Aug 30, 2017 - National Geographic Quest
Glacier Bay was first surveyed in 1794, when the glacier reached all the way to what is now Bartlett Cove. In 1925, President Calvin Coolidge declared the area a national monument; a proclamation which was elevated to national park in 1980. Now, the glacier has receded quite dramatically, the newly open ocean channel offering incredible potential for wildlife viewing from National Geographic Quest.
The wildlife opportunities in this area are astounding. Throughout the park, one may find wolves, bear, wolverine, mountain goat, killer whale, and humpback whale to name a few. In addition, the species representing the puffin family within the Pacific Ocean call this park home. The search is ardent, scanning the beaches and water all day looking for precious sightings. Today onboard National Geographic Quest a great combination of wildlife was seen!
Before the ship even reached its first destination we had a beautiful wildlife sighting – a sea otter! In the 1700s and 1800s sea otters were abundant in Alaska, but were overhunted for their incredible dense and warm pelts. Sea otters are the only marine mammals that don’t have blubber, so they rely on their very dense fur (sometimes a million hairs per square inch) to keep their bodies insulated and warm. They use their coat much like cold water scuba divers use a dry suit, by keeping air close to their bodies and underneath their fur, so they stay dry and much warmer than if their skin ever got wet.
Our first stop was at Marble Island, a beautiful little outcropping in the center of the waterway near Bartlett Cove. Marble Island is covered with wildlife, from Steller sea lions to horned and tufted puffins. Steller sea lions (or Northern sea lions) are the largest species of otoriid. These are not true seals – as they have ear flaps and the ability to twist their rear flippers around to allow them more agility on land than the true seals. Horned and tufted puffins flew around as we watched, along with marbled murlets and glaucous winged gulls. From here the ship repositioned to Margerie Glacier, a beautiful sight to behold. Margerie is one of eight tidewater glaciers present in Glacier Bay, meaning they still extend down to the water’s edge. She is likely about 4,000 years old, since the beginning of the Little Ice Age. Margerie is 21 miles long, and calves an average of six feet off of her face per day.
Our park rangers and naturalists spent the day awing the guests aboard with the sights and sounds of Glacier Bay National Park; retiring in the evening to enjoy the dulcet tones of Kim Heacox, local legend and Lindblad Expeditions naturalist.
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