Inian Islands and Fern Harbor

Aug 25, 2018 - National Geographic Sea Bird

It was another epic day in southeast Alaska. Our activities were focused around the entrance to Icy Strait, which connects the Inside Passage to the open ocean of the Gulf of Alaska. This is a remote and beautiful place, where the waves crash against the rocky shore, and thick rain forest covers a collection of steep-sided islands.

In the morning, we took two rounds of cruises to the Inian Islands in our expedition landing crafts. These small islands are protected as a wilderness area within Tongass National Forest. On our cruises, we negotiated the swirling currents that push their way around islands as the tide surges in. The water was milky blue from all the suspended glacial silt and seafloor sediment. We saw some charming marine mammals: Steller sea lions and sea otters. We also saw thousands of black-legged kittiwakes flying over the water, where there were abundant fish for them to catch. Harbor porpoises were also catching fish left and right. It was a magical experience.

After another tasty and filling lunch, National Geographic Sea Bird anchored in another place on the north side of Icy Strait: Fern Harbor. This beautiful bay is within Glacier Bay National Park. There, we went ashore for an adventurous hike on the tidal flats. We found impressive and well-preserved bear and moose tracks in the mud. We also enjoyed sampling some wild edibles, including strawberries. Later on, some of us kayaked in the bay while others took another expedition landing craft cruise in the area. It was a full and excellent day.

Here is a poem written by Owen, age 7, one of our Global Explorers.

Glaciers are mothers

Blue bergy bits and growlers

Icebergs large and small

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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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