May 28, 2019 - National Geographic Sea Lion
It was our first day reaching shore by Zodiac to explore the temperate rainforest and kayak Kuiu’s surrounding waters! Before breakfast we anchored in Halleck Harbor on northern Kuiu Island. Sea otters puttered around the ship, some carrying pups on their tummies, others stuffing their faces with various benthic creatures. Soon we were on shore to start our activities. Some hit the water in kayaks, paddling around the small bay to watch otters and jellies. Others elected to paddleboard, while the rest of us crossed our fingers no one would fall in (no one did).
And then there were the hikes. Photographers strolled the beach, a narrow band of meadow and forest to catch some interesting light and shots. Other folks strolled in the intertidal area to check out barnacles, mussels, clams and other exciting marine life. Forest explorers trekked into the forest to get up close and personal with one of the most mystifying species of the temperate rainforest: the mighty banana slug! It was amazing how many slugs were sliming their way through the underbrush. We all had great opportunities to pick them up (requiring a fair amount of desliming later), photograph them, and learn about their bizarre natural history. The forest we visited was logged a few decades ago, which opened discussion on the timber industry and economics of old growth logging. A few forest birds were seen and heard, including the Pacific wren. A hearty group of bushwhackers clambered up a ridge and down again. They returned with twigs in their hair and ready for lunch.
The afternoon was spent sailing from Kuiu to Baranof Island looking for wildlife. We found an island filled with sea lions and harbor seals and saw a few shy humpback whales. Speaking of humpbacks, our late afternoon and evening were spent with Dr. Andy Szabo, director of the Alaska Whale Foundation, who presented a highly entertaining lecture on his research with whales in Alaska. Tonight we sail north toward the northern stretches of the Inside Passage.
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