We had a wonderful day! We were able to see an abundance of life in the Inian Islands! Whales came bursting from the sea below. These humpback whales can be up to 60 feet long. The whales push fish towards the shoreline so they can feed. Upwelling from below also pushes rockfish to the surface. Unable to decompress, the fishes’ eyes and bladders bulge, and the fish become food for the Steller sea lions feasting in the waters. The sea lions are all males, bulking up to become larger. Bulls can be up to 2500 pounds and eleven feet long. A series of birds feed on these fish. Bald eagles are the primary feeders. Juveniles have brown heads. As they mature, the feathers on their heads turn white, and their beaks turn yellow. We also saw pigeon guillemots and cormorants. These marine birds swarmed the island, and drifting around the rocks was another endearing surprise. Sea otters! Multiple sea otters were tied together to form what is called a raft. These sea otters have millions of hairs, so many that they do not need blubber or brown adipose fat to keep them warm. Later in the evening, guests entered Dundas Bay for a relaxing and meditative hike. Dundas is part of Glacier Bay National Park. Guests had the chance to kayak and Zodiac as well. During these amazing excursions, the undersea team collected footage that included marvelous views of massive ribbon kelp. The footage played during cocktail hour. Overall, it was an exceptional day!
National Geographic Quest
Morning fog swallowed the Southeast Alaskan wilderness. As we cruised into Ushk Bay, anticipation seized the vessel. This morning’s hikes and Zodiac cruises were to be our final operations of the trip; every last one of us was eager to be ensconced in the wonders of the Tongass once again. Following a delicious breakfast — prepared by head chef Paul Cotta and his dedicated team — we set out for shore. Through a light rain we cruised on Zodiacs toward our landing, scattering bald eagles and common mergansers that had congregated along the shore. Ushk Bay’s annual salmon run was nearing its conclusion —and we could smell it. The shoreline was littered with rotting carcasses of pink and chum salmon, many of which were picked apart by corvids, gulls, and bears. Whether or not any of these individuals survived long enough to spawn is a mystery, but there is one certainty amidst this carnage — their sacrifice is not in vain. Their carcasses will enrich this place, injecting the forest with nutrients from the sea. Our last afternoon was spent cruising toward our anchorage near Sitka. The final day of a Lindblad Expeditions cruise is always a hard day. We have all forged new bonds in the fires of wilderness. Every one of us has found ourselves challenged and rewarded, humbled and humored, inspired and inspirational throughout this week. Our new bonds will, thanks to modern technology, be preserved in photographs and videos. Many will be carried on through photos and emails, but this group will never be reconstituted. Though it’s hard to say goodbye, the impermanence of this troupe makes the experience all the more poignant. These adventurers will surely be missed.