Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Monday in Juneau

which probably should have been combined with some other post, but laziness rules...

Our boat docked at Juneau, which we learned was named after Joe Juneau, a reluctant explorer who discovered gold here in Alaska but drank his fortune away, dying penniless. We took a shuttle to meet Capt. Chris, a marine biologist with a 31-foot cabin cruiser, the "Rum Runner." This is a gorgeous craft, equipped with several pairs of binoculars to see exciting stuff and an AED in case you get way too excited from seeing all that wildlife. Chris is a terrific guide. He wants to give you the best possible tour; to avoid the cattle-marans you should do your best to be the first off your cruise ship.

We pulled out of Auka Bay and came up to a buoy. I thought there was some odd-looking trash piled upon it, but Chris slowed our boat down and told us these were Stellar's Seals. Or maybe Stollar Seals, I'm not sure. Rare seals, except here. There were maybe 8-10 of these guys lazing around on the buoy.

Chris's dog tried to rouse them from their nap, but only one even bothered to look at us.

We motored out to where a pair of humpbacks were feeding (we think), blowing and diving shallowly and blowing again. After some time looking at these guys, Capt. Chris spotted a larger blow, where about three humpbacks were diving; they would blow a little and then show their tails as they dove. The dog called out to the whales, but they paid her no mind.

We were pacing the whales, and right behind us was a huge double-hulled tourist boat, which Capt. Chris refers to as a cattle-maran.

It was really something, seeing these semi-trucks of the sea (weighing some 50 tons) diving down, then surfacing and blowing. At one point, they decided to get a move on for some reason, moving maybe 7 kts. This is only the second time Captain Chris has seen these beasts moving so fast. At one point, Capt. Chris called out because the whales were doing something unusual. The dog, who had been relaxing on the floor, charged out of the cabin to bark at whatever Capt. Chris was telling us about.

We saw bald eagles -- some in the trees swooped down to feed as we watched. Outstanding! Capt. Chris took us to where a pair of eagles had their nest.

The ladies went to Mendenhall glacier and did some hiking. More on that in another post.

Meanwhile, I decided to look for internet access. The Juneau Public Library has free wi-fi, but it slows to a crawl as soon as the cruise ships come in. Better bandwidth may be had at the Senate Mall Building on Franklin St.... Seaport Cyber, 175 South Franklin #211. It's in a shopping mall. They do moneygrams as well as sell wifi access and rent their computers. Wifi is $6 for an hour or $11 for two. Bandwidth is fine. Latency to California... well, they haven't cracked that speed-of-light thing yet. Nick had recently burned an Ubuntu CD, which he announced was downloaded in less than ten minutes. When I arrived, he was installing it onto an Asus sub-notebook. I was happy to give my business to this penguinista.

No comments: