Sitkoh Bay

Jun 12, 2019 - National Geographic Quest


“Good morning Quest adventurers! This is your 6:55am wake-up call, and I want you all to know that we are surrounded by humpback whales!”

So began the fourth day of our voyage in Southeast Alaska. As guests raced to the bow – in a motley combo of pajamas and raingear – we celebrated an auspicious beginning to another morning in this temperate Eden. The bulk of the early hours we spent cruising down Chatham Strait. Staff and guests alike stood without motion for wildlife sightings as two of our naturalists presented on the region’s bird life and glaciology. Before we knew it, the morning was spent, and we piled on our expedition gear for an afternoon in Sitkoh Bay.

A small dip on the wild vastness of eastern Chichagof Island, Sitkoh Bay is one of the most promising habitats for bear viewing on the entire trip. We were glad, therefore, to have plenty of enthusiastic hikers: larger groups mean greater bear safety! And indeed, at least a few groups were rewarded for their efforts with glimpses of the island’s famous brown bears – from a safe distance, of course. Sitkoh Bay truly is phenomenal bear habitat. Though intensively logged during the 1980s, its rebounding undergrowth is rich with spring herbs and berry bushes promising an ample autumn harvest: excellent nourishment for bears! Coupled with a nearby salmon stream and the richness of intertidal mudflats, the whole place seemed a veritable bear buffet.

Glimpses of our furry friends were comfortingly distant, yet all too brief. The rest of the afternoon we spent our time reveling in summer wildflowers: blooming columbine, wild iris, and thimbleberry added three new species to our plant list for this voyage. And interspersed among the vegetation we noted with wonder the strange ghostly coloration of the local banana slugs.

Other guests decided to forgo the woods for more aquatic pastimes. This was our one chance to try out stand-up paddleboarding in the bay’s protected waters, and the last opportunity of the trip for kayaking. Taking a still, quiet moment out on the water, a guest might be rewarded with the upward-spiraling song of a Swainson’s thrush, an uncommon melody this far from the outer coast. Meanwhile, our young Global Explorers had an exciting chance to pilot an underwater remotely operated vehicle (ROV) under the direction of our dive team. They got some great shots of blackeye gobies!

By 5 p.m. the weather had rolled in, and it was time for us to roll ourselves back to the ship. After another delicious dinner, we are on our way to Petersburg for a day on the town in this historic coastal fishing village!

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About the Author

Laura Marcus

Naturalist

Laura is in her element when she's up to her elbows in kelp, dirt, or fish guts. From her home in the tiny town of Gustavus, Alaska, she delights in honing the skills needed to live amid the wildlands surrounding Glacier Bay. Much of this learning she does in tandem with students. As founding director of The Arete Project, Laura’s main job is as a nonprofit leader and educator. Arete Project courses bring diverse groups of young people to Alaska for immersive living-learning courses, preparing them for lives of environmental and civic leadership.

About the Videographer

Steve Ewing

Video Chronicler

Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, Steve fell in love with the beauty of the natural world at an early age. In addition to nature, his other main passion was telling stories though the medium of television and radio. Steve studied broadcast journalism at the University of Oregon. There, he learned how to shoot, edit, and report compelling stories using digital video.

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