The first day of our Southeast Alaska adventure began with quite a show! We awoke in Peril Strait, a narrow waterway separating Baranof and Chichagof Islands. Before breakfast we spotted a few Sitka black-tailed deer, eagles, and sea otters. But after breakfast we hit the big times. Coming into Chatham Strait, we spotted a distant group of over a dozen humpback whales. As we got closer, we saw they were cooperatively feeding, an exciting behavior where the entire group rockets to the surface with mouths agape. For a few hours we joined the whales, watching them surface to breathe and then dive down almost in unison. They would stay down for a few minutes, where a highly coordinated feeding "dance" took place. Some whales blew bubbles in a ring, creating a screen which concentrated herring in one area. Other whales flashed the white undersides of their pectoral fins, frightening the fish to prevent them from escaping. One whale screamed a series of feeding calls, scaring the herring towards the surface, and finally signaling the whales to surface through the herring with mouths open. Thousands of photos later, we finally pulled away to head to our afternoon destination.
Saook Bay is a lovely secluded inlet where we unloaded for kayaking on quiet waters and hiking up a salmon stream. Hikers bushwhacked through a partially flooded meadow towards a copse of spruce and hemlock. We skirted a hefty outcropping of salmon berries and entered a magical realm of temperate rainforest. We encountered plenty of signs of brown bears in the area, mainly partially-eaten salmon carcasses and piles of scat. There were also a few squirrel middens (cone storage areas) nestled against trees. Most of us headed back to the ship when the rain began to pour down. It was a terrific first day in Alaska.