The Fairweather Range might have the most misleading name of any peaks in the world. The summits, which rise 15,000+ feet in some cases, lie between the open Pacific Ocean and Alaska’s Inside Passage. This positioning means they are often shrouded in clouds, exposed to high winds, and pummeled by precipitation.

Today, for National Geographic Sea Bird, this was not the case. Mt. Fairweather and the surrounding peaks were in full view on an uncharacteristically bluebird day as we explored the coastlines of the Inian Islands and George Island.

We anchored first at the Hobbit Hole, a protected area near the Inian Islands. The small rocky islets here lie at the base of the Fairweathers and are home to a huge diversity of marine life: Steller sea lions, sea otters, bald eagles, cormorants, porpoises, and whales. We took to our Zodiacs for early morning cruises to get up close and personal with these animals that feed on the abundant waters. Afterwards, the Global Explorers tried their hands at driving the Zodiacs in lessons with the field staff, and they helped to collect plankton samples from the waters around the islands.

In the afternoon, we repositioned to George Island where we found opportunities for hiking and kayaking. On land, the naturalist team shared some of the exciting flora that thrive in the temperate rainforest. The kayakers paddled through kelp forests and alongside massive rock arches that result when you place a rocky island in the way of wave action from the Northern Pacific.

All the while, the peaks of the Fairweathers served as a backdrop, underscoring how wild this place truly is.