The beauty that is Alaska never ceases to amaze me, the same goes for the divers crazy enough to dive her waters. Every trip, however, without fail, they all line up to board the vessel, eager to get in the water. Why? Isn’t it cold?? Now, half way through my second season up here I am almost ashamed it has taken me this long to test out the water. Having been overly spoiled with scuba diving the warmer waters of Soccorro, Guadalupe, and Clipperton Atoll with The Nautilus Explorer, I couldn’t wrap my mind around divers willingly diving so far North. Admittedly, diving here is almost better! Until recently, the top side has been enough for me. Now, however, I can’t wait to get back in the water!! My message to all the other spoiled warm water divers who are intimidated by water you can’t comfortably dive in a 5mil: make no mistake, colder is better! Just a final note before I head off to refill the cookie jar: to anyone who has never stood witness to an Alaskan sunset, it’s something nobody should miss out on.
My morning starts early as the eminent Nautilus Swell weighs anchor and I am tasked with repositioning the vessel from Vanderbilt Reef, the underwater graveyard, to the ecological wonderland that is Inian Islands. As the sun meets the sky casting a shimmer over the still waters of Icy Straits, eager eyed guests start to congregate in the wheelhouse and foredeck of the vessel as we near Point Aldolphus, a spot where Humpback whales seemingly gather in abundance. Amongst a steady showing of blowhole water signals, knobby waving flippers and massive diving tail flukes, a cast of wondering eyes meets an unexpected surprise. Up ahead the splash of a Humpback whale as it lands in the water from which it has just launched itself out of in a full out breach.
Between the clicking of cameras and collective gasp I know that everyone around me is in total awe of the beautiful display we have just witnessed; gauging by the reactions of our guests I know that this truly is an once in a lifetime experience for them as well. Witnessing these massive marine mammals engage in both of there major feeding techniques is truly remarkable, filling up on as much as a ton of plankton and herring per day during the summer months in which they reside in Alaska before travelling south to the breeding grounds for the winter. On the Nautilus Swell, a vessel whose mystique and character is matched with a keen sense of adventure, it is almost a daily occurrence seeing Humpback whales either breeching, leaping completely out of the water; spyhopping, raising its head vertically out of the water; or lobtailing, slapping the surface of the water with its tail.
Chief Officer, Sean Baxter