Southern Inside Passage and Bailey Bay

Jul 27, 2018 - National Geographic Sea Bird


Today we arrived early to explore the incredible beauty of Bailey Bay. The flat, calm water reflected clear skies and spruce, hemlock, and cedar trees as though they were placed on a mirror. Low tide revealed an intertidal zone featuring beautiful algae contrasting with the colors of mussels, barnacles, and other types of marine life hidden from view during higher tides. We had come to the end of our expedition, and we could not have asked for a more beautiful day.

The warm sun had been with us for several days, and although the rain forests we had come to visit depended so heavily on rain, we were grateful for the warmth—it was polar plunge day. The polar plunge is an activity during which people, who are otherwise capable of good judgment and sensibility, willingly jump into the extremely cold waters of Southeast Alaska. This temporary lapse in judgement allows these poor souls to be guided to the bow of an inflatable boat, where they are confronted by the enormity of their poor decision. But by then, it’s too late. The combination of peer pressure and pride is too much to resist—and the poor souls hurl themselves into the freezing water.

They are quickly retrieved from the depths by an awaiting expedition landing craft. On board, they once again slip into a state of mental incapacity while uttering words of nonsense such as, “It’s not so bad,” or “You should try it,” or even the most ridiculous of utterances: “That wasn’t bad at all.” Fortunately, this temporary state of insanity is quickly cured by a long, hot shower and a hearty lunch.

Finally, the reality of the day hit us, and it was time for prepare for our disembarkation. While we enjoyed searching for more wildlife en route to Ketchikan, it was evident that our thoughts were elsewhere. The lounge was quiet, and questions were more about making flights then making slideshows. Though the memories of this experience will remain forever, it was time to go home.

The morning’s walks offered something everyone. The first few hundred yards—probably the most difficult terrain to navigate—were the same for all the hikes before the trails diverged. The shorter walks had their moments of adventure, but for those who dared the longer, more challenging hike, views of the stunning Lake Shelokum awaited them at the top of the trail. On the way from the beach back to the ship, we enjoyed a short boat cruise by expedition landing craft. The knowledge that we were enjoying the most unusual weather for Southeast Alaska—bright sun, cloudless skies, and warm temperatures—made the ride even more pleasant.

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About the Author

Steve Morello

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Steve Morello has had a long and colorful career in the natural history world. Born in New Jersey he was lucky to be able to summer on the shores of Cape Cod. Whether it was exploring the tidal pools, snorkeling along the beach, or hiking in the dunes, it all came together to instill in him a deep connection to the natural world. It was no surprise that he would return to the Cape as a whale researcher in his adult years. It was on the Cape that Steve first became involved in guiding, and for 15 years acted as naturalist on whale watching boats in the Gulf of Maine. Steve worked with groups creating environmental education material for school programs and soon found another one of his passions, photography.

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