Posts Tagged ‘fishing’

Cruising Alaska, Part 1 (Wildlife)

Monday, November 1st, 2010

A trip to Alaska this summer has provided me with plenty of wildlife to paint in the coming months. Salmon were running … and crawling and jumping and squirming … over, around, and onto the rocks that made up the shallow stream beds we saw all along the coast. In Ketchikan, they were so tightly pressed together as they entered Ketchikan Creek that in places their backs formed what appeared to be a cobbled carpet across the surface of the water. In the harbor, they waited enmasse, apparently patiently, until those ahead of them had moved out of the way enough to make room for a few more. There, fishermen cast their lines to draw out their daily quota, since fishing upstream is forbidden in spawning season.

101003 Fishing for Complements

Mendenhall Lake, in Juneau, was where we found a black bear (exempt from the fishing ban) checking out another stream’s potential. Although not shown in “Fishing for Complements” (#101003) above, his ear was tagged to indicate that he had been more proficient in raiding garbage cans than in finding fresh catch. But he paid little heed to those of us who watched as he pounced, in vain, again and again on the salmon that insisted on slipping past his grasp.

A Kodiak bear, on the island for which he was named and illustrated below in “‘Til the Cohos Come Home” (#100901), had more success, nabbing four salmon in the hour we watched him. He carried them to shore, sometimes into deep grass, to dine undistracted and uninterrupted before returning to the river for more.

100901 'Til the Cohos Come Home

Other wildlife were as interesting but more difficult to capture through my camera lens. On occasion, pods of humpback whales blew spray on all sides of the ship, and then, in a graceful dance, easy to anticipate but difficult to follow, arched their backs and disappeared. Another spray and arch of back would follow, and perhaps yet another. Then the tail broke the surface, curving gracefully in a flash of reflected, watery light, and the creature would sound to depths we could scarcely imagine. We would have a long wait before the same animal resurfaced, sometimes to breach, shooting straight up out of the water and falling sidewise with an enormous splash, or sometimes merely to breathe, shoot another spray, and reveal its dorsal arch and tail before sounding deeply once again. A few hailed our passing with lateral rolls, waving their flukes as though in friendly greeting and farewell before submerging from our view.

Harbor seals swam past us as we lay in port, on their never-ending quest for food. Sea lions basked on the rocks of islands that we passed. And sea otters rolled and cavorted in the wake of our ship, seeming to body surf on their backs in the undulating water. Eagles soared against the mountainsides. And puffins floated in loose groups in the water near the glaciers’ face while gulls cried at us from above.