Set between Icy Strait and Cross Sound near the open Pacific Ocean, the Inian Islands are ripping with wild currents and bubbling eddies. Flooding tides bring in resources due to an upwelling effect. The shallow shelf on which the islands are situated coupled with the extremes in tidal changes make the ebbs and flow of the cyclical tides the proverbial dinner bell for the local wildlife. Rockfish, salmon, and smaller schooling fish get churned up to the surface and are easy picking for bald eagles, glaucous-winged gulls, and black-legged kittiwakes. The real show is the haul out of Steller sea lions, the largest of its species, darting through the water and grabbing fish.

The islands are also great habitats for sea otters, the only marine mammal that doesn’t rely on a thick layer of blubber to stay warm in these icy waters. They can be found floating amongst the kelp beds near shore. The only thing that could add to the diversity of such an assemblage of life would be an unexpected encounter with Dall’s porpoises. Some of them saw us off as we weighed anchor to make way for our next destination.

Photographers: Kyle Bowman and Jesse Humbert