feeds off Alaska's coast.|
ON OUR VARIOUS outings, we saw whales from all five vessels on this trip -- aboard that small 15-passenger vehicle out of Juneau, the 30-passenger speed boat out of Vancouver, our 3,000-plus Explorer of the Seas on Royal Caribbean, a small motor boat and the sleek Puget Sound Express vessel, Chilkat.
WHALES INHABIT all Earth's major oceans from the Arctic and Antarctic to the tropical waters of the equator. Shamefully, man nearly destroyed them and sadly, several nations still hunt them.
|Cookie sets out on another whale-watching adventure. This trip, we were lucky to have|
five different experiences -- on vessels large and small -- all offering spectacular sightings.
THE SMALLER harbor seals were abundant in calmer waters.
Out of Seattle, our Chilkat naturalist prepped us through Puget Sound Express for a thrilling week on the Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas, witnessings humpbacks on a trip out of Juneau then again as we exited the Tracy Fjords and headed back toward Victoria.
For all our our whale adventures -- from Seattle, to Juneau, to British Columbia -- we reveled in gorgeous weather and bountiful, close-up whale sightings, enhanced by expert crew curious and friendly fellow passengers from Ireland, Scotland, Italy, Germany, Japan and Brazil.
We recommend whale watching on vessels large and small for eye-popping thrills.
Shop around to find the vessel and tour that suits you best.
You'll be happy to join the humpback's song, singing the praises of "hunting" these magnificent creatures with cameras, not weapons of destruction.
|Mesmerizing glasswork awaits at Dale Chihuly's Seattle museum.|
UP NEXT: Enchanting Chihuly -- We visit the master's museum in Seattle where Dale Chihuly's "Garden and Glass" visionary artwork is dispayed. The Northwesterner's creativity shines through in gorgeous glass exhibits both indoor and outdoors -- right next to Seattle's landmark Space Needle. Remember to explore, learn and live and visit us weekends for more artful, nature-driven travel adventures.