Sitkoh Bay

Jun 04, 2018 - National Geographic Sea Lion


The day began with overcast skies. A light rain sprinkled down on us as we stood on deck watching the forested hillsides pass by, heading to Sitkoh Bay for our morning excursions.

We piled into expedition landing crafts for our ride to shore and walks among the tall trees but first we were treated to water stars of an orange and tan color. For reasons of their own, lions mane jellies crowded the inlet on their undulating journeys.  The water was dotted with their bodies. They flared out into star shapes and then folded their mantles before flashing the star again. The tendons stretched on behind them in a train of stinging potential.

Tall trees and a rich understory of plants created a world of magic and mystery. Occasional piles of bear droppings reminded us that all was not as bucolic as it may seem for in these woods lives one of the world’s largest terrestrial predators, the brown bear. While signs of the bear abounded, the creature itself never showed until we were back on board. A young brown bear scampered along the shore. It was nervous, and not about our presence. We stood on deck, quiet as deer, watching it feed on grasses and sedges. Occasionally, without warning, it darted into the taller vegetation as if some alarm sounded. Then, tentatively it returned to the beach and continued feeding.

The bear went into the woods and we made our way to Lake Eva. The afternoon rain came thicker but not enough to dampen spirits. Out into the kayaks we paddled. A bald eagle turned over stones on the beach. Ravens called from the trees and the barnacles and mussels disappeared under the surface of the incoming tide. A bear was spotted and we were able to watch it wander and feed on shoreline vegetation. This was our second brown bear of the day. Meanwhile hikers went on a trail that led to Lake Eva. Above the rippling water falls a river otter darted about peaking at us from behind a felled log.

Somehow, we found time for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and a wonderful introduction to expedition photography by our photo instructor, David Spiegel. After dinner, naturalist Doug Gualtieri presented a fascinating program on Alaska’s forests and tundra. Even this was interrupted by more wildlife for in front of our ship a humpback whale blew. Back out on deck we went into the long light of an Alaskan summers evening. The richness of Alaska’s wilderness is breathtaking. We our saturated in beauty, surrounded by wildlife and contented in our hearts with the deep joy of experiencing something honestly special.

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About the Author

Marylou Blakeslee

Naturalist

For the past 20 years, Marylou Blakeslee has traveled the world sharing her love of wild places. She lectures on a number of topics from the bears and wolves of the Arctic, to the leopard seals and whales of the Antarctic, as well as the turtles and fishes of the Great Barrier Reef.

About the Videographer

Matthew Ritenour

Video Chronicler

Matthew grew up on the Gulf of Mexico, where a love of geography, culture and history were instilled at a young age. He studied anthropology at California State University, Chico, and soon began working at the Advanced Laboratory for Visual Anthropology (ALVA), a documentary production studio that focuses on sharing the results of anthropological research with the public. As a cinematographer and editor at ALVA, he documented research on everything from the effects of drought in California, to looted petroglyphs in the Sierra Nevada high desert, and the global trade in emeralds.

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