A Deckhand from Hawaii Discovers Alaska

07-17-2012

By Mitch Kaufman, Deckhand, Wilderness Explorer

Gas. Check. Life jackets. Check. I’m on my way to pick up a group of hikers. As I throttle up the skiff, icy wind from the nearby glacier hits my eyes. A tear forms at the outer edge, clouding my vision for a brief moment.

I flashback to the series of incredible sights I have seen in the past few days--the amazing and powerful orcas that breached just in front of the ship’s bow.

Orca whale

It is something I have only seen on TV. I had to pinch myself to be sure it was real. And weaving in and out of small icebergs as I drove the skiff on a tour near Lamplugh glacier. I am from Hawaii where ice in the ocean is only seen if someone spills a Mai Tai overboard.

The sight of humpback whales bubble-net feeding and then full breaching enters my mind.

Bubblenet feeding

This is a behavior that bookends the mating behaviors I see in Hawaii. I now see the whole picture and it all comes full circle. To experience a forty-ton whale explode out of the water in such a close encounter is beyond words.

whale tail

As I navigate, I spot the expedition guide with the group of hikers on the shoreline ready for pickup. No one else is in sight for as far as I can see in all directions. We are truly in the wilderness. I think we all can find something of great value here. Perhaps how all things are connected physically and spiritually. A wave of peaceful bliss flows through me and I am so thankful to have the opportunity to experience and be a part of the natural world here.



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