It was a cloudless day over the protected marine waters and snowy land of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. This was unusual weather for Southeast Alaska, but it was enjoyable. Our first stop was South Marble Island where we saw Steller’s sea lions, tufted puffins, common murres, and floating sea otters. Farther up the eastern side, we slipped into the still, reflective waters of Tidal Inlet. Looking down on us were no less than a dozen mountain goats, scattered and perched on the cliffs. Gloomy Knob gave us more views of sea lions and goats as we cruised up to Margerie Glacier. This is one of the last tidewater glaciers, or a river of ice that flows and calves into the sea. The floating ice is critical for harbor seals who use it for protection from predators. We ended the day with a hike at Bartlett Cove, park headquarters.
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.