Saginaw Bay and Chatham Strait

Aug 15, 2018 - National Geographic Quest


After having sailed all night long north of Petersburg, National Geographic Quest started a new day off Kuiu Island. Beautiful clouds filtered the early morning sunrays and regaled us with a wonderful show for us early-risers.  The first humpback whale and sea otter of the day were spotted soon after that as we navigated towards the northern portion of Kuiu. We entered the large Saginaw Bay, past an intriguing ancient Tlingit pictograph on the cliff and anchored at Halleck Harbor.

We dedicated the morning to explore that beautiful island by foot, kayak, and stand-up paddleboard; the more adventurous went bushwhacking and crossed a small peninsula. They reported having seen abundant animal signs, including wolf and black bear footprints in the mud. Kuiu Island is reputed to be home to a great number of black bears and is famous for having a big population density. It is also one of those islands where a subspecies of the gray wolf, the Alexander Archipelago wolf, lives. Others explored the shoreline and learned about the myriad creatures that live in the intertidal zone. The low tide exposed a big area and we were able to walk on a marine environment covered with brown, red, and green seaweed, surprisingly large barnacles, anemones, chitons, and many more.

Kayakers enjoyed the peace and quiet of the glassy water and admired the scenery from their floating platforms. Many of them had the unique opportunity to watch a sea otter that decided to watch those strange creatures paddling around its territory. Meanwhile, Alyssa Adler and I went scuba diving to bring back underwater footage to show everyone on board. We filmed a great variety of fascinating marine creatures with colorful names such as decorator crab, candy stripe shrimp, and white-and-orange-tipped nudibranch.

After lunch we sailed again out of Saginaw Bay, but it wasn’t long before we found the first of several humpback whales. That first whale of the evening delighted us with some acrobatic displays, including a couple of breaches. We kept finding and watching other humpback whales throughout the afternoon on our way across Chatham Strait towards Baranof Island. There we met Dr. Andy Szabo, Director of the Alaska Whale Foundation, who came on board to give us a great lecture about humpback whales. What an appropriate way to put an end to another wonderful day in Southeast Alaska!

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About the Author

Carlos Navarro

Undersea Specialist

Carlos J. Navarro is a biochemist specializing in marine biology, a M. Sc. in Environmental Management and a freelance wildlife photographer/author. Carlos has spent most of the last 30 years living along the shores of the Sea of Cortez and participating in numerous scientific, conservation and environmental education projects on the vaquita, marine invertebrates, sea birds, great white sharks, baleen whales, jaguars and crocodiles. Carlos’ six years of jaguar research provided the basis of ONCA MAYA, a non-profit organization dedicated to jaguar conservation based in Cancun, of which he is a founding member and still serves as a scientific advisor. He loves being underwater, either free-diving or using SCUBA gear and have had the chance to explore the underwater realms of Alaska, Mexico, Svalbard, the trans-Atlantic ridge islands, the Caribbean and both coasts of South America from Panama to Chile and Brazil to Argentina. 

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