Alaska Cruise Report: East Chichagof Island

From the National Geographic Sea Lion in Alaska August 31, 2010

Today was spent exploring the east side of Chichagof Island and the deep waters of Chatham Strait. Narrow fjords line the coast, with towering mountains overhead. Charismatic megafauna are on many visitors’ wish lists, along with salmon and healthy forests. Today, we did a pretty good job of discovering them all.

Before breakfast, we entered Red Bluff Bay, with mist shrouding the tall forest. Monstrous waterfalls plunged into the deep fjord, while marbled murrelets swam in the calm water. At the head of the fjord, a salmon stream meanders through a meadow, and four different brown bears were spotted in the distance. One bear caught a few fish, and then moved on to walking down the shore and feeding on berries. Nearly 50 bald eagles were perched around the bay; wildlife coming in to feed on the abundant salmon run.

After breakfast we traveled north in Chatham Strait. The skies cleared, the wind dropped, and soon we were watching humpback whales in glassy water. At least ten animals were around us, but one continually fed close to the vessel. This individual was bubble netting, swimming in a clockwise circle while exhaling to trap its prey. Probably done to corral krill, it was incredible to see this massive animal feeding so delicately. A few breaches added to the excitement as well.

After lunch, we entered Kelp Bay, and the spectacular south arm. Here we pulled out all the stops, with kayaks, hikes, Zodiac tours, and driving lessons for the younger explorers. Pink salmon filled the streams, harbor seals bobbed in the bay, eagles soared overhead, and another brown bear was feeding in the stream. Sunshine on the glacier above us made for stunning reflections on the smooth water. Sitting silently on the water allowed one to soak up not only the amazing scenery, but also how much wildlife we had seen today.

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