Chatham Strait and Hanus Bay

Aug 16, 2018 - National Geographic Sea Bird

Today, what was already a great voyage on board National Geographic Sea Bird became a truly outstanding experience. We ended up experiencing so many once-in-a-lifetime moments that it was difficult to believe it all happened in less than 12 hours.

Just after breakfast, we spotted a large group of killer whales coursing through Chatham Strait. There were whales of all ages—including a precious juvenile—in the pod. The morning sunlight was bright, illuminating the beautiful animals in a way that was excellent for photography. We spent more than an hour cruising alongside the pod, delighting in their every move.

Heading back south in Chatham Strait, we next encountered a small group of humpback whales. We soon realized that this group was engaged in cooperative bubblenet feeding, during which a group of whales corrals a school of herring using a ring of rising bubbles. The whales chase the fish to the surface inside this bubblenet and swallow them all at once at they burst forth at the surface. We were so excited to watch this rare and awesome display. We watched them do this again and again until we had to pull away to carry on with our day.

The excitement did not end with the whales. After lunch, we anchored in Hanus Bay on Baranof Island. Groups took turns kayaking in the tidal lagoon and hiking on shore along the trail to Lake Eva. Those on the hike experienced a gorgeous example of Southeast Alaska’s temperate rain forest. Besides seeing salmon up close in the stream that flows through the forest, hikers saw brown bears as they chased the fish through shallow water. For many people, seeing the see wild Alaskan brown bears was the highlight of the entire trip. Those who were kayaking spotted these same bears from the vantage point of the water.

It was one of those amazing days that can only be experienced in the vast maritime wilderness of Southeast Alaska.

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About the Author

Ivan Phillipsen


Ivan is a passionate naturalist with a background in scientific research. He has participated in studies of a diverse assortment of organisms: aspen trees, cactus wrens, aquatic snails, frogs, and beetles. He holds a M.S. in biology from Cal State San Bernardino and a Ph.D. in zoology from Oregon State University. The population genetics of freshwater animals was his area of focus. He has published a series of papers on the evolutionary biology of amphibians and aquatic insects. Ivan’s scientific work invariably involved backpacking into remote wilderness areas to find his secretive research subjects in their natural habitats.

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