From the National Geographic Sea Bird in Alaska June 15, 2010
It’s 5:30 am, and the National Geographic Sea Bird is cruising down Icy Strait, just reaching Point Adolphus. This area of Southeast Alaska is known for the concentration of Humpback whales that feed all summer in the incredibly rich waters that surge through the entire area. So many currents and tides mix all through the maze of islands and bays that there is an abundance of plankton, small and large fish for whales, sea lions and birds to consume.
Within a matter of minutes we were seeing whale blows all around us, while the Captain maneuvered us for a closer look. The animals seemed to be very busy feeding, and did not spend much time at the surface in that particular part of Icy Strait. We spent a short while enjoying the brief looks that we were given, but soon started looking around for a larger group that was spending more time at the surface.
It didn’t take long to find what looked like four or five whales near Lemensurier Island, a few miles away. As we approached, it became clear that there were at least seven or eight whales feeding in shallower water just off the island, along one of the many racing current lines that can be so productive. It turned out that there was a group of six, with at least two mom and calf pairs, feeding closely together.
The calves, at this time of year, still are not eating much, if any, solid food, but still nursing on mom’s rich milk. This gives them plenty of opportunity to have “play time” while mother feeds below. We were soon treated to an amazing breaching show by two of the calves that lasted at least a half hour. Several times the young whales leaped out of the water, either together or one right after another. What an incredible early morning show, and we hadn’t even eaten breakfast yet!
As breakfast was called, we slowly left the group and headed for the Inian Islands, the sight for our morning activity, Zodiac cruises. This area, at the end of Icy Strait, is well known for more big currents, and a number of “haul-out” rocks that the Northern sea lions use for two reasons: to rest, and from where they stage their foraging trips. Again, we were not disappointed. There were plenty of sea lions both on the rocks and out feeding in the surrounding waters. As a bonus, there were puffins, Bald eagles and a number of Humpback whales seen from the Zodiacs, as we explored the waters around the islands.
As we ate lunch, the National Geographic Sea Bird repositioned to the nearby Fox Cove, where our afternoon activities would include an assortment of hikes, as well as sea kayaking. There was a long hike that went through streams, muddy areas and a wonderful example of a bog or “muskeg.” There was also a little “bush whacking” involved on the way back. Moderate and leisurely interpretive walks were also offered along the beach and Fox Creek, through the amazing forest landscape. Most of these activities were on bear trails, where we were very lucky to see a lot of bear sign, especially fresh tracks!
Finally, it was time to get back on board for cocktail hour, recap, dinner and an evening of cruising, to look for more whales and other wildlife on our Southeast Alaska cruise. What an incredible day!
Interested in this itinerary? View itinerary details at Sunstonetours.com.