Nordic Voyage

Ten days on the boat out of Juneau, our annual family trip fishing in Alaska is complete. This summer it was an all family affair… My mother and father, my brother and his wife, and their grandson Andre. Add Deb and myself for a total of seven aboard the Nordic Quest for ten days of fishing and exploring. The plan was to head south of Juneau, down Stephen’s Passage for the Frederick Sound area.

First stop was Taku Harbor for the night with the following day spent attempting to fish salmon in Stephen’s Passage. A pretty day, but no fish. The only luck we had was a single crab in one of the pots left overnight in Taku.

Dawes Glacier
The towering wall of ice that is Dawes Glacier in Endicott Arm
On to Endicott Arm and Dawes Glacier. The weather was not great for visiting the ice, but we did arrive at low tide, the best time to see calving. We were rewarded by the sight of several ice-falls as the water level fell and the face of the glacier crumbled.

An afternoon spend fishing Halibut was rewarding as well, plenty of fish landed along with one hundred pound specimen caught by Andre. A halibut that big can not be gaffed and simply lifted into the cooler. Instead I harpooned the fish off the swim deck. My first harpoon shot was a bit off, hitting low, a second was much better, right through the spine behind the gills. Good this too, the fish promptly broke the steel leader. Two harpoon lines attached insured this fish was headed for the freezer.

Continue reading “Nordic Voyage”

Postcard from Alaska – Grizzly

We expected to find the bears at the back of the bay, where the stream and the salmon would be.

The mission of the morning was to see bears. So we cast off lines at Tenakee and headed up Tenakee Inlet. There are several side bays along this large inlet, each with streams that attract the bears. The salmon had not quite started to move into the streams, a bit early in the season yet, but they were around. We hoped the bears would be around as well, congregating at the streams in anticipation of their yearly feast.

It was a surprise when my dad spotted this bear, we were just starting into the bay and still a mile from where we expected to find bears. As everyone grabbed binoculars we steered towards shore to get a better look.

So often the bears will run for the woods when a large white object appears. This bear just kept eating grass. A further surprise… Just as we got closer a small bear cub appeared at mother’s side. Deep water just off the rocky shore allowed us to get the boat in quite close. On occasion the mother would look up at us as we drifted in for a closer look. The array of pointing humans, binoculars and cameras were dismissed as unimportant as she continued to graze along the shore.

The cub was a handsome fellow, dark, with a collar of golden fur. He stayed close to mother, but seemed curious. We may have been the first humans he had ever seen. He watched us intently from the safety of mother’s side.

There were several bears at the stream and the grassy flats at the top end of the bay. But the shallow water would keep us from getting anywhere near with the boat. The total was nine bears that morning, including four cubs, three with the same mother. With the morning’s plan a success, we headed back to Tenakee to collect our crab traps.

Grizzly with Cub
A mother Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) and cub on the shore in Long Bay, Tenakee Inlet, AK

Fish Tales – Swimming Bear

Black Bear Swimming
A black bear swimming Clover Pass near Ketchikan, Alaska
Uh… Dan… That log in the water has ears.

I had the binoculars and just happened to glance at the object in the water, just as Dan had changed course to avoid it. Logs are a regular navigation hazard in these waters, everyone keeps a sharp lookout ahead.

It can’t be… it is… it’s a bear.

But this channel has got to be a mile wide!

It was, we used the GPS and navigation computer to check, 1.1 miles across, assuming a straight course. We watched that bear swim the last 50 yards and climb out of the water. That was one exhausted black bear.

Inside Passage

It took 3 hours to fly to Juneau, it took 18 days to get back.

The video is done. Shot with a Canon 60D, a Canon G11 and an iPad, the video documents the voyage from Juneau to Anacortes I took last month. Bears, whales, dolphins, and a whole lot of water. It was a great trip, I can only hope I convey a little of the experience in the video.

Compressing 1,800+ photos and dozens of video clips to three minutes is an interesting exercise. This is compounded by the thousands of timelapse exposures that needed to be assembled. It went surprisingly quickly this time, a mere three evenings of work. (As long as you classify evening as getting to bed before 2am.) Either I am getting better with the tools, or I just got lucky when it came to fitting the thing together.

I have produced several videos about these voyages by boat through the wilds of the Pacific Northwest. How do you keep each video from looking just like the last? This time I changed it up stylistically, opting for a much more driving soundtrack coupled with the frenetic pace of timelapse.

Does it work? I will await your judgement.


Inside Passage from Andrew Cooper on Vimeo.

Postcard from Alaska – Grizzly

We expected to find the bears at the back of the bay, where the stream and the salmon would be.

The mission of the morning was to see bears. So we cast off lines at Tenakee and headed up Tenakee Inlet. There are several side bays along this large inlet, each with streams that attract the bears. The salmon had not quite started to move into the streams, a bit early in the season yet, but they were around. We hoped the bears would be around as well, congregating at the streams in anticipation of their yearly feast.

It was a surprise when my dad spotted this bear, we were just starting into the bay and still a mile from where we expected to find bears. As everyone grabbed binoculars we steered towards shore to get a better look.

So often the bears will run for the woods when a large white object appears. This bear just kept eating grass. A further surprise… Just as we got closer a small bear cub appeared at mother’s side. Deep water just off the rocky shore allowed us to get the boat in quite close. On occasion the mother would look up at us as we drifted in for a closer look. The array of pointing humans, binoculars and cameras were dismissed as unimportant as she continued to graze along the shore.

The cub was a handsome fellow, dark, with a collar of golden fur. He stayed close to mother, but seemed curious. We may have been the first humans he had ever seen. He watched us intently from the safety of mother’s side.

There were several bears at the stream and the grassy flats at the top end of the bay. But the shallow water would keep us from getting anywhere near with the boat. The total was nine bears that morning, including four cubs, three with the same mother. With the morning’s plan a success, we headed back to Tenakee to collect our crab traps.

Grizzly with Cub
A mother Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) and cub on the shore in Long Bay, Tenakee Inlet, AK

Postcard from Alaska – Black Bear

A young black bear, well known to the staff of the Mendenhall Glacier visitor center, is attempting to catch salmon in Steep Creek, just below the visitor center parking lot. He was not too good at it, lots of splashing and no fish to show for the effort. The fish were there, bright red sockeye salmon busy spawning in the stream bed. This was this bear’s first year on his own, still learning the skills of survival.

Yes, I was really this close to the bear, this was a shot with a standard lens, no telephoto. Fortunately there was a small bridge over the creek to provide a slightly safer vantage point. The bear showed no interest in the gathering crowd of sightseers on the bridge, concentrating on the salmon.

Black Bear
A young Black Bear (Ursus americanus) trying his luck at fishing in Steep Creek, near Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska, 31 July 2006

Alaska 2009 – The Video

Three weeks of photographic effort, literally thousands of photographs to select from. It is difficult to put the experience into words, hopefully around one hundred of the best photos and a few minutes of video set to music will convey the trip better than pages of text can manage.

About two thirds of the photographs are mine, the others from one of the seven other cameras that were present on the trip in the hands of other family members and friends. Editing the video was not a short or easy process, but the result is fairly good. Hit the full screen icon to see it in full resolution, this is the first properly HD video I have put together. The Vimeo version does exhibit some encoding artifacts, the original 720p HD versions are simply beautiful.

Three weeks of traveling some of the most beautiful landscapes on the planet is something best experienced by being there. Short of that, this is the best I can manage…

A Touch of the Wild – Alaska 2009 from Andrew Cooper on Vimeo.