George Island and the Inian Islands

Jul 20, 2018 - National Geographic Quest

Those up before breakfast were treated to humpback blows in front of the still prominent Fairweather Range on the horizon. The clouds threatened to take the peaks out of view, but by the time we were all ashore, the clouds had lifted onto another bluebird day. This morning was spent exploring George Island, imagining ourselves as the military crew that were tasked with taking the 18 tonne World War II gun from our landing beach to the north end of the island, where it was positioned to protect Cross Sound and Icy Strait from attack. When the site was abandoned in 1944, the gun and several of the Quonset huts were left behind and can be seen in various states of disrepair. The gun remains now as the only intact WWII gun in Southeast Alaska. 

We repositioned during lunch to the neighbouring Inian Islands for Zodiac tours. The area is positioned just where the water from Icy Strait meets the upwelling cold water of the Pacific. This nutrient rich water feeds the marine food chain from the bottom up.  Photosynthetic organisms range from microscopic phytoplankton to giant kelp, absorbing the rays of sunshine that we were also bathing in. A diverse range of zooplankton, invertebrates, and juvenile fish feed on the algal matter, and from there larger fish, birds, and marine mammals all join in to create an abundance of biomass and biodiversity. One of the trickiest decisions of the afternoon was deciding which whale to keep your camera on in anticipation of the next spout! Sea lions were frolicking and feeding in the upwelling incoming tide, sea otters were out feeding and rolling amongst the kelp, and seabirds were spotted everywhere, including pigeon guillemots, marbled murrelets, cormorants, and of course, the soaring bald eagles. All against a backdrop of the Fairweathers still out in all their glory. Once again, what a day!

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About the Author

Gail Ashton

Naturalist/Expedition Diver

With a bachelor’s degree from Wales and a Ph.D. from Scotland, Gail has used her skills in marine biology to pursue her passion: investigating marine biodiversity all over the world. As a research scientist based in San Francisco, she has led projects in coastal marine communities from Alaska to Panama. A cold-water diver at heart, Gail jumped at the opportunity to lead a research project on the impacts of climate change that involved spending two years diving under the ice in Antarctica. Other projects have taken her to Florida, Guam and Indonesia.

About the Videographer

Dave Katz

Video Chronicler

As a family growing up in the Finger Lakes region of New York, free time was spent in the outdoors. Dave’s mother, an earth science and biology teacher turned weekend hikes into informative lessons. The beautiful gorges, lakes and forests made a lasting impression.

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