Chatham Strait and Halleck Harbor

Jul 24, 2019 - National Geographic Quest


Just another day in paradise here on National Geographic Quest in Southeast Alaska! We spent the morning cruising south through Chatham Strait – a fjord separating Admiralty Island from Baranof and Chichagof Islands. This fjord (a narrow inlet of water carved by glacial activity surrounded by tall mountains) is the longest, deepest, straightest in North America, with some of its portions reaching depths greater than 2,200 feet. Although the Inside Passage can be considered “inland” waters with land never too far away, some marine wildlife more commonly found offshore wanders in for us to see.

This morning, we woke up near the entrance to Peril Strait with a group of 12 north Pacific humpback whales cooperatively bubble net feeding near shore. This hunting strategy is used to corral herring – a small, schooling bait fish – using air, loud noises, and flashes of bright white color to scare them into a tighter ball. Herring are extremely sound-sensitive, so the loud vocalizations from one whale in combination with the curtain of air is extremely disorienting. Pair these with a barrage of 15-foot-long pectoral flippers flipping and flashing their white undersides outside the bubble net, the corralled herring don’t stand a chance. We enjoyed watching this repetitive cooperative feeding for about half an hour until it was time for we ourselves to have breakfast.

While continuing our cruising south, we learned about the birds and cetaceans of Southeast Alaska from presentations by guest lecturer David Wimpfheimer from Betchart Expeditions and naturalist Jill Niederberger. After lunch, we anchored in small harbor within Saginaw Bay on Kuiu Island. This island has a unique geologic makeup of limestone containing some invertebrate fossils dating over 250 million years ago, in addition to a history of logging over the last 150 years. Guests kayaked within the calm waters of the harbor, hoping to interact with some resident sea otters, or wandered into the forest along trails created by local black bears and moose. A pod of killer whales passed by at one point in the afternoon, and a group of bushwhackers were greeted by a black bear that ran away into the forest shortly after their landing. A day full of amazing wildlife, beautiful landscapes, and narrowly dodging rain clouds – we cannot wait for what will come tomorrow!

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About the Author

JIll Niederberger

Naturalist

Jill grew up in the suburbs of San Francisco, California. She has an incredible respect for the ocean that was founded on family vacations to Baja California, and nurtured in the tide pools along the coast of Big Sur.

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