Alaska Cruise Report: Chatham Strait, Lake Eva

From the National Geographic Sea Lion in Alaska, Sunday, May 16, 2010

This morning before breakfast, sharp eyes on the ship sighted humpback whales in Chatham Strait, so the ship slowed so we could watch them. They were spending most of their time underwater, and so we left them behind. Perhaps they were searching for schools of small fish to eat. Southeast Alaska’s humpbacks swim to Hawaii for the winter, where water is warm, but there’s little or no food for them. Later in the morning we saw a humpback whale mother and calf, and she must be especially hungry, feeding a nursing calf as well as herself. Later in the day, National Geographic researcher Birgit Buhleier showed us 6 minutes of video of taken by a camera mounted on the back of a young humpback whale. It was utterly amazing footage to watch – a young whale’s view of its world, as it nurses, then watches its mother feed with a group of whales.

The National Geographic Sea Lion sailed slowly into Hood Bay, an inlet in Admiralty Island. Occasionally a bald eagle flew near the ship, and we saw the white heads of eagles perched in the trees on shore. 

In the afternoon, we went hiking through the forest and along a pretty, inner cove, falling water cascades, and along a river. Tiny salmon fry swam in the shallows; they recently emerged from gravel where they over-wintered. People who went on the longest walks made it up to Lake Eva. Today’s blue skies let sunlight stream filter through the moss-covered branches and needles on the big trees – just like in classic photos of old growth forest. Spring is here, and ferns are still unfurling their fronds. Devil’s club leaves are just emerging from prickly stems, and bright yellow blooms of skunk cabbage are out. Salmonberry flowers next to the trail are bright pink. Many forest walkers saw a river otter today, or saw its footprints in mud.

After dinner, the ship paused and we watched a humpback whale. To our west, the sun sank lower near spiky, snow-covered mountains.

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