It was a morning of action onboard National Geographic Sea Bird as we lowered our anchor near George Island. Astute observers spotted a lone minke whale off the bow, cruising through the bright green waters, lifting its head up for us to see. Zodiacs raced to the beaches to bring hikers and kayakers to their landing. Even the wait for activities to start proved exciting as a low tide revealed swaths of sea stars, anemones, and chitons. Inside the forest, on the way to the remnants of the famed WWII ammunition, signs of autumn’s march into Southeast Alaska were abundant. False lily of the valley, dwarf dogwood, and devil’s club are all beginning to don their fall colors. Fresh fungi feast on the remnants of fallen foliage. To be in tune with the change of the seasons is to live in accordance with the grand cycles of nature, and we residents of “Sea Bird Nation” (as the guests, staff, and crew have started to call our collective) are thrilled to do so.
The afternoon took us to the magnificent Inian Islands, perhaps my favorite destination in Southeast Alaska. Here, too, we observe the slight creep of autumn. Stellar’s sea lions are more docile as breeding hormones diminish. The colors of the islands’ understory are beginning to yellow. The composition of bird colonies and the plumage of their inhabitants are starting to change. But no matter the season, the Inians deliver. Puffins dive to pluck fish from the depths. Sea lions lek and climb as only they can. Otters fluff their fur and monitor our activity with caution. Harbor porpoises zip through the surf. As we ready to depart for Haines, we see the signature flare of water that arises as Dall’s porpoises break the surface. The day proved utterly phenomenal – proof that no matter the circumstances, Southeast Alaska delivers.