Now on this fourth day of our voyage, the impressions of Southeast Alaska are becoming more familiar, in this wondrous place where temperate rainforest meets the ocean at the intertidal zone.
Pre-breakfast, Captain Sinclair maneuvered the National Geographic Sea Lion into Port Althorp. A light-colored brown bear grazing in the misty morning meadow cautiously contemplated its behavior relative to the presence of a larger bear. Bald eagles patrolled the stream mouth where salmon mustered and leapt. Flitting flocks of phalaropes caught the early morning light. Twenty years ago, we would come here to hopefully find sea otters. Today, the number of these furry floating backstroking weasels has been rebounding and we enjoy seeing them on many days of our voyages.
At nearby George Island, hikers rambled along the spine of the narrow island to the large derelict gun that guarded the entrance waters to northern Southeast Alaska during World War II. Kayakers paddled along shore between the floating kelp fronds on this perfectly calm day. Tide-poolers turned over rocks, just as we’ve seen bears doing, albeit smaller ones, to find the crabs and eel-like fish the bears were consuming, as well as discovering anemones, brittle stars, chitons, and other invertebrate expressions of life. Our undersea specialist wove our ROV through the kelp to bring back up-close views of the biodiverse kelp forest.
On afternoon Zodiac explorations through the Inian Islands, where a strong flood current stirred productive waters, Steller sea lions thrashed their fish meals as glaucous-wing gulls sought leftovers. Sea otters snuggled their young in the camouflage of the kelp forest canopy. Bald eagles of various age class plumages glided along the cliffs and perched in trees that precariously clung to the island’s flanks. Red rockfish with bulging eyes floated sideways on the surface, having lost out to pressure control issues in turbulent upwelling waters, becoming easy meals for sea lions. A peregrine falcon zipped by as we enjoyed long views out to the Gulf of Alaska on this stellar day.
The impressions of Southeast Alaska are imprinted in our photography and in our minds.