Morning mist reveals a broadly tiered waterfall, and early risers are rewarded with a brief observation of two black bears at the edges of the cascade. Ethereal mist persists as we venture into Green Inlet for a paddle and Zodiac cruise in these placid waters. Reflections of cedar paint the still coves, and the chatter of a kingfisher brings our attention back to the boughs draped in dew. In the afternoon, Chief Mate Sean Kummer spies a peculiar creature drifting at the ocean’s surface. Expedition diver Amy Malkoski quickly identifies it as a Mola mola, or ocean sunfish. It’s fair to say that it’s unusual to see this fish in these waters, yet over the next hour of cruising two more are spotted! A breaching humpback whale rounds out our afternoon of wildlife encounters.
National Geographic Venture
With a pen and his signature, President Jimmy Carter, in 1978, proclaimed over 2 million acres of protected wilderness, which remains to this day the largest wilderness area of the Tongass National Forest. Misty Fjords offers the ultimate Southeast Alaska experience and ranks high on the list of Alaskan sights, and today was our day to explore it. After breakfast, we anchored at Punchbowl Cove, a lovely bluffed bowl of steep granite rock and greenery. Kayaks deployed from the very low tidal beach along the cove’s terminus while two rounds of Zodiac cruisers went and explored the majestic scenery before them. There were rafts of sea ducks, like harlequins and a Barrow’s goldeneye with ducklings scattered about the water’s surface, waterfalls plummeted from the heights, and red cedar dipped their branches towards the water that provided guests with an abundance of photographic opportunities. The afternoon brought us to a small arm in the fjord named Owl Pass. Another round of Zodiac cruising provided an occasion to explore this unique area in search of wildlife and its dramatic scenery. During the Zodiac tours, the dive team went out to thoroughly explore Owl Pass and bring up the sights from the deep and dark fjord walls. The super steep walls and incredibly calm water houses animals most people have never seen. Ancient crinoids, an ancestor of the modern sea star, sat at about 40 feet underwater, continuing down into the darkness of the plummeting channel. Tunicates and nudibranchs work with the crinoid to create an underwater invertebrate haven. Deeper, a giant Pacific octopus with a welcome mat of middens lies hidden and protected in its den. Our final day of cruising the waterways of Southeast Alaska did not disappoint. Tomorrow’s sunrise brings us to Canada and the rich native stories of British Columbia.