We awoke early today to scan for whales in Chatham Strait. We kept our eyes on the horizon, looking for the characteristic blows of humpback whales. We saw several individual whales before breakfast and then were treated to the incredible wonder of cooperative bubble-net feeding right after breakfast. This was soon followed by a double rainbow on the horizon. What a way to start the day! Throughout the morning and early afternoon, we cruised through the northern end of Chatham Strait and then west into Icy Strait, anchoring after lunch in a protected cove off the Inian Islands. This area is one of our favorites to explore by Zodiac. The waters are lively as the Pacific Ocean meets these islands in Cross Sound. Upwelling and mixing currents make for a great place to experience wildlife like Steller sea lions and sea otters, both of which we saw in great numbers today.
National Geographic Sea Bird
This morning found us where the Pacific Ocean meets Cross Sound and Icy Strait, the Inian Islands. Named by William Healey Dall, one of Alaska's earliest scientific explorers, in 1879, the Inians are a mecca for wildlife. The powerful tidal currents flowing in and out daily create a tremendous upwelling of nutrient-rich water. This area is where fishing boats from the various ports in the northern portion of the Inside Passage enter and exit. It was a glorious day with calm seas, which allowed us to cruise around the various islands in our Zodiacs drinking in the fantastic scenery and looking for wildlife. Unmissable were the Steller (or northern) sea lions, the largest member of the “eared seals,” first described in 1742 by Georg Wilhelm Steller, the German surgeon and naturalist on the Bering expedition. We saw many of them on “bachelor haul-outs,” rocks where single males of all ages bask, posture and feed on numerous species of fish. Sea otters with pups are just about the cutest animals on the planet! As members of the weasel or mustelid family, southern sea otters are the smallest marine mammal. Like other members of this family, they have very thick fur. In fact, at 850,000 to 1 million hairs per square inch, sea otters have the thickest fur of any mammal. Without blubber to protect them from chilly ocean waters, sea otters rely on their thick fur.