Pavlof Harbor

May 17, 2018 - National Geographic Quest

This morning we had the pleasure of waking up to yet another orca sighting! Early and already bright at 6am, we took our posts on deck to observe these remarkable creatures. With a backdrop of snowy peaks and coffee in hand, the morning could not have been lovelier. The burst of sunshine energized us for our afternoon adventures of kayaking and forest hikes.

We arrived at Pavlof Harbor, featuring a stream quite favored by salmon and trout for spawning. The tide was out when we landed on the beach, so after stowing gear above the high tie mark, we began a hike into the forest. Ecological succession is visible even on the rocks above tide, which are covered in hardy crustose lichens. The edge of the forest is a tangle of thick alder trees. Sun-loving and fast growing, these Sika alders are sporting pendulant flowers, releasing wind-borne pollen before even the leaves bud.

A journey into the forest reveals a cooler environment, as towering Sitka Spruce and Western Hemlock gently shade our path. The old growth forest here is a balance of aged trees with an understory of ferns, mosses and fruiting shrubs. In addition to the greenery, there is an assortment of decaying trees featuring shelf fungus. To our delight, keen observation leads to the discovery of the nesting cavity of a red-breasted sapsucker.

And then came the bears! After a journey to the lake and back, several of our party were lucky to spot brown bear- one swimming, one grazing on the beach. It was a full day which also a remarkable talk by guest speaker Dr. Andrew Szabo from Alaska Whale Foundation on the ecology and conservation of whales in Alaska.

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About the Author

Sarah Keefer


Sarah’s fondest memories of nature are experiences she’s shared with friends—especially when those experiences involve spotting wildlife from the bow of a ship! She’s captivated by the wonders of the natural world, and it was the lure of expansive wilderness and exotic destinations that inspired her to study wildlife biology at both the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the University of Hawai’i Honolulu. Sarah was first partial to mammalian studies, and it wasn’t until her first season as a field naturalist in Southeast Alaska that she began to truly appreciate watching birds and what they could teach us about patience, integrity, and hope.

About the Photographer

Andrew Peacock

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Andrew was born in Adelaide, South Australia and (mis)spent his youth surfing and kayaking in the ocean, as is the case for many Aussies! After graduating from medical school there, Andrew spent a year working as a surgical resident in Santa Barbara, California where he was introduced to rock climbing. Taking up this new activity with a passion, he began to explore the mountainous regions of the world and volunteered his medical skills in Nepal and India where he has since led numerous treks. After documenting his experiences there on slide film, Andrew began contributing photos to what was then the Lonely Planet image library, and thus began a ‘sideline career’ using the creative side of his brain.

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