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National Geographic photographer Alison Wright shares some of her favorite highlights along the European coastline--from enjoying a glass of local ruby port in Portugal to biking England's picturesque Tresco Island.
Daily Expedition Reports
National Geographic Endeavour II
Floreana was the first island in the Galapagos colonized by people. Ecuador took possession of the Galapagos in 1832 and established a penal colony on Floreana. When Charles Darwin visited in 1835, he met with some convicts and explored the highlands.
National Geographic Venture
It is not every morning that breakfast concludes with close wildlife encounters, let alone an encounter with a group of feeding humpback whales. While we were traveling through Peril Strait and enjoying our eggs and bacon, these giants of the sea were enjoying tons—literally tons—of schooling fish. These North Pacific humpback whales come to Southeast Alaska to partake in a summer feeding frenzy. The cold and nutrient-rich waters along with extra summer sunshine create a thriving coastal ecosystem that supports the large size and migrations of these massive creatures. While most of our humpback encounters are with solitary whales that dive down to feed underwater, we witnessed a unique surface-feeding behavior called bubble-net feeding. Essentially, we observed a group of six to seven whales collectively create a bait ball of schooling herring and then all at once lunge to the water’s surface, catching the fish inside their open mouths. We see the same individual whales gathering year after year to bubble-net feed. Today, using fluke identification, we identified five of seven whales, including a known female named Angstrom. After saying goodbye to the bubble-netters, we were on our way to Sitkoh Bay. We spent the afternoon getting to know the lush temperate coastal rainforest by walking along the shaded trails surrounding the bay. Salmon have begun to enter the area, and as we returned to the ship by Zodiac, we spotted a mother brown bear foraging with her two cubs nearby. It was an incredible first day exploring the marine and terrestrial ecosystems that make Southeast Alaska so grand. Yet in the end, it was the banana slugs that were the talk of cocktail hour. A reminder that the natural world, no matter how small, could still spark our excitement and wonder.
National Geographic Sea Lion
This morning, I overheard a comment from a guest to her partner, who had just joined us on the bow. “I was worried about you, but not worried enough to come find you,” she said. Those of us around her had to laugh. We understood. No one wanted to walk away, fear of missing anything. A very active group of transient (Bigg’s) killer whales captured our attention, moving fast, splashing, hunting, spy-hopping. They had already been preceded by pre-breakfast sighting of humpback whales, and those awake earlier enough saw a salmon shark. Our afternoon comprised kayaking and introductions to the Southeast Alaska rainforest with hikes at Lake Eva. What a day! Another comment overheard on the bow today: “We are setting the bar too high on Day One.”
National Geographic Quest
While heading towards Youkeen Inlet, we spotted numerous columnar blows on the horizon. These whale blows were very close together. We had found what we were looking for. A group of humpback whales were exhibiting a cooperative feeding behavior. As the National Geographic Quest got closer, we counted twelve whales that participated in the group. We stayed with them for some time, and at the end, when we though the experience was about to end, one whale breached right after another on a spectacular double breach! At Youkeen Cove, we explored the temperate rain forest, walking through ancestral bear trails and experiencing the diverse intertidal life at extreme low tide. Many of us decided to kayak and even to try out the paddle boards. Paddling our own craft in Southeast Alaska was worth the effort! Later, the National Geographic Quest , repositioned to Freshwater Bay, on Chichagof Island. Our goal was to look for bears on the river, where salmon have just started to congregate to spawn. Although bears decided not to show up, we spent enough time out in the wilderness, listening, observing, and just taking in the moment. Hundreds of pink salmon splashed on the surface of the clear water, and we learned the multiple connections between the salmon’s life cycle and the nature of the temperate rain forest. While we were waiting, a young bald eagle, landed in the shallow water, where many salmon had been trapped by the outgoing tide. We could tell that this bird had recently learned how to become independent. It was attempting to catch fish, without seeming to realize how big and strong the salmon could be. With apparent excitement and fear at the same time, this young eagle kept catching salmon that were too big to handle. The eagle finally realized that its efforts were not ending in any reward and flew away, to rest on a distant spruce branch. As these words were being written, a group of transient orcas appeared close to the ship. At the same time, two different cooperative groups of humpback whales became quite active. All this happened right next to Point Augusta.
National Geographic Sea Bird
This morning started out grey, but it’s the blue of the ice that we will forever remember. Bergs cast off by LeConte Glacier are transported through the fjord by ceaseless tides and steady breezes. This glacial ice, this metamorphic rock, this ice gemstone captivates our eyes, our minds, our souls. This is Alaska, someone says. The mountains and the ice. The blue and the white. The wild and the wonder.