Monday, August 8th, 2011
I decided it would be kind of a sin to not keep a journal on this trip, because of all the amazing things that have been, and will be going on. I did a terrible job in Germany, and I kind of regret that, but I think I'll try to keep a pretty good journal on this trip. I doubt I'll have a chance to publish any of it online as I write it, but maybe I'll just post it all in bulk when I get back.
Hmmm so where to start... I guess I'll start from right when I got back from Germany. Wow, what a day that was... I kind of wasn't very kind to my body my last week in Germany, because I was out late a lot of the nights since I it was my last week and all, and the morning I woke up for my flight I had had three hours of sleep that night, and five hours of sleep the night before... So, needless to say, my trip home was a long one. I think I was up for 26+ hours on those three hours of sleep.
Not much to say about the actual trip from Munich to Boston, except that I left my phone charging at the gate... So, good-bye $150 smartphone. It's been interesting the past week dealing without a phone when I am so used to it... Anyway, pretty smooth check-in and flight, and my mom picked me up at the airport. We then went to Wheaton, where my car was, but the car was dead. AAA jumped it, but then the brakes were making a lot of noise... So we ended up just leaving it there, and I figured I'd come pick it up the next day to get it fixed. Well, after some sleep that night, I realized I just needed a day of rest, so I basically did nothing all day on Thursday. All that travel had also given me a cold, so I had a lot to work through: Jet-lag, culture shock, fatigue, and a cold. I felt a lot better on Friday, so I went up to Wheaton and brought my car to the shop.
I hung out with Dom and Chris Paine at Dom's town house for awhile while I waited for my car to get fixed, but it ended up being to no avail. They refused to fix my brakes unless I also got new rotors, and I didn't have that kind of money. So, I ended up driving my car home at 50 MPH in the right lane, from Wheaton to Narragansett, using mostly the transmission as brakes. The brakes worked, they just made a lot of noise. So, I left my car at Caleb's house, and hopefully he'll get around to taking a look at it by the time I get back from Alaska.
So yes. My trip to Alaska. I'm on my second day (first full day), and it's been great so far. I managed to get over a lot of my jet-lag, because I had an overnight layover and stayed at the Holiday Inn in Seattle, WA. I woke up feeling pretty good, and met Allison's family (the Littles) at the airport, from which we flew into Sitka, Alaska.
So, the cruise we went on is run by National Geographic and Linblad Expeditions. It's a small boat, a little bit smaller than the Block Island ferry. The rooms aren't luxurious, but they're very practical and quite comfortable. The whole ship only fits 62 guests, so it's a fairly exclusive expedition. The cruise is an 8-day trip in the Inside Passage of southern Alaska, starting in Sitka and ending in Juneau.
After a very scenic flight, we were immediately herded into a bus to tour the city of Sitka. We made three stops along the way. The first stop was at the Raptor Rehabilitation Center, where they rehabilitate wild birds and release them back into the wild. The “Raptor” category of birds includes the bald eagle, hawk, kite, owl, aaaand I'm blanking on the last two. Alaska has the most bald eagles of anywhere in the world, and basically because of this rehabilitation center, the bald eagle was taken off of the list of endangered species in America in 2007. I'd spit more facts at you, but I don't have them at the top of my head... It was a really cool place though, and we got to see a lot of rare birds up close.
Our next stop was in the center of town at the Russian Orthodox church. The history of the Tlingit Indians and the Russians in Sitka is pretty complex, but basically, the Russians first came in and drove out all of the natives, as the Western world tended to do, and the Tlingit Indians were forced to flee. They migrated about twenty miles away and founded a small colony and lived there for about 20 years, but how they came back is actually pretty funny. The Russians had no idea how to fish or hunt because they were so used to a luxurious life at home, so the natives ended up selling food to the Russians, but the Russians had no idea it was coming from the Tlingits. Once they found out, they invited the Tlingits to come back. The conditions were set that the Russians would NEVER fish or hunt for themselves and ALWAYS instead trade with the Tlingit, but a wall was to be built in Sitka separating the natives from the Russians. It worked out pretty well, and eventually the wall was taken down and since then the relationship with the Russians had been a little tense at times, but in general pretty friendly.
We had a chance to walk around town a bit after learning about all this, and then got back on the bus and headed to Sitka National Park, which had a lot about the history I just described. The Tlingit were big in the arts, and the park was filled with totem polls, which tell the story of a given event, family, or individual. Allison and I ended up walking around the beautiful park for awhile, through the forests and by the ocean. We met back up with the group a little later, and headed to the ship.
After getting settled in our rooms, there was a briefing in the lounge about all the things we needed to know for the trip, and an introduction to the crew. Afterwards we had a really nice dinner of salmon and spinach salad. The food is REALLY good here. It's surprising how efficient such a small vessel can be.
The weather that day, yesterday, was simply amazing. All the locals were talking about how this was one of the most beautiful days Sitka had had all Summer. It must have been 60 degrees out and it was only partly cloudy. It's apparently almost always raining here in the Summer, so we got really lucky. This also meant that the sea was relatively calm, so about an hour into the journey we slowed down and circled a small rock island that was the home to many species of birds, including the Common Muir and many many Puffins. After that, we were all really tired from the trip. I was especially tired, considering three days beforehand I had been in Germany, 6,000 miles and a ten-hour time difference away. We unpacked, and very soon went to bed. Took me awhile to get to sleep because I wasn't used to all the rocking, but I got a pretty restful sleep last night.
Today we woke up to an announcement around 6:40 that there was a brown bear on the shore not far from the ship. Allison and I figured there would be more time to see plenty of bears on the ship, as we had been assured by the crew, so we just took our time getting up and showering, and by the time we were up it was too late. We ate breakfast, and were briefed on the day's activities.
We had a choice to either go on an hour-long hike after kayaking for about an hour, or skip the kayaking and go for a two-hour hike. We elected for the former, since we wanted to go out in the Kayaks.
Let me explain a little bit about where we are, in general. If you are curious and want to look online at a map of Alaska, this might be easier to understand. We cast off in Sitka, which is located on the western (Pacific) side of Baranof Island. The three islands around here are know as the ABC Islands: Admirtalty, Baranof, and Chichagof. So from Sitka, we sailed west, around a small island called Kruzof Island, then we start eastward and, while we all slept, sailed through the Peril Strait, which divides Baranof and Chochagof Islands. We then continued south through the Strait until we hooked into a small bay called Sitkoh Bay, which is on the south-eastern side of Chichagof Island. This is where we got out to kayak and had our short hike.
We rode in Zodiacs to the shore, which reminded me of the Neil Stephenson book, Zodiac (anyone read it?). This whole day was kind of meant to be a kind of introductory day to get used to the climate, figure out what gear we actually needed, etc. After the Zodiac ride we all figured out we had WAY too many layers on, because today was another beautiful day and we didn't need many layers. We climbed into the kayak and explored the bay along the coast, looking for any signs of wildlife. We saw some jelly fish and salmon in the water, and as I kayaked I noticed a small white speck in the top of one of the trees, and it turned out to be a bald eagle! We got a good look at it in the binoculars, and I got some great pictures of it with my camera. That was about all we saw as far as wildlife, but it felt good to just let yourself drift in the bay, enjoying the amazing weather. Apparently it rains here all the time, so we got really lucky that it was such a nice day.
So nice was the weather that, for out hour-long hike in the woods, I just wore a T-shirt and jeans. Later we'll probably have to wear hefty boots, many layers, and rain gear, but it was really nice to be out there in a T-shirt. Our walk was in a group of 12, and our guide, Linda, was very knowledgeable. The forest here is actually temperate rain forest, and is protected by the state of Alaska. It is the home to many types of wildlife, but is mostly dominated by brown bears. The path we were traveling on was, in fact, made by bears, and not any type of man-made equipment. We were told to repeat the word “echo” in a loud voice whenever Linda yelled it so we didn't sneak up on any bears. God forbid we separate any Mama-Grizzlies from her cubs (Right Sarah Palin?)
I am just SO not used to this type of forest. The East Coast forests are all different sizes, and all different types of trees. On the West Coast there's HUGE hundred-year-old trees, and then bushes. Nothing in between, because it all gets shaded out by the larger trees like the Sitka Spruce. We learned a lot about all the different types of plants, what berries you can and can't eat, and how the forest functions. At one point, we came upon a bush of salmonberries, which are edible, but Linda warned us that this was bear food, so the rule is, if you want to eat them, you have to eat them like a bear. Bears don't have the dexterity to pluck the berries off as we do, so they just go up with their mouths and bite them off. I got some great pictures of us doing just that =)
After the hike we got back in the Zodiacs, boarded the ship, and ate a delicious lunch. We then went through the obligatory abandon ship drill, and were set free to look for whales. I figured they would announce it on the loudspeaker if there was anything interesting to see, and I was really anxious to get all of this down before it started to fade, so I came back to my room and started this journal. I'm mostly writing it for my own sake, but I hope some of you enjoyed it! Please let me know if you did! I'm going to head out onto the deck now and see if we can spot some hump-backed whales. I will check back in tomorrow!
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
We had an AMAZING whale-watching experience yesterday. We went out when they told us that whales were around, and they explained to us a unique feeding technique that these particular hump-backed whales use. It's called Bubble-Net feeding, and apparently only the whales around here use it. They gather in groups of two to up to ten or so, and they have one designated Caller and one Bubble Blower. First they dive down to the bottom and swim in circles to scare all of the surrounding herring into a circle. The Bubble Blower blows a net of bubbles, maybe twenty or so feet in diameter, to trap all of the fix into one space. After about three minutes or so, the Caller makes a loud screech to signal feeding time, and all of the whales come up simultaneously with their jaws open wide to consume as much herring as possible. The result to the observer is an amazing view of all of the whales with their jaws wide open.
First we saw this happen fairly far away, and were told we were very lucky to even be seeing this at all. Usually people are satisfied with seeing any whales at all. But we saw this happen a few times, and the boat just followed, hoping we got lucky. There's really no way to tell where the whales will be coming up once they dive, so you just have to keep your fingers crossed. One time, they told us they were probably somewhere towards the back of the ship, so I went there with my camera. The Bubble-Net came up maybe ten feet from the side of the ship, and I took a shot with my camera right away. I got the most amazing shot of it; I can't believe how lucky I was: imageshack.us/f/707/p1010561qe.jpg/
As I said, it's apparently a really lucky event to see this in the first place, and I saw it happen, and got a picture, right next to the ship.
We spent the next hour or so watching the whales, and after awhile they all started breaching, which is when they jump out of the water, usually on their backs. I got plenty of good pictures of that as well. Afterwards we went inside and had a re-cap of the day, where one of the guides taught us some more about the hump-backs. Allison and I were pretty tired, so we went to bed right after dinner around 10:30.
We woke up today around 7, and then all had breakfast. We has been sailing northwards all night up Chatham Strait, between Chichagof and Admiralty Islands. We sailed a little bit West, towards to the Pacific, to the Inian Bay. In this bay are the Inian Islands, home to thousands of sea otters and sea lions. We went out around 9:00 in Zodiacs to see what we could see. We passed many shorelines with hundreds of sea lions, and it was a spectacular sight to see them all on the rocks. They're much bigger here than anywhere else, weighing up to 1500 lbs each. After watching them for awhile, we started chasing some whales, and that was pretty cool, even though we had seen plenty yesterday. This time we got to see them a little bit closer.
Later on we went back to the sea lions, and about six or seven of them got really playful and curious and started swimming right around our boat, not ten feet away. It was really fun, I swear they were doing it just for our sake!
After this 90-minute ride we got back on the ship and sailed a little further, right near Elfin Cove. Here we Zodiac'd to the shore and did some more kayaking. We spent about an hour kayaking around the cove, where we enjoyed the beautiful landscape, and the amazingly sunny day. It's incredible the weather we have been having. We keep being told not to get used to it, because it doesn't stay this way, but it keeps doing just that. Today was it partly cloudy and probably almost 60 degrees. It was a great ride!
Once back on shore we were lead on another hike through the woods. This area had apparently been used as a small military blockade against the Japanese in World War Two, and at the end of the hike we came to a large cannon that was used to fire up to seven miles at enemy ships.
Once back from the hike, I decided to go for a little swim, since it was so warm. I think the water was around 45 degrees, but it was actually nowhere near as cold as I expected, and when I got out, I felt warmer than I had all day!
We got back on the ship and went just around the bend to Elfin Cove, a small village with just nine year-round residents. There was a general store, a smoked salmon shack, a bar/restaurant, and a few small businesses that were closed. I bought some smoked salmon, a few necessities at the general store, and two sicks packs of Alaska beer. The Alaska brewing company is amazing. They try to emulate German beer, and they do a good job at it. They have an IPA, a white, an ale, a summer, and an amber. All of them are great.
We got back on the ship and are getting ready to set sail again. Not sure what we are doing tomorrow, but I'm sure it will be great!
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Didn't get a chance to write yesterday, or I was too lazy, or whatever. But anyway, yesterday was a day spent almost completely on board the Sea Bird. During the night we had sailed up Icy Strait, then 65 miles up Glacier Bay. Glacier Bay National Park is a national park that you need specific permits to get into, and our permit started at midnight Tuesday night and went 24-hours until midnight last night.
Apparently, this entire bay was completely covered in ice and glacier just 250 years ago, and since then the glaciers have all receded and now there's a ~70-mile bay to sail through. When I woke up, we were sailing down Tarr Inlit and ended up very close to the Margerie glacier. I got a bunch of pictures, but it's kind of difficult to capture the vastness of these glaciers without some sort of scale.
We rounded the corner down Johns Hopkins Inlet to the John Hopkins Glacier and spent a couple hours there. As we got closer to the glacier there were more and more icebergs, and on top of the ones very close to the glacier were a few dozen harbor seals. We weren't allowed close enough to get a very close look at them, but with binoculars you could see them very well. They're adorable! We cruised as close as we were allowed to get and just kind of soaked in the sights. It was hard to believe that in 1912, a century ago, this entire inlet was part of the glacier, and we could not have been sailing in it.
We had lunch around 1:00, and the ship sailed for another few hours back down Glacier Bay a bit until we came to a small island that we were told was inhabited by a lot of mountain goats. We did end up seeing a family of them, but not very close-up. I watched them for awhile through the binoculars, and then we sailed on a bit further.
The next island we came to was completely overrun with birds of all kinds. It wasn't so much an island as just a mass of rocks. We saw the common muir, a tufted and a horned puffin, some kind of cormorant, a marble merlet, and a few different kinds of gulls. We learned a lot about their behavior, but I don't have it all down enough to express it here. What struck me the most though was that the cormorants lay their eggs and nest right on the rock face, apparently without worry that the eggs will fall down into the water. The eggs are pointed in some way that prevents this from happening often. We did see one nest with a few furry little chicks inside, which was really great. At the end of the island, there were a few more rocks with a couple hundred more sea lions lounging and croaking just like earlier this week. We seemed to pass this island in the blink of an eye and then sailed on.
After an entire day at sea it was a relief to have a docked landing at the headquarters of the park on the south-eastern side of Glacier Bay. We went for a brisk hike that took about a half an hour, and then were free until 10:45 PM. There wasn't much to do, just a restaurant and a gift shop, so we got back on the ship pretty soon. Allison and I were pretty tired, so we ended up just watching cartoons on my laptop and then going to sleep.
Today we woke up and found ourselves in the same area that we had seen the hump-backed whales feeding the other day, and heard an announcement that they were doing the same thing today. We spent the next hour or so following the whales, hoping to see the bubble-net again, and we did! We saw it several more times, and again, a few times right next to the ship. They keep stressing that this is what they spend all season searching for, and that it's amazing how lucky we have been on this trip. It sounds at first kind of like the might just be trying to make us feel special, but I actually believe them. It's really an amazing thing to see.
We set anchor right near Pavlov Bay and took Zodiacs to shore. We had the choice to either go on a small hike and kayak, or to go on a long hike and not get the chance to kayak, and we went with the latter. We had already been kayaking twice, and it's kind of a strain on your back, and we were all eager to stretch our legs. The area of Chichagof Island we were on apparently has the largest population of brown bears in the world, so we were really hoping we'd get a chance to see them. However, it's kind of rare to see them actually, because the goal as we walk is actually to deter the bears. The woman leading our hike would yell “ECHO!” And we were all supposed to repeat it down the line, so we didn't surprise any bears.
We didn't end up seeing any bears, but the hike was definitely my kind of thing. It wasn't man-made, it was bear-made, and was not at all maintained. We just followed it through the woods wherever the bear had cut through. We learned a lot about the plant life in the area and finally got a good workout. We waded through mud, ducked under branches, climbed up steep hills and over fallen trees until we eventually came to a clearing by Pavlov Lake. This lake feeds into a stream and down a waterfall into the bay, and is absolutely teeming with salmon, hence the high population of brown bears.
We hiked back, got into the Zodiacs, and headed back to the ship. After lunch I headed up here to write, and here I am. We're now sailing down Chatham Strait and later on are hoping to see some bears, from the ship, on the coast of Chichagof Island.
Saturday, August 13, 2011
Yesterday was a lot of fun. After breakfast we set anchor at Cascade Creek, in the southern arm of Thomas Island. This was the first time we were actually on the mainland, and not on one of the islands.
We had the choice of three different hikes, and Allison, her father Gary and I took the long, rugged hike. We were warned that it would be very muddy, quite steep, and somewhat long, and it was. It started at the base of a very large waterfall, which was a spectacular view. We then continued across a boardwalk and over a bridge over the waterfall, and then it got really steep. It was pretty slow going, because we often had to climb over large trees, up rock faces, and around big mud puddles. A little way in, Allison had to go back because the air was really musty and her asthma got really bad. Gary and I continued on, and we walked for about an hour before continuing back the way we came. The whole hike was around an hour and 45 minutes.
We got back on the ship and sailed just a few miles southwest down Frederick Sound to Petersburg, a relatively large town in a small channel on Kupreanof Island, right across from Mirkof Island. Petersburg is dubbed “Little Norway” because it was founded by Norwegian explorers. The fish caught in Petersburg provide for much of southeastern Alaska.
An option was offered to take an hour-long ride on a float plane around the area to Le Conte Glacier. Gary was generous enough to pay for us all to go on it, and it was amazing. We got off the boat and were taken in a van to where the planes were docked, and got in a small, six-seater seaplane, built in 1952. I was really nervous at first, because I assumed it was going to be really rickety and a nerve-racking flight. I was, however, pleasantly surprised. It was a very smooth ride. It was really neat; you get into the plane and put on a headset that has a microphone so everyone can hear each other, because it's really loud up there. We took off in the harbor and flew across Frederick Sound over Le Conte Bay, where we all gained a new appreciation for glaciers. So far we had only seen the faces of them, and the size of the face is humbling enough, but this was something else. We got to see the entire thing, and how it flowed from way high up all the way down to the bay, ending in the face we've seen a few times. Our pilot was really nice and helpful, and answered any questions we had about the glaciers. It was a beautiful day, and I was able to get some good pictures. It's really hard to describe this flight in words, so ask me if you want to see the pictures.
After about an hour we landed back in Petersburg, and then had about five more hours to do whatever we wanted. Allison and I took a walk through town, getting a few things at the drug store, stopping at some gift shops, and finally we went to the local bar. There we ran into our waiter from the ship, Nick. The day before he had said that he had his day off in Petersburg, and he said if we ran into him we should hang out, and that's just what we did. I had pegged him in his late 20's but it turns out he's 23, not much older than I am. We ended up hanging out with him at the bar, having a few drinks and playing pool, and were there until about 5:30. Then we headed back to the ship for a delicious crab feast. The crab they served us had apparently been caught that same day. I thought it was pretty good, but being from New
England I am much more of a lobster fan. They also had ribs though, so I definitely ate my fill.
After dinner there were a few lectures in the lounge. A research specialist on humpbacked whales gave a really interesting talk, and showed us some really cool Crittercam footage. Crittercam is a special suction cup camera they deploy on the backs of the whales in order to observe their behavior from the whale's point-of-view. Then Scott Babcock, the ship's geologist, gave a talk about plate tectonics, and talked about what parts of Alaska used to be where, and gave us an understanding of where this state came from, geologically. The photography specialist then gave a short talk on what to do with all of your pictures after the trip, and then Allison and I hung out upstairs, watching TV on my laptop, until going to bed around 11:30. It was a jam-packed day, and one I won't soon forget.
It's 9:30 AM on Saturday, and we're now idling in Tracy Arm, about two miles from the face of South Sawyer Glacier. At 10:30 we're going out in Zodiacs to get a better view of the glacier, and later on today, depending on ice conditions, we're going to go out in kayaks. It's an amazing day, bright and sunny, 50 degrees, with a 0% chance of rain, which basically never happens here. I'll pobably catch up on this journal next when I am at the airport in Seattle, because tomorrow is when we disembark. I'm flying from Juneau to Seattle with the Littles, then I have a six-hour layover before taking a red-eye to Boston. Fun!
Sunday, August 14th, 2011
So here I am at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. It's 5:45 PM PST, and my flight is in exactly five hours... Good time to catch up on what I've been up to, I'd say!
Riding the Zodiac through the ice was great yesterday. The ship stayed about two miles away from the face of the South Sawyer Glacier, and we went as close as about a half a mile with the Zodiac. There's a few reasons we couldn't get closer. For one thing, it's basically impossible because of how many little icebergs there are. Also, it's really dangerous, because if a huge chunk calves off the glacier, we could be screwed. The face of the glacier is something like 200 feet high, so that could do some damage. Another reason is because of the harbor seals. It's illegal to intentionally approach most marine animals closer than 100 yards. The general rule is that you don't want to be close enough that you affect their behavior in any way. At one point we got close enough that they started running away and jumping off the ice floats, so we had to back off.
The weather was phenomenal. Almost no clouds in the sky, and nice and warm. I got some great pictures of the ice, the fjord, and the seals. After about an hour-long ride we headed back to the ship for some glacier ice cream.
I wasn't sure what that meant until we got there. One of the expedition leaders is a third-grade teacher, so she uses this method to teach her students about glaciers. She first layed out a cookie-sheet and spread Oreos over it to signify the rocks under the ice. Then she scooped some ice cream, I guess for the water, on top. She covered that with two full cans of whipped cream for the ice, and over that an entire bottle of chocolate syrup for the dirt on top. It was actually really impressive, and ended up coming out remarkably resembling a glacier. It was delicious as well!
It was so nice out that I was able to sit on the deck and read in a T-Shirt. After a few hours we set sail again to a less dangerous part of the inlet, then we got into kayaks to explore on our own for an hour. That was really cool, because it's impossible to get a sense of scale for what's around you unless you go right up to it, or see someone next to it. I got some really great pictures of tiny specs of people right next to some huge icebergs. Again, this is something I can't explain very well in words, so ask me if you want to see some pictures. I'll probably end up uploading them onto Photobucket or something, and I will post a link. But it was absolutely amazing, kayaking under clear blue skies in a fjord full of icebergs over 1200-foot deep water.
During dinner, I noticed we were sailing south, because the sun was to our right. That didn't make much sense because our destination, Juneau, was to the North. Later they announced that they had been following some humpbacked whales, and we found them right at sunset. Nothing beats ending your journey with a bunch of whales surrounding your ship, sending their flukes right into the sunset...
There was also a very funny “play” that the kids put on called “Samlet – An Alaskan Tragedy in One Cycle” that was a satire of several different Shakespeare plays, as well as an educational account of the life of a salmon. I'll never forget one of the lines towards the end: “Romeo, O Romeo, wherefore art thou milt?”
Today after waking up around 7 we packed the last of our things, ate breakfast, and said good-bye to the crew. We disembarked in Juneau and got right into a bus which took us to a really cool museum with all sorts of native art, tools, and wildlife dioramas. I was starting to feel land-sick from being on a boat so long, so I actually sat down for a lot of this, but what I saw was really cool, especially the “Science on a Sphere” exhibit (Google it).
We then drove another half hour to the Mendenhall Glacier, which is one of the most popular glaciers to visit in Alaska. It was really cool, but to be honest, we were all kind of jaded after seeing so many amazing glaciers that this didn't interest us all that much. We ended up spending a lot of time in the visitor's center checking out the exhibits they had there, then we went to a nearby salmon stream where bears are often seen.
Bears were the one thing we'd really wanted to see on this trip but never got the chance to, but here we got our wish. First there was a really cute black bear sleeping in the crop of a tree, and at that point I was already satisfied. Then I saw a cluster of people with cameras out, and found that they were all looking at a bear in the bushes. He finally came out, and was the cutest baby black bear ever. I'm so glad we took the time to come over.
We got back on the bus, headed to the airport and flew to Seattle. I now have about four hours until I board, and I'll probly spend that finding something to eat, watching TV on my laptop, and reading Ender's Game on my Kindle.
This trip was just amazing. When I said good bye to the Littles I had no idea what to say. I just said thanks, and they told me it was a pleasure to have me on the trip, and it seemed very sincere, so I feel really good about that. They're a really great bunch, and I hope I get to travel with them again sometime soon. And if you have the money, and want to do some crazy stuff, Lumblad Expeditions (partnered now with National Geographic) is the place to go.