The calm waking tone of the expedition leader coupled with blue skies and sunshine greeted us once again this morning, thus setting the mood for yet another exciting day in Southeast Alaska. After a hearty breakfast, National Geographic Sea Lion anchored in the gorgeous protected bay called Port Althorp on the northern portion of Chichagof Island. We explored it by kayak and on foot, admiring its solitude and wildness. The salmon stream at the end of the bay had a run of chum and pink salmon and showed recent evidence of many bears feasting. Bald eagles, ravens, and gulls dotted the shorelines as they waited patiently for some more scraps and leftovers and perhaps a catch of their own. What a wonderful place of true Alaskan wildness! Once home to a salmon cannery and a Naval Auxiliary station, the area is returning to its wild roots. The only signs of human industry that remain are the few log barges, covered with slow-growing new plants, resting on the beach.
After lunch, the bridge crew charted a course to the legendary Inian Islands: a hot spot for wildlife due from incoming Pacific waters which carry nutrients and an abundance of food into Icy Strait. The strong tidal currents speed-up and upwelling occurs as they encounter sea mounts and other obstacles on the bottom, stirring the waters and bringing a lot of fish and other creatures close to the surface, where huge Steller sea lions, bald eagles, and a multitude of marine birds frequent. The proximity of the open gulf makes for a more dynamic environment in terms of wave action and the abundance of kelp forests provide a safe haven for a number of smaller creatures like sea otters that like to wrap themselves around the long kelp blades as they rest on the surface. We explored this exciting area by two rounds of inflatable boat cruises with each being an hour and a half long. The Inian Islands never disappoints as guest, crew, and staff always seem to come back with wide eyes and big smiles. Another beautiful day in Southeast Alaska!