If yesterday was a “Whale of a Day,” today was “Icing on the Cake.” Several of us participated in the traditional Polar Plunge — enthusiastically jumping into the icy waters of Sand Bay just after dawn (and before breakfast)! It was bracing by all accounts. After a hearty breakfast, we went ashore for hikes along a stream in Sand Bay, which was a totally different landscape from yesterday. As we walked along the stream at low tide, we saw hundreds of steelhead and a few pink salmon, cautiously making their way upstream to spawn. Many dead salmon were beached along the shore and in the shallow, calm water; some of their lives were over after spawning, while others were clearly the remains of bear meals. Mature and immature eagles were perched on towering Sitka spruce and flying overhead. We saw fresh bear, moose, and eagle tracks in the soft mud. Those who explored the vast and exposed intertidal found all sorts of interesting creatures, including nudibranchs and their egg masses. It was an absolutely perfect morning: calm and quiet conditions, cloudless sky, and pleasant temperatures.
After returning to the ship, we sailed up Stephens Pass and into Endicott Arm in search of wildlife and the spectacular views of ice. After reaching Dawes Glacier by mid-afternoon, half the guests embarked on a Zodiac cruise among the “growlers” and “bergy bits” to the glacier. The other guests listened to a presentation from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Rangers about their role in monitoring vessel traffic and camping permits in the Endicott Arm area. The two groups later switched roles. The views were magnificent, and the weather remained perfect. We observed several harbor seals resting on the bergy bits and icebergs, and a single harbor porpoise that cruised through the area. Halfway up the towering fjord wall, a single mountain goat grazed nonchalantly. And of course a large glacier calving event occurred, to the delight of all.
Following dinner, we enjoyed the traditional guest slide show and solidified new friendships, before preparing for tomorrow’s departure.