Before breakfast we find ourselves staring into the mesmerizing waters of Kasnyku Falls. Some say it creates a hypnotic trance, suspending time. Our time aboard is free from the regular pace of home, yet it passes both languorously as we can enjoy any moment, and accelerated as the days pass quickly with activities, supplanting the short-term memories of yesterday. We have already reached the fourth day of our expedition and have seen so much since we departed Sitka, but the timeless qualities of Southeast Alaska also allow us to reflect on grander ideas than just the fleeting thoughts of whence comes the next meal, deadline, or change of socks.

Crossing Chatham Strait into Frederick Sound, we pass sea otters and sea lions, and have the time to watch humpback whales feeding and (in the case of one rambunctious calf) frolicking in the swirling tidal currents. Marbled murrelets, common murres, and pelagic cormorants all test the waters for their next meal, while gulls wheel overhead waiting for scraps, surrounded by the remarkable backdrop of tidal beaches, rocky islets, and the dark evergreen slopes of Admiralty, Baranof, and Kuiu Islands.

After lunch we head to Retaliation Point in Security Bay. These 19th-century names reflect some of the troubled human history of the region as two cultures collided in their sense of ownership and use of the space and resources here.  For us though, it was a place of opportunity for hiking, boating, and observing the natural world. Massive trees as well as a verdant understory in the organic forest floor form a rainforest scattered with signs of the abundant wildlife such as moose and bear. There was a rich intertidal zone, and many islets and inner shorelines worth exploring both on foot and by boat. Numerous black bears were sighted along these shores, as we were able to cruise deep into the rocky bay with our small fleet of inflatable craft.

The evening was one of calm waters and soft light, as whales, otters, sea lions, eagles, and the speedy Dall’s porpoise were all active around the National Geographic Venture. The denouement to another remarkable day.