The first day of our expedition was filled to the brim with excitement and wildlife. This morning, even before 6 a.m., National Geographic Sea Bird was surrounded by humpback whales traveling alone and in pairs. What an amazing experience to wake up, take one step outside your warm cabin, and find a humpback whale swimming just a few hundred feet from your door. In the afternoon, we went out into the mist to hike and kayak in Kelp Bay and the Tongass National Forest. We encountered beautiful flowers for our eyes to feast on as well as fresh wild blueberries and salmon berries to taste. While in Kelp Bay, the Undersea team explored below the waves to gather video and images of the vibrant marine life in Kelp Bay. Finally, just as we gathered in the lounge to recap our first day’s fortune, we spotted a group of killer whales right outside the windows. It was an unforgettable beginning to our expedition in Southeast Alaska.
National Geographic Sea Bird
During the morning, we explored the scenic cove of Pavlof’s Harbor on the southeast shore of Freshwater Bay, Chichagof Island, and area known for its healthy salmon stream. We were optimistic that we might still see a bear during our last day exploring Southeast Alaska. We were not disappointed! At the base of a small waterfall, we spotted a coastal brown bear casually gorging itself on salmon as we watched, spellbound, from the safety of our expedition landing crafts only a few yards away. The bear, enjoying its meal, seemed oblivious or at least indifferent to our presence. For nearly an hour, we watched the animal devour fish after fish until it calmly walked up the river bank rocks and into the forest. Late summer and early fall is the time to fatten up and prepare for the long winter ahead. Come November and the onset of snow, brown bears will leave the coastline and head to higher elevations near or above treeline. Biologists debate whether bears truly hibernate or just den up and sleep during the winter. Pregnant sows will give birth to tiny, one-pound cubs while sleeping within the den and nurse them until spring. We returned to the ship after our morning adventures for lunch and were relaxing in the lounge when another bear was spotted on the beach south of Pavlof Harbor. Although more distant than our first encounter, we all enjoyed another exceptional sighting of a coastal brown bear. But the wildlife viewing wasn’t over yet! As we sailed south along Chatham Strait, we encountered a pod of killer whales swimming nearby. Crusing alongside the pod, we counted a group of about ten that included one large male. His large dorsal fin rose nearly six feet above the water‘s surface. Guests spent the remaining time reading or chatting with friends. We wrapped up our day with the captain‘s dinner followed by the guest photo slideshow, which we enjoyed as we sailed toward Sitka through Peril Strait. Have we seen it all? Hardly! But we left with a sense of fulfillment, knowing that we saw a lot! And maybe one day we‘ll return and finally see some elusive moose!