Today was a great day! It began as National Geographic Quest eased into its anchorage at George Island and we were greeted with humpback whales in the distance. The boats and kayaks were lowered during breakfast and Shane explained that we will be hiking and kayaking from the beach this morning. The groups found expedition staff waiting with a flotilla of kayaks ready for our morning adventure. The first group ashore set off hiking across George Island and learned about the lush vegetation, towering pines, and vibrant history. At the end of the trail the groups found an abandoned spiked gun that was only fired twice in its defense of the Pacific coast.
The kayakers explored the calm bays near the landing. The rocks were covered with anemones and all sorts of seaweed. Eagles flew overhead and whales were abundant in the waters around the island. It was a magical experience.
During lunch the ship was repositioned to our afternoon anchorage in the “Hobbit Hole.” This put us in a great position for our Zodiac exploration of the Inians. These wild islands mark the northern entrance to the Inside Passage; the water currents through and around these islands are incredibly strong. These currents bring nutrients from the bottom which attracts fish; in turn, this attracts a whole host of other animals that feed on those fish.
Through dense fog, we set off on our cruise, but almost immediately stopped to watch humpback whales that were feeding nearby. Once back on course, we cruised through narrow channels towards an opening between the islands, where we found a large rock covered in Steller sea lions. The sea lions were very active and many were feeding in the water. They would bring a fish to the surface and do their best to swallow it in as few bites as possible. Other sea lions followed our Zodiacs as we navigated through the strong currents. It was very exciting to watch. In addition to the sea lions, sea otters floated around the kelp beds bringing creatures to the surface that they would then devour. One boat saw an otter eating an octopus! Overhead we spotted pigeon guillemots, bald eagles, and pelagic cormorants amongst the many birds feasting on the ocean upwelling. On the way back to the ship, more humpback whales were spotted feeding very close by.
After another wonderful dinner, Sean Neilson gave a fascinating talk about a solo kayak expedition he did in Glacier Bay National Park. He paddled into the rarely visited east arm and had some wonderful adventures; he shared the journey with us through his stunning images. Then it was off to bed for a good night’s sleep in anticipation of our big day in “The Bay” tomorrow.