From the National Geographic Sea Bird in Alaska, Monday, May 17, 2010
Today we experience Southeast Alaska at its most beneficent. We awoke in the broad expanse of Chatham Strait, with snowy mountains glowing in cheery sunshine. Crossing the strait, we neared Admiralty Island. At the entrance of Hood Bay, we had our first notable wildlife sighting. A humpback was puffing steadily near the shore. Moving on, we found a several species of loons, including the rare Yellow-billed, as well as murrelets and guillemots. We spotted several deer strutting daintily along the shore. But we had come in search of bears. Admiralty is famous as having perhaps the densest concentration of brown bears anywhere in the world. At last we found a bear, typically dark colored, walking the shore. As we approached, a second bear appeared, and a brief chase ensued. One bear disappeared, but we watched the other until it too walked off into the forest.
After lunch we reached Chichagof Island. Entering Freshwater Bay we found more and better whales. These came in a couple of sizes – obviously a cow-calf pair. As we watched, the two submerged for quite a while, and we surmised that the calf had been nursing. Rounding a bend on the way to our anchorage, we spotted another bear. To our surprise, this bruin ignored the noise of our rattling anchor chain, so we were able to drop Zodiacs and get excellent views of the bear from these flexible craft.
Once ashore, we walked the alder- fringed strand, then plunged into the mossy forest. Great other-worldly trees towered around us, shaggy with moss and lichen. We came to a broad waterfall, the scene, in season, of epic salmon migration. Some climbed past the falls, and came to a large pond where sat a fine beaver lodge. Long walkers tromped through the grassy meadow at the edge of the pond. They found yet another bear. Others hurried back to the shore to experience Southeast Alaska by boat. In kayaks, they paddled over the placid waters of Pavlov Harbor, bathed in sunshine.
In the evening, we started north toward Icy Strait. Wildlife came to dinner. Mid-meal, we passed a humpback slapping the water with its extraordinarily long pectoral flippers. Though dinner was tasty, some couldn’t resist dashing off to the bow to enjoy the antics of this gamesome whale.