St. Paul Island, Pribilof Islands

Jul 13, 2019 - National Geographic Orion


All on board National Geographic Orion are excited as we approach St. Paul Island, the largest island in the Pribilof Islands. Why all the excitement you might ask? Because of the reputation these islands have for a huge abundance of wildlife. Today’s encounters easily met our expectations, and for most of us, far exceeded them!

Our first unusual sighting was an adult bull sperm whale in less than 200 feet of water depth. Normally sperm whales are found in waters much deeper than this. Captain Kruess skillfully maneuvered the ship so that all could see this whale that none of the staff expected to encounter in waters this shallow.

Ashore in the small village, we quickly spread out to various sites on the southern portion of the island. Highlights included sea bird nesting colonies on sheer cliff walls as well as beaches where northern fur seal bulls have claimed territories to entice females to mate and give birth. Arctic foxes seemingly were everywhere, at the dock, on the roads, along the beaches, and even in town itself!

Our evening was capped off with killer whales hunting and feeding upon some of those very same northern fur seals we had probably watched earlier. At one point, the largest male in the pod swam across our bow and breached twice right in front of us!

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About the Author

Michael Nolan

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Michael Nolan was born in Bitburg, Germany to an Air Force family stationed there. His first experience of the ocean came at age 12, when he learned to snorkel in the Italian Mediterranean. At age 17 he moved to Tucson, Arizona and became a PADI SCUBA instructor, before starting a SCUBA diving business that specialized in diving trips to the Sea of Cortez.

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