Daily Expedition Reports

Daily reports from our days in the field


  • Tracy Arm Fjords Terror Wilderness Area

    Our first day was filled with the adventure of Human Bingo, searching for wildlife, and viewing South Sawyer Glacier from an up-close-and-personal-perspective. Following Human Bingo, a game giving everyone the opportunity to find out the little secrets we all hold (such as if you’d like to swim in Alaska, if you enjoy wearing rubber boots, if you can whistle or play a musical instrument!) we continued cruising and looking for wildlife while slowly making our way towards the glacier. 

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  • Chatham Strait, Hood Bay, and Sitkoh Bay

    What a spectacular first morning aboard the National Geographic Sea Lion!  Our expedition leader Sheri woke us early, with 6:30 a.m. news of killer whales ahead.  We dressed warm and mustered on-deck, greeted by the soft blows and towering dorsal fins of the ocean’s top predator.  Spread out over all points of the compass, these killers were probably a diffuse pod of “residents,” or fish-eaters – no doubt in close sonic communication despite their seemingly long distance from one individual to another.  Soon, a second marine mammal joined the show: a humpback whale.  No sooner had we seen its first blows than the whale leapt bodily out of the ocean.  A breach!  Its 40-ton bulk slapped down on the surface with a massive splash, drawing gasps from the adults and screams of delight from the kids.  Again and again it showed its tail flukes in a deep dive, then exploded straight up out of the water like a torpedo, breach after breach.  We watched, awestruck, unable to pull away even when breakfast was called.  Finally, leaving these magnificent cetaceans to their business, we ducked into Hood Bay.  Hopefully nobody joined this expedition for the great views of the solar eclipse, as Southeast Alaska’s classic rain and fog obscured our view of the heavens – yet moments after the supposed eclipse maximum, we spotted a brown bear ambling on the shore. 

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  • Krestof Island, De Groff Bay

    Moving through an intact ecosystem brings a certain well feeling of rightness; a bone-deep sense of belonging and a joy in just being a part of life on our small and enchanting planet. And following a brown bear trail marked by fresh footprints and signs heightens all the senses. Our walks today through the deep forest and the intertidal brought us right into the heart of this coastal temperate rainforest wilderness.

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  • Williams Cove, Tracy Arm and South Sawyer Glacier

    This morning we continued our 140-mile journey from Haines toward the calm waters of Tracy Arm Fjord. After a scrumptious breakfast we headed out to explore Williams Cove by kayak and foot. We then refuelled with a warm lunch and headed out for more adventures in Tracy Arm.  In view of the blue face of South Sawyer Glacier we enjoyed the brisk afternoon weather among icebergs and harbor seals.

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  • Lake Eva and Chatham Strait

    This morning we disembarked at Lake Eva on Baranof Island, where we fanned out for hikes through the old growth forest and kayaking through the salmon- and Dungeness crab-filled estuary.  My group devoted all morning to the long trek up to Lake Eva itself, along the way pausing riverside to watch salmon swirl in an eddy under the roots of old growth trees they help nourish.  These pink salmon (aka “humpies”) are making their way up their natal stream – remarkably, after hundreds or even thousands of miles journeying through the North Pacific Ocean, salmon return to the very stream where they hatched in gravel beds 2-7 years before.  Now they will never to see the ocean again.  Done eating, they are using every ounce of stored energy to fight the current upstream to spawn and usher forth the next generation, their final act.  Farther up the trail, we encountered a grove of huge old-growth Sitka spruce.  We craned our necks upward, and wondered at their antiquity.  Speaking to the group about the history of logging on the Tongass National Forest, I guessed this tree was at least 500 years old, having germinated before the English language was ever spoken in western North America.

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  • Peril Strait & Lake Eva

    The day began in Peril Strait, the very waterway that separates the islands of Chichagof and Baranof, both of which are famous for their density of coastal brown bears. Setting our guests out into Zodiacs to explore the temperate forest, our plans were delightfully interrupted by a group of bubble net feeding humpback whales that edged closer to the ship with every collective lunge. Eventually, when the feeding melee subsided, our guests went ashore to encounter multiple brown bears walking the forest edge in search of salmon. The evening culminated in a celebration of all that had been seen on the trip, including the day’s dive presentation by the undersea team presenting the giant Pacific octopus that they encountered that day. 

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  • Exploring Haines

    After weathering squalls during our visit to the Inian Islands yesterday, Haines welcomed this National Geographic Sea Bird expedition with some Alaskan sunshine and a much-needed dose of vitamin D!

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  • Glacier Bay National Park

    We rose at dawn this morning to magical, ethereal light pink clouds and clear skies at the very top of Glacier Bay, in Tarr Inlet, face-to-face with the Grand Pacific Glacier and Margerie Glacier. The water was glass, mirror really in the early light, and the sun slowly poured over the mountains above Margerie Glacier, slowly washing over the river of ice. The only sounds were the “white thunder” of cracking glacial ice under pressure, melting…We waited, holding our breaths, for a great big calving event. Within minutes, a piece as high as 2 football fields and as wide as one broke off and collapsed with a fantastic splash that sent a large swell our way and the whole ship rocked back and forth feeling the force of the glacier! We imagined then how less than 200 years ago Glacier Bay – bigger than 600,000 football fields -- was completely covered under nearly 4,000 feet of ice.

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  • Glacier Bay National Park

    Bright yellow and orange bits dot the rocky fiord walls in the northern portion of this great and storied bay, prompting us to contemplate the turning of the year. Fall is beginning here in Southeast Alaska, and the brightly hued leaves make the scenery even more dramatic. Early risers carried their coffee to the bow as we rounded Jaw Point to behold the inspiring view of the Johns Hopkins Glacier winding its way up toward the well-named Fairweather Mountains. That 15,000 foot high coastal range keeps this glacier fed with year round snow and stable (neither advancing nor receding).

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  • Southeast rainy day in Cross Sound Alaska

    The rain may have returned, but we continue our journey unabated. As it rained we were once again reminded that southeast Alaska is a temperate rain forest and that in order to cherish her beauty, we must be willing to get wet.

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