Glacier Bay, Alaska

May 15, 2018 - National Geographic Quest


Misty dawn light welcomed us as we made our way across the terminal moraine at the entrance to Glacier Bay National Park this morning, docking at the Bartlett Cove dock at 5:30 A.M. We stopped here to pick up our guests for the day: Park Ranger Jacob McFee, Tlingit Cultural Interpreter Joe Valle, and his assistant Kari Ames. They would accompany us on our 130-mile roundtrip journey into and back out of the park, bringing with them their knowledge, experience, native language, and a few props to enhance our adventure into this World Heritage site and Biosphere Reserve.

Our first stop was at the wildlife-rich South Marble Island, where we observed close to 100 stellar sea lions, the largest eared sea lion on earth with adult males exceeding a ton, hauled out and enjoying the sun. Nesting black-legged kittiwakes (gulls), pigeon guillemots, bald eagles, and sea otters all were there as well, enjoying the buffet of seafood that inhabits these waters.

As we made our way north through the bay, we encountered mountain goats at Gloomy Knob, a coastal brown bear at Russel Cut, and a few humpback whales along the way as well. However, it was the weather that made the day so magical. Light winds and clear blue skies with just enough clouds to add contrast to the snow-covered peaks and glaciers that graced our view in every direction made everyone’s day one to treasure forever.

After an awe-inspiring pause at the face of the Margerie Glacier, we made our back out of the bay and into Bartlett Cove to drop off our day guests and disembark all who wanted to stretch their legs on a short but brisk walk on a lovely wooded trail. National Geographic writer and novelist Kim Heacox joined us on board to share some of his stories and songs to bring this wonderful day to a close.

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About the Author

John Pachuta

Naturalist

John has been interested in travelling, what can be learned from it and sharing it with others, since his days as a youth growing up in rural Ohio. A graduate of Marietta College, his first SCUBA diving course in 1980 introduced him to the underwater world, and he’s been passionate about exploring it ever since. This yearning has taken him to spectacular dive sites the world over, with extensive underwater time logged in Hawaii, the Bahamas, Thailand, Greece and Mexico.

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