Our expedition aboard National Geographic Quest continued to be filled with wildlife encounters and scenic views when we anchored in Sitkoh Bay, and later as we cruised through Chatham Strait en route to Petersburg. This morning, we arrived in sunny Sitkoh Bay, where guests kayaked the inlet before hitting the trails around the bay in search of brown bears. Guests and naturalists alike were excited to find footprints and other evidence of several bears in the area, including seal bones in the forest and a ‘rubbing tree.’ These trees are stopping points for bears to rub their backs, and in doing so they leave behind a scent that lets other bears know who is in the area. We spotted one bear across the bay and were excited by the abundance of life thriving along the trails — including bald eagles and cute banana slugs that can cruise at a whopping 6.5 inches per minute!

As we cruised through Chatham Strait, we had an incredible sighting— over ten humpback whales surrounded our vessel. Humpback whales in Alaska mostly travel from Hawaii (and some from Baja California) to feed on the nutrient-rich waters of Southeast Alaska. This species is particularly buoyant, and they need to raise their fluke (tail) above their body to create enough momentum to dive. As they showed the underside of their fluke, naturalists documented the unique patterns and curvature specific to each individual. With this information we can identify individual humpback whales and report their locations to a citizen-science-driven research group called Happy Whale. We found that approximately 80% of the whales we saw were from Hawaii and the others from Baja.

This afternoon, we were joined by Dr. Andy Szabo, a renowned whale researcher, who hopped on the ship from his own research vessel. We gathered in the ship’s lounge for a talk from Dr. Szabo about his research on the humpback whales that visit Alaskan feeding grounds. Following Dr. Szabo’s talk, we all gathered on the sundeck to watch bald eagles perched above Kasnyku Falls. After dinner, we made our way into the late sunset for Petersburg. The combination of extraordinary wildlife encounters and educational experiences made the day on National Geographic Quest another unforgettable adventure in the pristine Alaskan wilderness.