As expedition leader John Mitchell had planned, National Geographic Venture moved into Glacier Bay National Park just after midnight. As early as 5:00 a.m., guests gathered on the bow to watch the sun’s light dance along the water and over the snow-covered peaks surrounding us. Our 6:45 stretching class was drenched in morning sun as the ship moved through fjords polka dotted with spray from nearby whales. Our stretchers spotted a smaller whale. Upon review of its unique fluke, this whale proved to be our expedition’s first sighting of a minke whale.

As planned, our guests were finishing breakfast just as we curved around Russell Island and made our way to the glorious Margerie Glacier. As we made our approach, we spotted a subadult coastal brown bear sleeping on the shore. The timing was perfect, as most passengers were already on deck for the approach of Margerie.

Margerie never disappoints. Naturalist Eric Guth situated himself towards the mid-front. As our in-house glacial expert, he dutifully explained the intricacies of what we were viewing in real time. Before we left, the glacier calved a hunk of deep blue ice the size of a small house. It elicited the applause of the entire boat as we watched the resulting waves break and make their way towards the ship.

As it often is, the exit from Glacier Bay was as fascinating as the entrance. The bear we previously watched sleeping was starting to stir and actively forage along the beach. Ravens followed the young bear, picking up scraps as he tossed aside large rocks in pursuit of crabs and mussels. Eric took the stage again in our lounge. He gave a detailed account of the glaciers in the area as we sailed south towards Gloomy Knob. Our search for the usually fickle mountain goats along the sheer face of Gloomy Knob appeared to be over as we approached the end. At the request of one of our preteen Global Explorers, naturalist Nick Brown looked back with our spotting scope. To his surprise, he spotted a single individual goat far behind our vessel. To make sure our guests got an opportunity to see one in the wild, Captain Cook took our ship back towards the individual. To our surprise, others started to come out to eat, leaving their cooler hiding spots. By the time we left, we spotted eight total goats including a mother and kid.

Just before cocktail hour, we passed the famous South Marble Island, known as a haul out for hundreds of Steller sea lions. They growled, fought, and splashed around with the snowcapped mountains in the background. In the foreground, we spotted a few mother sea otters swimming with babies floating on their bellies while tufted puffins buzzed in with splashy landings. As our guests enjoyed their dinner and drinks, it seemed all agreed that it could not have been a more perfect day. We were even able to spend an hour or so with a group of humpback whales during sunset.

Photo caption and photographer: Guests take their opportunity to capture the great Margerie Glacier. Photo by Luke Manson