Inian Islands and Port Althorp

Aug 13, 2019 - National Geographic Venture

Today we woke up enjoying some really nice Southeast Alaskan weather, with cloudy skies and calm waters, as National Geographic Venture arrived in the Inian Islands. Located in Icy Strait between the large Chichagof Island and Glacier Bay National Park in the mainland, the Inians are a small archipelago in the middle of one of the main entrances to the Inside Passage. They create a bottleneck-effect, and the waters gain speed as the tidal currents flow through them, bringing a lot of food to a variety of hungry creatures. Moreover, what better way to explore the region than by boarding our Zodiacs? We spent a wonderful morning admiring the abundance of life around the islands, and everyone had the opportunity to watch and take photographs of many creatures. Sea otters are particularly abundant in the waters around the Inians and we marveled at their incredible fur, which at more than one million hairs per square inch, have the highest density of hair known in the animal kingdom.

A great variety of bird species was present everywhere, particularly glaucous-winged gulls, pigeon guillemots, marbled murrelets and pelagic cormorants. However, one bird species captured everyone’s attention, the bald eagle; numerous eagles patrolled the area and occasionally swept over the waters to capture a fish with their powerful feet.

Steller sea lions were seen in large numbers, and we had the pleasure to watch their antics as they swam around our boats, giving us the chance to appreciate their immense size and understand why they are the largest sea lion species in the world. The bulk of some huge males resting on shore was readily apparent. However, no sea lion grows as big as the animal that we encountered today, the humpback whale! Several humpbacks were swimming very close to the islands and we all had an amazing time admiring those majestic cetaceans and marveling at their size and elegance. What a treat!

We spent the afternoon in a small inlet in the northern part of Chichagof Island known as Port Althorp, where we enjoyed hiking, stand-up paddleboarding, and kayaking to round-up an extraordinary day exploring Southeast Alaska.

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About the Author

Carlos Navarro

Undersea Specialist

Carlos J. Navarro is a biochemist specializing in marine biology, a M. Sc. in Environmental Management and a freelance wildlife photographer/author. Carlos has spent most of the last 30 years living along the shores of the Sea of Cortez and participating in numerous scientific, conservation and environmental education projects on the vaquita, marine invertebrates, sea birds, great white sharks, baleen whales, jaguars and crocodiles. Carlos’ six years of jaguar research provided the basis of ONCA MAYA, a non-profit organization dedicated to jaguar conservation based in Cancun, of which he is a founding member and still serves as a scientific advisor. He loves being underwater, either free-diving or using SCUBA gear and have had the chance to explore the underwater realms of Alaska, Mexico, Svalbard, the trans-Atlantic ridge islands, the Caribbean and both coasts of South America from Panama to Chile and Brazil to Argentina. 

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