Fog always introduces elements of mystery to a landscape. Small breaks give us windows to what is around us, while the grand scene is eclipsed in an ephemeral blanket of mist. As National Geographic Sea Lion glided towards the Inian Islands in the morning calm, the fog broke for fleeting glimpses of snow-capped mountains and deep fjords. A myriad of seabirds flew by, including a charismatic puffin and menacing jaegers, while Steller sea lions fished. Cross Sound, the gateway to the Pacific, is full of life and this morning we caught glimpses of what may come during our activities.

The Inian Islands never disappoint. No matter how many years someone has visited Southeast Alaska, it is always a destination to anticipate. The waters we sail through on our voyage in the Inside Passage are constricted through just a few inlets. As the tides exchange, this massive volume of wildlife awaits what comes with the tides. Strong tidal currents rip around this series of islands, and we set out in our Zodiacs to explore. Sea lions and large numbers of bald eagles swarmed around the boat as the tide rushed out. Guillemots and cormorants set to their roosts on the steep cliffs. Of course, the morning would not be complete without a humpback whale, dozens of sea otters, and a duo of tufted puffins. These islands are truly an incredible place, exceeding expectations time after time.

For our afternoon, we set out for Port Althorp. This bay terminates in a large tidal flat, giving us calm waters for kayaking and lots of land for hiking and exploring. Deer and bear tracks were abundant, showing us how important these habitats are for so many different species. A dozen eagles soared overhead as we took a closer look at the plants of the meadows and splashed through the streams. Following the trails of brown bears, we peeked into the forest. Some of us went on a long bushwhack to really explore deeply into the island.

With such a remarkable first day of the voyage, we had a high bar to meet today. Alaska met, and exceeded, that bar, and we look forward to what tomorrow might bring.