Fog’s beauty lies in the mystery it ushers. We awoke wrapped tightly in its blanket, the ship’s foghorn heralding our passage to everyone or no one. Mountain peaks reached for the sky around us, and glaciers tumbled into the sea. Our senses offered us nothing to navigate this landscape, and our knowledge was all we had to understand what was hidden beyond the wall of clouds enveloping us. As the morning progressed, the grip of the fog loosened, unlocking the captivating landscape of Cross Sound.
Our first stop was George Island. This small island offers a commanding view of the surrounding waters, which is why it was the location of a defensive battery during World War Two. Low tide allowed us glimpses of the intertidal zone and its inhabitants. While taking walks through the forests, we explored the ecology of the temperate rainforests that dominate the Tongass. Red crossbills chirped overhead, singing of the bountiful cone crops produced by the spruces and hemlocks. A common butterwort, a carnivorous plant, showed off the creative adaptations that life creates in such a rich landscape.
The Inian Islands are a highlight of any cruise in Southeast Alaska. Mighty currents rip through the area, throwing nutrients to the surface where eager predators await. We had the pleasure of stumbling upon a feeding frenzy this afternoon in South Inian Pass; innumerable baitfish were corralled by hundreds of auklets, dozens of porpoises, and a handful of humpback whales. As if this were not enough of a show, a cruise through the islands gave us intimate looks at sea otters with pups, appropriately wrapped in the kelp forests whose survival they maintain.
The ocean provides the basis for the life around us, a fact that is impossible to ignore when visiting this incredible corner of Southeast Alaska. After a full day, we set sail south. Another incredible day lies ahead.