Kelp Bay

May 24, 2018 - National Geographic Sea Lion

Although most people understand that wildlife does what it wants to do, where it wants to do it, and none of us no matter how much we try, can alter that simple fact. Still, as the expedition rolls along, and no bears had been seen, our guests could not help but wonder if their trip, would be the first group not to see one. Therefore, as the National Geographic Sea Lion Headed into Kelp Bay, those of us on the bow kept hoping that today would be the day, and now would be the time. In time however, hopes began to fade, and people naturally started to make their way back into the ship, thinking a hearty breakfast would ease the worry that no bears had been seen just yet.

As the crew began to prepare for the lowering of the anchor the ship suddenly began to turn. Had the captain decided that a better anchorage would be needed? No, and as the rest of the guests poured from below deck we collectively realized that something had been seen on the shore. First one, and two dark objects moved along the grass buffer that separated the shoreline from the trees. There are two! Someone said, I think there is another one, another voice added to the mix. We watched as three bears moved along the shore. We soon realized that it was a mother and her two cubs. Mesmerized, all eyes were fixed at the coastline, there in those three wonderful bears, was the answer to our dreams. Since the beginning of our journey we had hoped and waited, now all of our fears were put aside. Then, as if to flaunt Mother Nature’s bounty, a fourth bear, came into view. As we saw it, so did the cubs and they ran down the beach away from the intruder. Mom, not at all intimidated by the interloper, stood her ground to let him know that she, was not about to take him lightly. Her message received, she turned and her family went into the woods. The male followed, and all disappeared behind the trees. When finally, the family of bruins came back into view, the male was gone. We watched a little while longer before once again, they disappeared into the brush.

After breakfast we had planned to hike on the shore, but the proximity of bears put a hold on any land based activities. Instead, the intrepid climbed into kayaks while the rest of us boarded our inflatable crafts for exploration on the water. This was the realm of harbor seals and harlequin ducks, but try as they might to distract our attention, our eyes always went back to the shoreline, always hoping for another view of the bears. The bears never did make a return appearance, but that did not still the sense of excitement we felt from the early morning encounter.

The rest of the afternoon was spent searching for whales and other wildlife. Out into Chatham Straight we ventured, and the occasional whale was spotted. We watched as the whales would spout, speculated as to their wanderings, but the cold and wind that was now blowing forced most inside. To end the day, we made a stop at Cascade Waterfall, where the captain brought the Sea Lion close enough for the spray from the waterfall to dampen our faces. Between the bears of the morning, and the brisk spray of the waterfall in the afternoon, we were reminded of the wildness that Alaska has shown us on this most remarkable day.

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About the Author

Steve Morello

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Steve Morello has had a long and colorful career in the natural history world. Born in New Jersey he was lucky to be able to summer on the shores of Cape Cod. Whether it was exploring the tidal pools, snorkeling along the beach, or hiking in the dunes, it all came together to instill in him a deep connection to the natural world. It was no surprise that he would return to the Cape as a whale researcher in his adult years. It was on the Cape that Steve first became involved in guiding, and for 15 years acted as naturalist on whale watching boats in the Gulf of Maine. Steve worked with groups creating environmental education material for school programs and soon found another one of his passions, photography.

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