National Geographic Sea Bird
Our day started with a very early, with a surprise at 4 a.m. As we slept, a gentle announcement encouraged us to go out on deck to see the aurora borealis. For many of us, this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Conditions must be just right to result in this fantastic phenomenon of nature. Later in the morning—at a more civilized time—we explored Port Althorp, a magnificent cove on Chichagof Island, not far from Elfin Cove. We had excellent opportunities to go out and enjoy the calm water, either by paddling a kayak or on a stand-up paddleboard. It was a great introduction to the temperate rainforest of Southeast Alaska, where brown bear activity is evident around every turn. The main reason for so many bear signs was the nearby salmon stream, full of pink salmon and a few chums. What a fantastic thing to see, salmon going upstream, fueling the machine of nature, giving life to the sea, the forest, and most forest creatures. We enjoyed a marvelous afternoon in the Inian Islands. As half of the group visited the Inian Islands Institute, the other half went out on our boats to search for wildlife, landscapes, and adventure in Cross Sound. What makes Cross Sound and the Inians such a special place is the abundant wildlife, which gathers to find food in the rich and turbulent waters that enter and exit the Inside Passage with the changing tides. We found Steller sea lions on the rocks and in the water. Steller or northern sea lions are the largest in the world. They are quite impressive, not only for their huge size, but also for their roaring sounds that resemble those of real lions. We went out into the open water. The tide was changing and it created very strong currents, whirlpools, and eddies. It was very exciting to venture into the currents with our inflatable boats, which are extremely seaworthy. While we had fun in the turbulence, we spotted harbor porpoises surfacing here and there as well as seabirds taking advantage of the currents to find food. We recognized common murres, some rhinoceros auklets, and two species of puffins. It was a fantastic day, full of adventure and surprise in the Inian Islands and Cross Sound.