Ice! Cold, blue, beautiful ice. As we arrived at LeConte Bay near Petersburg, the presence of floating ice indicated that we were in the proximity of a tidewater glacier. In the morning before breakfast, we launched Zodiacs to cruise through the icebergs. The clear blue color of many of the icebergs made them look like precious gemstones, and some even appeared to have been sculpted by the hand of an expert ice-carver. We were also able to get a close-up look at glacial ice when we landed on shore to admire large icebergs that had been stranded during the previous high tide. In the afternoon, National Geographic Quest repositioned to the fishing community of Petersburg, Alaska. We had multiple options today, including various hikes in the temperate rainforest and to a bog (muskeg), Zodiac cruises to observe fishing vessels in the harbor, flightseeing over the Stikine Icefield, and a bicycle tour through the backstreets of Petersburg. In addition, there was time to stroll into town to observe Alaskan life. After a traditional fresh crab dinner, the sun slowly set, highlighting the clouds in the west and the tall peaks to the east. All in all, it was a perfect ending to a magical Alaskan day.
National Geographic Quest
Morning fog swallowed the Southeast Alaskan wilderness. As we cruised into Ushk Bay, anticipation seized the vessel. This morning’s hikes and Zodiac cruises were to be our final operations of the trip; every last one of us was eager to be ensconced in the wonders of the Tongass once again. Following a delicious breakfast — prepared by head chef Paul Cotta and his dedicated team — we set out for shore. Through a light rain we cruised on Zodiacs toward our landing, scattering bald eagles and common mergansers that had congregated along the shore. Ushk Bay’s annual salmon run was nearing its conclusion —and we could smell it. The shoreline was littered with rotting carcasses of pink and chum salmon, many of which were picked apart by corvids, gulls, and bears. Whether or not any of these individuals survived long enough to spawn is a mystery, but there is one certainty amidst this carnage — their sacrifice is not in vain. Their carcasses will enrich this place, injecting the forest with nutrients from the sea. Our last afternoon was spent cruising toward our anchorage near Sitka. The final day of a Lindblad Expeditions cruise is always a hard day. We have all forged new bonds in the fires of wilderness. Every one of us has found ourselves challenged and rewarded, humbled and humored, inspired and inspirational throughout this week. Our new bonds will, thanks to modern technology, be preserved in photographs and videos. Many will be carried on through photos and emails, but this group will never be reconstituted. Though it’s hard to say goodbye, the impermanence of this troupe makes the experience all the more poignant. These adventurers will surely be missed.