Inside Passage… One Last Time

OK, you can stop asking for the new Inside Passage video… It is done!

It has bears! Whales! Sea lions! Grizzly bears! Aurora! Lots of drone footage! More bears!

Actually the video came together pretty well. I already had a piece of music picked out, that saved a great deal of trouble. Nearly four weeks on the water meant a great deal of photographic material to work with. As usual the Inside Passage provided plenty of photographic opportunity, particularly the first week when is seemed like even the wildlife was performing on cue.

And there were lots of bears…

Nordic Quest 2014

As is my habit, I have produced a video summary of this summer’s voyage in the Nordic Quest. Take a few of the best photos, a little video, a snippet of timelapse, a decent tune, and mix well…

Nordic Quest 2014 from Andrew Cooper on Vimeo

Having done this more than a few times now it is getting harder to be creative. Still there are always unique shots that come back from any voyage, such as the mother grizzly and cubs. There is also a sequence I had always wanted to try, a timelapse of the huge Alaskan tide change. This time I had a chance to shoot it, and had some success.

Bubble Net Feeding

It is one of those spectacles of nature that you will never forget. I have seen a total solar eclipse, a meteor storm, calving glaciers, flash floods, come eye-to-eye with a grizzly bear, and I have witnessed bubble net feeding.

Bubble Net Feeding
A pod of humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) bubble net feeding in Iyoukeen Cove
Imagine half a dozen 40 ft whales surfacing together, rearing out of the water with mouths agape, so closely packed it is difficult to tell one whale from the next in the chum of whale and churning water.

It is the last part of a carefully coordinated feeding maneuver that we see at the surface. One or two whales trap a school of herring by means of a circular wall of bubbles blown underwater. The whales swim in a tight circle, forcing the prey into a tight ball. Once the setup is complete the entire pod of whales charge vertically through the net, sweeping through the bait ball with open mouths. They all come up together at the end, with ventral pleats distended, full of water and herring to be filtered through the baleen.

The process is often repeated several times as the whales eat their fill. For the spectator the challenge it to guess where they will come up. If you want good photos it is necessary to be aimed and ready when the whales erupt from the water. To do this you must watch the birds. There is often a flock of gulls awaiting the whales, hoping to scoop up dazed herring forced to the surface in the net. From their vantage point well above the water the gulls see the net before you do, the entire wheeling flock suddenly heads in one direction, that is where.

Nordic Quest 2013

Sorting through thousands of photos, dozens of video clips, and assembling time-lapse from yet more thousands of frames, all to create a mere five minutes of video. It is quite the chore, but also a lot of fun. In a way I relive the voyage, each photo a cue to recall all of the little experiences that make a great trip.

Having another couple photographers along provided a great source of material, it is not all of my photos. Randy and Nancy sent me some of their best, which have been woven in to create a better video. We got lucky on the weather, while it was cloudy and rainy for much of the time, we had a glorious day for visiting the ice at the top of Glacier Bay. We were lucky with wildlife as well… Orca, grizzly, humpback whales bubble netting, mountain goats, eagles, even a set of fresh wolf prints on a beach, all of the big game.

It was fun…

Nordic Quest 2013 from Andrew Cooper on Vimeo.

Postcard from Alaska – Orca

Scarcely a day goes by without seeing whales. Usually they are Humpbacks busily feeding in the rich Alaskan waters. But there are other whales to be seen, Orca are not common, but every trip we have seen a few. Most sightings are fairly distant, a tail on the horizon, the white plume of a blow. Close encounters will happen, a Humpback swimming by while you are anchored, a pod of Orca cruising down the same shore you are cruising up. Sometimes the whale appears when you least expect it, a sudden blow just off the bow. Cut the engine and drift, enjoying the view while giving the whale a chance to move off.

An Orca (Orcinus orca) cruising in Icy Strait, Alaska

Counting Whales

At some points there were half a dozen different groups of whales in sight at the same time. The spotters called whale activity in a confusing chorus of activity and locations. The annual Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary Ocean Count picked a pretty good day. Given the recent winter storm I had half expected to be rained out, some of the east Hawai’i sites were, but we had perfect conditions.

Counting Whales
Counting whales at MM7 north of Kawaihae
Last month a thin haze that hampered visibility, the resorts on the far shore barely visible. This year we could count tourists on the beach at the Mauna Lani about 10 miles away. Some of the whales we spotted were in front of Kiholo Bay about 16 miles to the south. When the visibility is good, the Mile Marker 7 is one of the best whale watching sites in the entire island chain.

Not that we always needed to look that far, often enough the whales were at the base of the bluff, just a few hundred yards below us. In one half hour data interval we counted 24 breaches. Just a few whales around.

No argument, it was a good morning to be counting whales. From the looks of the preliminary results, our site counted far more whales than any other site across the islands. No surprise, this stretch of coast is always thick with whales. The only sites that challenge MM7 are the sites just north and south, Lapakahi and Pu’ukohola Heiau, from the data those folks had a good day as well.