Fox Creek and the Inian Islands

Aug 09, 2019 - National Geographic Venture

Southeast Alaska exceeded our wildest expectations on this fantastic day. The wildlife and scenery were truly awesome.

We started our day with an exploration of the Fox Creek area on the northern shore of Chichikof Island. We got close looks at the beautiful plants that grow in the temperate rainforest, such as slender bog orchid, devil’s club, and false-lily-of-the-valley. Some of us hiked up a small stream to a peaceful waterfall. We all got to see the fascinating “perennial bear tracks” on the forest floor. These are places where brown bears habitually walk in the same places year after year, leaving persistent impressions in the soil.

After a delicious lunch, we ventured out in our Zodiacs to explore the wild and dramatic Inian Islands. These islands sit at the mouth of Icy Strait, facing the open Pacific Ocean. The weather was calm and beautiful. Right away, we spotted a group of feeding humpback whales. We zoomed over to them and were treated to a stunning show as the whales repeatedly dove and surfaced all around us. The sounds of their exhalations were deep and powerful. Everyone was grinning and cheering at each close encounter with the whales.

Our Zodiac cruises at the Inians continued to be exiting as we left the whales to their feeding and found another group of charismatic marine mammals: Steller sea lions. Dozens of these large pinnipeds were frolicking in the water all around our boats. They were obviously curious about us and seemed interested in playing with us. What fun!

We also got close looks at bald eagles, marbled murrelets, and sea otters. After experiencing so much natural beauty, it was hard to pull ourselves away and return to National Geographic Venture for cocktail hour.

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About the Author

Ivan Phillipsen


Ivan is a passionate naturalist with a background in scientific research. He has participated in studies of a diverse assortment of organisms: aspen trees, cactus wrens, aquatic snails, frogs, and beetles. He holds a M.S. in biology from Cal State San Bernardino and a Ph.D. in zoology from Oregon State University. The population genetics of freshwater animals was his area of focus. He has published a series of papers on the evolutionary biology of amphibians and aquatic insects. Ivan’s scientific work invariably involved backpacking into remote wilderness areas to find his secretive research subjects in their natural habitats.

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