National Geographic Sea Lion crossed into the waters of Glacier Bay National Park shortly after midnight when our twenty-four-hour permit began. This timing allows us to be firmly into the action of the park by the time our guests wake up. As if we had planned it, the boat slowly came upon a coastal brown bear swimming across our path prior to breakfast, fully in view of a crowded bow of onlookers. This charismatic fella did not shy away from entertaining us. Quite the opposite, in fact. He eyed us for a moment and then shook the water from his fur before romping around the beach for twenty minutes or so. In the end, it was us who had to leave so we could have breakfast before our arrival at Margerie Glacier.
At the dead end, where Margerie meets the Grand Pacific Glacier, Captain Carter had us in a slow rotation so we could get a good look at the massive ice that carved this entire area. Harbor seals dotted the floating ice near us, and we even spotted a small haul out of sea otters, an extremely rare site. Applause broke out after a large calving event. The oncoming wave shook the boat as most were still standing in awe. For many, riding the wave of a freshly calved glacier will be a once in a lifetime memory. After our time with Margerie, we had time to stop at the faces of both Johns Hopkins and Lamplugh Glaciers before we continued south.
As we continued to skirt south, our first stop was at a sheer rock wall called Gloomy Knob. A healthy population of mountain goats make their home on the steep cliffs of Gloomy Knob. Through a light rain, a total of four mountain goats were found. As the icing on the cake, we visited South Marble Island before exiting the park. We always find a haul out of sea lions there, but there was no way we could have predicted what happened next. At one point, our boat was surrounded by tufted puffins while a mother otter paddled by with a baby. A long black fin approached from behind. It was a killer whale, giving us a send-off as we left the park. While all mammals made it out alive, it was a very intense moment for the mammals on board, as well as those off.