From the National Geographic Sea Bird in Alaska
May 7, 2012 - National Geographic Sea Bird
Misty Fjords National Monument, Alaska
This morning the National Geographic Sea Bird awoke in the misty fjords of Punchbowl Cove in Southeast Alaska! Awaking to the heavy atmosphere so typical of this temperate rain forest, the ship proceeded to penetrate the steep walls and deep waters of Misty Fjords National Monument.
We were blessed with a mountain goat sighting close to the water line; typically this animal lingers in impossible places, high up on the faces and ridges of the fjords and coastal mountain range. It appeared to be seeking some of spring’s fresh foliage at lower elevations as their typical domain is still covered in snow. Winter starvation is one of their leading causes of death, so spring – as for all the animals that winter here – acts as a time of renewal and replenishment. Further up the fjord the ship stopped short of a narrow passage that we would venture through either by kayak or Zodiac.
The 2.3 million acres that make up this amazing monument were once the original land base of the Tongass National Forest. In 1978 the status was changed to a national monument, thanks to Jimmy Carter’s initiative and the passing of ANILCA. This “Yosemite of the North” is now part of the massive 17-million acre Tongass National Forest that makes up 80% of Southeast Alaska. While only 22 miles from Ketchikan (Alaska’s 5th largest town with 8,000 people) we felt like we were in some enchanted land far removed from the reaches of humanity.
Launching from the stern of the mother ship we ventured out amongst the 2,000 to 3,000-foot water-filled walls as some of the 160 inches of rain that falls here a year reminded us that we are in the rain forest. Bald eagles welcomed us into the deeper reaches of the fjord as we set out for a more intimate look at the sheer rock faces. Some folks saw a river otter and Steller jay on their sojourn while another chose to take a swim! Needless to say I think everyone welcomed being back on the ship after a quality Southeast Alaskan soak!