Chatham Strait and Lake Eva

Jul 07, 2019 - National Geographic Quest

Exploring Alaska’s coastal wilderness on National Geographic Quest is off to a spectacular start. Yesterday evening guests embarked the ship in Sitka and headed north through Sergius Narrows; after dinner and a brief glimpse of killer whales racing into the sunset, everyone went to bed.

This morning dawned bright, sunny, and riddled with whales. In the middle of Chatham Strait – an extremely deep fjord leading south to the Gulf of Alaska – dozens of North Pacific humpback whales were diving and feeding all around the ship. These creatures have recently made a 6,000-mile roundtrip migration to the mating grounds of Hawai’i and Mexico and back. Arriving after having not eaten for 5 or 6 months, the whales feed on small schooling fish such as herring, capelin, and sandlance for 22 hours out of every day.

In the afternoon, National Geographic Quest anchored in Hanus Bay on the northwest end of Baranof Island. Guests shuttled to shore by Zodiac for operations exploring the area in and out of the water. Some guests went kayaking into a tidally influenced lagoon at the mouth of a salmon stream, angling to see what fishes and invertebrates live in the seagrasses, and whether a bald eagle would dive down to grab anything to eat. Hikers walked along a beautiful trail maintained by the Forest Service to a lookout that had a view of the sockeye and coho salmon making their way upstream to spawn later in the summer. Some adventurous guests made it all the way to Lake Eva, looking and listening for bald eagles, belted kingfishers, varied thrushes, and red-breasted sapsuckers. All in all, a very full day leaving everyone excited for what is to come for the rest of the week.

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About the Author

JIll Niederberger


Jill is an aquatic biologist, naturalist, divemaster, and captain with a love for everything living in and depending on water. Whether sailing catamarans, leading snorkeling tours, or assisting with cetacean field research projects, she enjoys connecting others to the wilderness around them. Her most recent adventures have led her into a focus on marine mammals – those creatures with fur and blubber that defy the odds by living in or depending on an environment in which they cannot breathe.

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