Sitkoh Bay

May 26, 2018 - National Geographic Quest


A cold and misty morning with a good breeze awaited me as I took my first cup of coffee out onto the bow this morning. Rain was steady and sideways, and there was no hint that anything would change in the near future. I looked out across Sitkoh Bay as we ghosted abreast of the old Chatham Cannery dock, and remembered my first trip to this little corner of Southeast Alaska.

It was a day late in the summer of 2016, and it too was cold and wet. I also remembered how the toughest part of the hike was the first 200 feet, getting off the beach, and onto the old logging road that would determine the course of our adventures today. Once on the road though, it was clear walking for the next two miles down to the meadow at the head of the bay, where we hoped to see bears. I also remembered seeing, for the first time in my life, the fabled ghost slugs of Sitkoh Bay! These are a white color morph of the banana slug that I’ve only seen here, and as hard as it may be to imagine it, I look forward to seeing them whenever we are in the neighborhood.

The wind caused us to cancel our kayaking activities, but a steady rain was not enough to keep out intrepid guests from their appointed rounds, and so we began to ferry guests to the shore just after breakfast. Once on the trail we began to see an abundance of very fresh bear sign, but as fate would have it, we were to be deprived of a first-hand bear sighting today.

After an hour and a half, the first groups began calling for Zodiacs to pick them up.  Zodiac drivers tested their skills by effecting pick-ups in the very shallow waters at the head of the bay, but by noon all were back aboard, sipping Captain Morgan’s spiked chai, and being grateful for the hot showers that awaited them.

I never cease to be amazed at how hardy our guests are, and how they routinely seem overjoyed to have experienced weather that others would gladly eschew. And, after a week of being exposed to a myriad of natural history nuggets, our guests were still enthusiastic to hear all about the ecology of the ghost slugs of Sitkoh Bay. Our guests truly do inhabit a higher plane.

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About the Author

Jeff Campbell

Naturalist

Jeff Campbell fell in love with the ocean while attending boatbuilding school in Eastport, Maine. Since completing his MS in Marine and Estuarine Science at Western Washington University, he has worked for NOAA documenting the ecological impacts of transoceanic fiber-optic cable; the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife developing an aging method for sixgill sharks; the Lummi Tribe as a Harvest Biologist; Northwest Indian College teaching Fisheries and Wildlife Biology, and as a volunteer for the Whatcom County Marine Mammal Stranding Network. He has been involved in research developing mitigation methods for harmful algae blooms, sterilization methods for oil tanker ballast water, and techniques for screening refinery effluent for harmful ecological effects. He also served as Principle Director on a USDA-funded grant using student interns to study the impact of nutrient-rich run-off on seasonal dead-zones in Bellingham Bay.

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