Icy Strait, Inian Islands & Pelican

From the National Geographic Sea Lion in Alaska, May 12, 2010

In Icy Strait at 6 AM, watchful eyes spotted a couple of humpback whales swimming right along the shore. We bundled up and went on deck with our coffee mugs in hand. Harbor porpoises swam nearby, and sea otters floated on their backs in kelp off a rocky point. There were more humpbacks a few miles away, so the ship repositioned. As the whales dove, their tail flukes came out of the water, and one of them had such distinctive, white flukes we nicknamed it ‘Whitey.’ They swam very close by the ship on several occasions, and the whale watching was so good that some of us found it difficult to go inside to eat breakfast. The whales, however, were feasting! They’ve recently arrived from breeding grounds in Hawaii, and have probably not eaten since they left these waters last fall.

The ship repositioned to a cozy little anchorage in the Inian Islands, and we boarded Zodiacs for cruises around beautiful islands and tiny islets, and among furry, floating sea otters and huge Steller sea lions resting on rocks. Near the rock island with the sea lions, tidal currents were strong; 4 knots of current swept in from the open Pacific Ocean. The churning waters were so rich with life! A couple of humpback whales swam there, too.

After lunch we went hiking on George Island, and many people walked to a large gun that had been placed to protect a major entrance to the Inside Passage during WWII. The undulating forest trail was pretty, and we looked out at spectacular views from rock cliffs along the way. On a sand beach we found deer tracks.

We spent the early evening cruising up long, narrow Lisianski Inlet, at the north end of Chichagof Island. Here, beautiful mountains surrounded us, and we found calm waters for dinner. Best of all, our Expedition Leader Stephanie had a special surprise: after dinner, we went ashore in the tiny settlement of Pelican! There are only about 80 or so year-round residents in this tiny community with no roads, only a boardwalk along the water, many boats, and buildings built on pilings above the water or flats. Many of us spent time at Rose’s Bar – easy to find – turn right and walk down the boardwalk.

A fun and very colorful evening was enjoyed by all. What happens in Pelican, stays in Pelican!

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