Kuiu Island and Frederick Sound

May 23, 2019 - National Geographic Venture


National Geographic Venture started a new day in Southeast Alaska in the western portion of Fredrick Sound heading towards Kuiu Island. Low clouds covered the sky and the occasional drizzle made for a truly authentic Southeast Alaska experience. Rainfall is what makes the largest remaining temperate rainforest on earth vegetated and happy, and as we sailed over glassy waters I thought about how this is the good weather in this climate. The lakes and the forest need enough rain for the rivers to carry enough water for the salmon to run against the current to redistribute ocean-nutrients back to land and complete the cycle.

We arrived to Kuiu Island shortly before breakfast and dropped the anchor at Halleck Harbor in Saginaw Bay. The whole setting is picturesque, and one offering excellent conditions to explore on foot, by kayak or paddleboard. Hikers had a great time exploring the intertidal region and the forest, being able to subsequently learn about many of their inhabitants, including a pair of seldom seen rough-skinned newts. Along the shore, they saw numerous marine creatures including stars, sponges, jellies, and tunicates. Those that ventured into the calm waters enjoyed the freedom and quiet that only a kayak can provide and got the chance to see a few sea otters floating around. Kayvon Malek and I went scuba diving and brought back underwater images of many of the fascinating creatures living beneath the waves of Saginaw Bay for everyone on board to enjoy. Rainbow, rose, morning sun and sunflower sea stars, glassy tunicates, candy stripe shrimp, lemon, white and hooded nudibranchs, plus black and quillback rockfishes where among those animals that made it into the video.

After leaving Halleck Harbor we continued sailing to the east on Frederick Sound and almost right away found a small group of humpback whales, including a female with her calf, swimming slowly just off the northern tip of the island. We watched numerous other humpback whales throughout the afternoon and even a small pod of killer whales. We followed those magnificent predators for a while and marveled at their sheer elegance and beauty. A few more humpbacks breached here and there and to top our list of marine mammals for the day we watched a rookery of Steller sea lions at Brothers Islands after dinner, finishing out another beautiful day exploring 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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