The dawn was calm and quiet as the National Geographic Venture headed into a protected bay at the northern end of Kuiu Island. A single humpback whale breathed in the distance, bald eagles gazed upon the water, and sea otter pups called out for their mothers all around the ship anchored in Security Bay. The first people ashore were the adventurous bushwhackers—split into two groups—they entered the Tongass National Forest on foot where there was no trail to follow. Trying very hard not to lose boots in deep, thick mud, someone yelled, “This is worse than quicksand!” (Had they encountered much quicksand before this moment?)
Those not feeling quite as sporting also explored the forest, walking on bear and moose trails in search of any blueberries or huckleberries to snack on. Budding photographers found a shipwreck in some mudflats to try their newly attained expedition photography skills on. Since Security Bay is a State Marine Park, guests also hopped into kayaks. Paddling around the coastline, some got the pleasant surprise of being visited by some curious sea otters taking a break in between meals.
Back onboard, expedition staff stood watch on the bow, carefully searching for any signs of megafauna in the water or along the shoreline. A classic afternoon of Southeast Alaskan liquid sunshine ahead, the marine mammals did not seem to mind the extra precipitation. Rounding the corner of Kuiu Island into Keku Strait, humpback whales seemed to materialize out of nowhere and surface all around the ship. First, guests got to watch some classic, rather mellow whale behavior of a few breaths followed by a beautiful fluke-up dives to find some source of food beneath the surface waves. As the Venture continued east along the southern end of Frederick Sound, the activity picked up as the wind and rain also increased in velocity and volume. Multiple groups of two or three whales began lunge-feeding all around, not diving deep or long enough to be completing any full bubble-netting behavior that they are known for. One of the adult whales appeared to have a yearling calf with her—so excited by the amount of food that it continuously breached and slapped its tail as its mother lunge-fed nearby.
Although they hated to do it, the bridge officers maneuvered the ship away after some time of watching the magic, Lindblad Expeditions works hard to respect the wildlife in the remote places they visit, and these whales deserved to continue feeding in peace.
With each day already better than the last, we cannot wait to see what tomorrow has in store!