From the National Geographic Sea Bird in Alaska August 25, 2010
Expedition Leader Sue Perin’s voice softly came over the ship’s intercom in the pre-dawn light, gently waking us in Glacier Bay National Park. Sharp eyes on the bridge had sighted both coastal brown bears and a lone gray wolf feeding side by side on a humpback whale carcass. We rolled out of bed, rubbed the sleep out of our eyes, grabbed our cameras and binoculars, and headed for the bow of National Geographic Sea Bird.
As civil twilight gave way to the dawn’s early light, we could better make out as many as five brown bears feeding together all at once. Normally brown bears are quite anti-social, preferring to be left alone, even by members of their own kind. The fact that these bears were feeding in such close proximity can only be explained by the abundance of food available. Even more astounding still, these bears were willing to share their breakfast with a single gray wolf, an interloper that normally would be roughly reminded he was unwelcome at the table.
After gorging almost past the point of being able to move, one bear waded into the fjord, sat down and gyrated back and forth attempting to clean the pungent whale remains from his fur. We left the bears as we found them, still feasting. Given that an adult humpback whale approaches forty tons in weight, these lucky early rising scavengers will be fat and happy with this abundance as winter approaches.
Later in the morning, we were privileged to see a truly amazing event; an almost simultaneous glacier calving, followed by an enormous shooter, (a large piece of ice breaking off the face of the glacier below sea level and accelerating skyward.) The lounging harbor seals at the base of Johns Hopkins Glacier didn’t even deign to move from their comfortable resting places on bergy bits.
In plain view from the dining room, a male killer whale surfaced just off the starboard side of the ship. Three killer whales were slowly swimming in the rare and abundant sunshine that the afternoon treated us to. Further afternoon delights included mountain goats at Gloomy Knob, a pair of lounging coyotes sunning themselves on the beach at North Sandy Cove, and Steller sea lions and tufted puffins at South Marble Island. The Fair Weather range cleared to the west in the golden light of the setting sun as new Junior Rangers were sworn in with the promise to help preserve and protect this abundant and diverse treasure we call Glacier Bay National Park.
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