Inian Islands, Cruising

Aug 24, 2017 - National Geographic Sea Lion

Yesterday was an incredible day in Glacier Bay National Park, so we had some work cut out for us this morning to try and match, or possibly exceed, the previous day’s experiences. So, after spending the night anchored off a spot call Fox Creek, on the northwest side of Chichagof Island, the National Geographic Sea Lion awoke to another glorious morning in Southeast Alaska. As breakfast was being served, we lifted the anchor, and made the short cruise just north of our position, to an area named the Inian Islands, the spot for our morning adventures!

The National Geographic Sea Lion arrived in no time at all, dropped anchor, lowered the inflatable watercraft, and prepared for zodiac cruises around this magnificent series of islands just off the northwest tip of Chichagof Island. The morning looked good, at least for the first round of cruises, but we would have to wait and see what the weather would do for the second round!

After barely pulling away from the ship there were several sea otters spotted in a nearby kelp bed, which started things off on a very positive note. Then a humpback whale was seen just a short distance away, before we turned and headed toward an area that would prove to be alive with northern sea lions frolicking close to our boats in the water just off their haul-out rock located in the middle of very active and productive channel through the middle of the island group.  

Next came a large group of otters resting and playing in another kelp bed, sea lions catching salmon in the in-coming rushing tidal waters, bald eagles, and a few more humpback whales entertaining us to our delight!

Just as the first round was ending, the weather took a turn and started to precipitate, which continued through the second round of cruises, but did not dampen our enthusiasm, or effect what we were seeing and experiencing along the way!

Soon it was time to head east into Icy Strait and continue onward toward the next morning’s activities farther south. So, up came the anchor again, and we started motoring east, and then southward toward Thomas Bay, and then the lovely town of Petersburg. But luckily, some large meg-fauna, in the form of humpback whales, were spotted feeding in the distance on the northern side of Icy Strait! It turned out to be about eight animals doing a unique feeding behavior called “Cooperative Bubble Netting”, which is distinctive to Southeast Alaska, and one of the most spectacular events you can be privileged to witness on our planet!

If we didn’t match Glacier Bay today, we were a close second!  

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About the Author

Rich Kirchner

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Rich Kirchner has worked as a naturalist in Antarctica, Alaska, the Bering Sea, Baja and the High Arctic, including Greenland, the Canadian Arctic and Iceland. His 25 years as a professional wildlife photographer has granted him international publication credits included in magazines such as Geo Germany, Geo France, Natural History, Audubon, National Wildlife and Ranger Rick, as well as more than a hundred books.

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