Chichagof Island, Sitkoh Bay

Jul 15, 2019 - National Geographic Venture


Today was an impressive day dictated by nature. While on board, we had informative presentations in preparation for our destination, Sitkoh Bay. Guests were given a safety bear-country briefing, information on water activities, and walk operations. Our younger guests were also given their very own field notebooks to participate in an optional program for young explorers. Our photo instructor gave his presentation, and we tested our gear. Alaska is nature photography and wildlife spotting at its best. Our expedition leader stated that our program’s structure could change at any time, all according to wildlife. Our guests were prepped and ready to adapt should this happen.

This was in fact the case as guests were enjoying a delicious lunch. Far in the distance, our expedition staff spotted many whale blows compacted together, a possible bubble-net sighting. Bubble-net feeding is a rarely observed whale social behavior where a group of humpbacks come together, and rapidly corral schools of fish in an upwardly shrinking spiral. Our officers in charge of navigation heard the call and immediately diverted our ship toward the site. Our expedition leader alerted all guests and crew about this impressive event. Once closer, by Chichagof Islands, we clearly confirmed seven humpback whales free diving together about every six minutes. Coordinating, then bursting back to the surface with their gigantic open jaws, capturing their favorite meal of herring. We watched mesmerized by the massive size of the whales and the uniqueness of the moment.

We reached Sitkoh Bay’s visitor site during low tide, which allowed for a comfortable and safe wet landing. Guests were offered an active hike or more leisurely walk through the Alaskan forest. We identified majestic trees of different kinds such as Sitka spruce, western hemlock and red alder. Banana slugs of different colors were also our companions along the way. As an added treat we had a taste of wild salmonberry! Afterward we walked the shore and put what we had learned during our onboard photography session to practice.

Our vessel is now navigating to our next destination. We cannot wait to see what our next adventure is. Wishing you were here, dear reader.

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About the Author

Celso Montalvo

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Celso was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador. At the age of nine he arrived in the Galápagos for the first time and he was profoundly touched by nature, observation, and isolation.  When he saw the sharks, rays and turtles swimming in the bay, he was triggered by a sense of wonder that he did not feel before.  Celso believes education is key to preservation. After graduating from the Naval Academy at the age of 17 he moved to New York to continue his education.

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