In the morning we divided up to explore Grindall Island. The long hikers went up to a beautiful lake and “bushwhacked” well beyond it. The photo hikers barely made it past the beach. The intertidal zone was spectacularly diverse and made for fantastic tide-pooling. We then circumnavigated the island on Zodiacs where we saw bald eagles, an abundance of ochre stars, sea urchins, and lots and lots of sea lions. After lunch we went on a tour and tasting of Hump Island Oyster Farm. We learned about the process and challenges of running an oyster farm and sampled the products. The Global Explorers learned how to use the ROV, or Remotely Operated Vehicle, under the docks of the oyster farm.
National Geographic Quest
Today we woke up to a beautiful sunny day here in Southeast Alaska. After a quick breakfast, we hopped into our Zodiacs and began an extended cruise around the Inian Islands. This is an incredible place for wildlife viewing. All the water that fills the Icy Strait and the northern part of the Inside Passage rushes in from the Pacific Ocean. The continental shelf becomes shallower very quickly here. As a result, there is a great deal of upwelling, which brings nutrient rich water from the bottom of the ocean to the surface. It is because of this that everything comes here to feed. As we set out, the rare sight of a cloudless view of the Fairweather Mountain Range greeted us. Soon, curious Steller sea lions started to check out our Zodiacs. We enjoyed fantastic views of pelagic cormorants as they rested among the kelp-covered rocks. After a quick ride, we began seeing sea otters and their pups nestled in bull kelp. They looked on, unfazed as our cameras clicked away. We also enjoyed a rare treat when we saw tufted puffins in the water and flying around us. As we came to the point and rounded the island, we observed multiple groups of sea lions hauled out on the rocks. Some massive males vied for dominance. It was feeding time, and the sea lions jumped in the water excitedly as the tide rushed in. Eagles and gulls filled the sky as they dove for scraps left behind by the sea lions. It was hard to know where to look, as there was so much activity all around us. After lunch, we headed over to George Island. We went on a gorgeous hike through a hemlock and Sitka spruce forest to an abandoned gun from World War 2. The forest was alive with birdcalls and moss growing as far as the eye could see. Once back on the ship, we sailed towards our next destination. From the bow, we spotted humpback whales and brown bears. Right as everyone was heading to bed, we were called back out to watch a pod of orca whales just off the bow. Today was truly magical.