We began our day with National Geographic Quest anchored in the glass-calm waters of Keku Islands. A meshwork of islands comprised of mostly limestone and some granite, each one is carpeted with stunning hemlock and spruce forest. We explored these islands and the waters around them by Zodiac this morning, taking time to examine the smaller nooks and crannies while looking for the abundant wildlife found here. Before breakfast, we had the opportunity to watch a couple humpback whales foraging along the shoreline just off the bow of the ship. Harbor seals were hauled out on the recently exposed rocky reefs as the tide dropped with each passing minute. Bald eagles perched atop the trees drew our attention repeatedly, and as a grand finale, a single humpback whale fed in the more open waters, providing an impressive show for us to enjoy from the comfort of our Zodiacs. It’s always a thrill to observe these massive, 40-ton creatures from the perspective of the water.
After our incredible exploration of the Keku Islands, we set out for an afternoon transit of Chatham Strait. This nearly 100-mile long by 20-mile wide body of water serves as a major marine highway for this region. It is also a well-known congregation point for some of the 3,500 plus humpback whales that migrate to these waters each summer. The whales take advantage of the productive waters, where they’ll spend much of their time feeding in preparation for the long winter months in Hawaii. We were fortunate to encounter a close-knit group of five humpback whales just off Kingsmill Point. They were fully involved with the business at hand. These animals were working together as they foraged, diving and surfacing adjacent to one another as they inhaled as many herring as they could during each foraging bout. They put on quite a show as our ship rested near motionless; they paid no attention to our presence. The spectacle went on for a little over an hour right in front of our eyes. Then we had to set out and leave these magnificent animals to their work. It was truly an exceptional day here in Southeast Alaska.