From the National Geographic Sea Bird in Alaska, Wednesday, May 26, 2010
By six in the morning, the sun brightly illuminated the snow-capped mountains and the glassy water’s surface. An early wake-up call announced the presence of orca in the vicinity. Scattered sub-groups could be seen in several directions, and as we came closer to them, we could appreciate each individual’s markings. Differently sized and shaped dorsal fins and saddle patches, as well as a variety of physical sizes, revealed a group of one or two calves, an adult male and probably 15 other whales which could have been youngsters and females. At one point, five or six individuals changed direction and headed towards us, checking us out and surfacing right alongside the National Geographic Sea Bird.
Later in the morning, we lowered our Zodiacs to explore a very special cove along Chichagof Island. We were fortunate that the tides allowed us to navigate deep into Basket Bay, which seems like an ordinary cove from a distance. The secret is that it hides a majestic grotto as if it were a jewel that needed to be kept safe and out of sight.
Later, on our way to Pavlov Harbor, inside Freshwater Bay, we had the most amazing encounter with Dall’s porpoises. The conditions were more than ideal: mirror-like waters, good underwater visibility, perfect light, and several groups of porpoises surfacing all around the ship. These encounters lasted for a long time. As soon as a group left us, another one would join us to surf the pressure wave created by our bow.
Our last activity was to hike and kayak in Freshwater Bay. Here the old growth forest is a perfect illustration of the salmon-forest cycle, where trees and the associated ecosystems grow healthy near salmon-spawning streams. It is also a good place to look for bear activity. Although we did not see any bears here, we had an encounter with an even more ferocious beast. This animal is capable of echo-locating its prey, which can be many times its own size. Some of them may be poisonous, have orange teeth and hold a heart that beats one thousand beats per minute. What could be more ferocious… and cute…. than a masked shrew?
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