“It’s time to get up.” 

This is how expedition leader Steve Morello greets guests every morning at 0700 aboard National Geographic Quest. Steve is right, there is no time like the present to get up and seize all Alaska has to offer. It is late in the season and the sun was slow to rise, but by breakfast the landscape was bathed in soft light veiled by the clouds. We cruised for Sergius Narrows, while common murres and black-legged kittiwakes zipped across the bow. Guests exchanged pleasantries in the lounge, and soon the staff began their formal introductions and safety briefings.

We spent the afternoon cruising in search of whales. Miraculously, we found one almost immediately from miles away. The massive animal breached up and out of the water, and its splash cued us into action. From the bridge our chief mate Carolina and I kept a vigilant eye and ensured the animal would not elude us. After a long pursuit we positioned ourselves about 200 yards from the animal and watched as it cruised through Freshwater Bay. In a stroke of good luck, the whale flashed its fluke directly at the bow, enabling our natural history staff to snap a photo for identification. This whale was revealed to be Papercut, an individual first spotted before I was born that has been transiting between Alaska and Hawaii for nearly three decades.

Following cocktail hour and recap, we settled in for the evening. It was a relaxing day that set us up nicely for the two weeks of action ahead.