Alaska Cruise Report: The Inian Islands and Fox Creek

From the National Geographic Sea Bird in Alaska July 13, 2010

“This had to be the best morning of my life! A beautiful sunrise, expedition ship, great new friends, Alaskan waters, wildlife photography, and a massage from the Wellness Specialist as I stood on the National Geographic Sea Bird’s bow gazing at a group of sea otters.” And all of this happened before breakfast.

The sea otter sighting was a pleasant experience as we drew closer to our morning’s anchor point near the north end of Chicagof Island at the Inian Islands. This area has abundant marine and bird activity because of strong Pacific waters pouring in and out of this “Inside Passage” entrance. The currents “stir up” the water, thus causing fish to congregate; this natural occurrence makes the area a prime feeding location for sea otters, sea lions, humpback whales and several species of birds, predominantly the bald eagle.

With Zodiacs at the ready and a professional Naturalist as our guide, we explored channels and passageways through the Inian Islands teeming with Steller sea lions, the largest sea lion species. At water level, a peeping head, a flipper, a descending tail or the full porpoising of the sea lion led us on our journey. Soon the visual cues gave way to audible cues as we rounded an island and traversed over choppy waters. From an isolated shoreline cove, we were met by approximately 40 Steller sea lions and their gong-like vocalizations. Shortly thereafter, our attention was easily diverted as a group of four humpback whales approached, surfacing and blowing only several meters from our Zodiac.

In the afternoon we anchored at Fox Creek on Chichagof Island, for journeys on foot or via kayak. Kayakers spent the afternoon exploring the creeks and crooks and crevices in Fox Creek, as well as the shoreline, with the ability to spot humpback whales, sea otters and bald eagles. Hikers went deep into the island’s forests, home to a dense population of brown bears. The island’s landscape, cliffs, lakes and waterfalls were formed by moving glaciers thousands of years ago. Now it is a fertile land for countless plant species. Hikers enjoyed bear tracking with the aid of fresh paw prints, identifying plants and meadow flowers, and beautiful views throughout the island.

As the day wound to a close, our stomachs remained full and our eyes remained open over the ship’s bow in hopes of spotting more marine life.

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