Chatham Strait and Red Bluff Bay

Jun 13, 2018 - National Geographic Sea Lion


This has surely been a day to remember.  A quiet early morning on the bow with coffee mugs in hand while a lone sea otter paddled leisurely. Hearing a humpback whale blow from a kayak, startling Sasquatch er, no, a black bear in the deep forest...  A lunging humpback whale sighted from the Zodiac cruise; tide pools, fossils, eagles and a common loon.  Oh right, and that was before lunch. 

On our way across Chatham Strait, the dining room was abandoned mid-meal when a sharp-eyed watch officer spotted a group of whales engaging in cooperative feeding. One of the greatest wildlife sightings one can hope to see on a trip to Southeast Alaska is humpback whales bubble netting. This unusual method of feeding on small schooling fish involves using tools, (bubbles) flashing the white underside of their long flippers to herd the fish, and sound - a trumpet call that must terrify the poor herring into a ball, concentrating the food and giving the whales more sustenance for their effort.  This complex behavior is rare in nature, as the group members are unrelated, like a team with a captain and some key players that meet up every summer.

Red Bluff Bay, a tiny (by Alaskan standards) steep-walled fiord carved into the southern part of Baranof Island was our last stop on this amazing day. Out in our inflatable boats we enjoyed close views of a huge waterfall cascading from a lake 1500 feet above us, a slow cruise up a salmon bearing stream, and some large brown bears grazing in a lush meadow. Dr. Andy Szabo of the Alaska Whale Foundation joined us and offered a thoughtful talk about humpback whale behavior, recovery and recent research efforts.

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About the Author

Bette Lu Krause

Naturalist

Bette Lu's adventurous spirit has taken her around the world by sea — those adventures include tramping about the oceans on old break-bulk freighters, navigating the South Pacific Ocean and on to Antarctica on research vessels as well as several seasons in the Alaskan arctic dodging icebergs in the Beaufort Sea.

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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