From the Field: Polar Plunges and Orcas
By Kyler Mose – Wilderness Explorer
The best way to celebrate a week cruising with UnCruise is the polar plunge. On the last day before everyone disembarks we all gather on the swim step to jump off the EZ dock into the cold, Alaskan waters. Guests squeal with delight (or shock) as they pull themselves out of the water, and the crew splashes each other as we all swim about in the cold Pacific. Each week it is a celebration of joy, and each jump creates new memories for everyone involved. No matter what, the polar plunge is an exciting activity, but some weeks extra surprises swim by.
This week for the polar plunge the Wilderness Explorer was anchored by Lamplough Glacier in the pristine waters of Glacier Bay National Park. After an amazing morning full of blue skies, calving glaciers, kayaks, hikes, and skiff tours, the anticipation builds as the polar plunge almost begins. The frigid blue water lays beneath us as pieces of ice float by, ensuring this plunge will truly be polar. The first to leap is a brave steward, using the opportunity to wake himself up before lunch service begins. The countdown commences- 3, 2, 1, SPLASH. Everyone applauds and laughs, and the flood gate opens as groups come up to do the same. After a few groups go in, someone yells out that they see an orca to our port side, no more than 50 feet away. We all stop to marvel at the beautiful animal, until it disappears under the blue pacific water and we commence the plunge, this time knowing we are swimming with an orca.
This vast wilderness of Glacier Bay is a haven for diverse wildlife including humpback whales, sea lions, harbor seals, sea birds, and of course, the iconic orca whale. These intelligent and social animals, also known as killer whales, inhabit the park’s coastal waters and provide anyone that cruises the water an unforgettable opportunity to witness their remarkable beauty up close. The orcas within the park’s boundaries are part of a distinct population known as the Southeast Alaska Transient Orcas. Unlike their counterparts in other regions, these transient orcas have a preference for hunting seals and sea lions found in the area.
Thrilling all in itself, the polar plunge is a great way to end a trip. No one could have imagined ending it with such a life changing experience as jumping into waters with passing by orcas. There was a moment where after the initial excitement waned a little, everyone realized what a special moment we were all having. It was a magnificent, touching, and life changing experience, a moment to sit and reflect on what glorious lives we get to live in such a beautiful pocket of this world. After it all ended and bellies were full of lunch thanks to the hard working hotel and galley crew, you could still hear the murmurs of disbelief that we actually got to swim with wild Alaskan orcas. With UnCruise, anything is possible, even jumping into glacial waters with orca whales.