Behm Canal and Misty Fjords, Alaska

Jul 26, 2018 - National Geographic Sea Bird


What makes expedition cruising so exciting is not only having the ability to see large parts of a region and different landscapes in a short time, but also knowing that the plan is always fluid, with no set itinerary that one must follow. When we saw another ship slip into the bay we were going to explore, we changed plans and set sail for one of this author’s favorite places in Southeast Alaska.

Another day of brilliant sunshine made the name Misty Fjords seem misleading. It was almost incomprehensible that this region of the world can receive more than 150 inches of rain per year. Despite this, over the past few days we had noticed the land was very dry. As we cruised over, the smell of the forest filled our noses and a warm breeze washed over us. We spotted several orcas moving swiftly through the fjord. Unlike the orcas of several days ago that swam along the ship and under the bow, this group was on a mission. They swam on as we headed south along Behm Canal toward Rudyard Bay and the afternoon’s water activities.

We heard several talks throughout the morning as onboard naturalists and bridge staff scanned the shores and water for wildlife. This author spoke about the wonderful world of lichen, how they endure in dramatically different landscapes around the world and thrive in the rain forest of Southeast Alaska. We enjoyed a presentation on how to take and process photographs, so they reflect the images you had in your mind. As our brains processed all the new information, our energy levels waned, and soon it was time for another splendid meal prepared by Chef Adam.

After the meal, we passed through a rock formation resembling a large owl, and we found ourselves in a secluded bay where we lowered kayaks and expedition landing crafts. We noticed that the heat had dried up many of the waterfalls normally cascading down the sheer rockface. Even the streams were dry—there wasn’t enough water for mature salmon to enter.

Kayakers headed out in the sun but quickly found shade under trees hanging over the water. Cool breezes floated down narrow slot canyons and old faults, and we caught a few splashes from the waterfalls that continued to flow despite the heat. We spotted abundant harbor seals as well as a few river otters that were sunning themselves on rocks. Our expedition landing crafts sped around, finding salmon and seals, gulls and sheer cliffs. Back on board, dinner was served as we cruised back toward Behm Canal to wait for the simultaneous moonrise and sunset.

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About the Author

Alex Chavanne

Naturalist

Alex was born and raised in Northern California, an area more wild and closer to nature (and colder!) than most imagine. From the time he could hold his head up, he was seated in a kayak, eventually beginning to lead tours off the rough and rocky Santa Cruz coastline after graduating from the University of California.

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