Ideal Cove and Petersburg, Alaska, 5/22/2023, National Geographic Venture
National Geographic Venture
After yesterday’s wet and icy embrace by Endicott Arm, clearing skies and warm climes greeted us as we sailed across from Le Conte Glacier in Frederick Sound to Ideal Cove for early (early!) morning hikes in the beautifully awakening Tongass National Forest. Following a rejuvenating brunch back on board, we sailed to Petersburg, a small slice of Norway tucked away at the mouth to the Wrangell Narrows on Mitkof Island.
Following excursions galore and a crab feast conquered, we set off into the unknown of a potentially new anchorage on Baranof Island for tomorrow’s ad-Ventures. We’ll let Steve tell you what we saw in tomorrow’s report!
Patrick Webster is a marine media monkey politely pushing pixels as an underwater photographer and marine science communicator based out of Monterey Bay, California. Raised in the foothills of the French Alps and on the outskirts of Stockholm, Sweden...
At daybreak, National Geographic Quest was cutting through the icy waters of Tracy Arm Fjord, flanked by towering walls of sheer granite. In this space, our expedition vessel seems quite tiny, and scale becomes impossible to judge. On an overcast day like today, the mountain peaks climb right through the cloud cover. Guests breakfasted in the shadow of Sawyer Glacier with waterfalls in every direction. Not a bad way to start the day! Being in position so early in the day gave us the opportunity to offer extra activities. Those who chose to get a little closer to the water had the opportunity to paddle out in kayaks to view the glacier’s face. Anyone who was still a bit sore from our adventurous day in Petersburg had the option of a guided cruise with one of our naturalists. For much of the staff, our daily tasks only add to the anticipation of our visit to South Sawyer Glacier. South Sawyer is a towering wall of blue ice hanging in the tides that always offers an extraordinary viewing experience. Guests were quite vocal about their enjoyment of the morning as they entered photos for the guest slideshow, prepared for disembarkation, and enjoyed lunch. However, the staff was well aware that the best was yet to come. As we left National Geographic Quest , we traveled through geologic history, through an empty trail blazed by millions of pounds of ice. Sheer cliffs of granite gave way to twisting masses of metamorphic rock until we could go no further due to the floating field of ice. Upon the ice in the distance, we started to make out harbor seals, and not just a few but dozens. This year’s mothers were resting safely on the ice as the birthing season fast approaches. The booming of calving ice inside the glacier echoed throughout the fjord as we waited. Eventually we saw a few small bits splashing into the water from the face of the glacier. Then, we saw what we were waiting for. A spire of blue ice the size of an apartment building crashed into the water below, drawing applause from the boats floating near one another. But wait! Before we knew it, we were being charged by a merry band of pirates! The ship’s hotel staff snuck up on us in bearded disguise with a boat delivery of hot chocolate. Spiked drinks were available for those interested. After all were on board, we rested briefly before preparing for the Polar Plunge! A few brave souls opted to swim between Zodiacs in the icy waters of Tracy Arm before dinner was served. Our night ended with our ship pointed toward Juneau as the world premiere of the guest slideshow played on the screens in the lounge. We heard lots of laughs and lots of “ooohs” and “ahhhs” before a final round of applause to end the night. It was a perfect last day to end an unbelievable adventure.
We began our day by hiking into a forest dripping with rainwater, fragrant pink spruce cones, and hanging lichens. A tumbling waterfall captured everyone’s attention, no matter their photographic inclination. We just couldn’t look away. To top it off, we were graced by the presence of a magical bird called the American dipper, or the water ouzal. She proudly perched on a rock for all to see, blinking her feathered eyelids and doing her dipper dance. Dippers are the only diving songbirds in North America, and as such, they are objectively awesome. Petersburg, Alaska was the site of our afternoon activities. These included bike riding, a cultural tour, muskeg hikes, an ambitious hike to Raven’s Roost, and / or the option of exploring town independently. This was our first visit back into civilization since setting sail. Of course, there was a mad dash to the one and only Petersburg bookstore, which offers a variety of local crafts and books that capture the essence of this unique region. Animal-themed zipper pulls are an especially popular treasure. The day concluded with recap, including presentations about sharks of the Pacific Northwest, the love lives of Dungeness crabs, and the life history of American dippers. Following a robust crab dinner, undersea specialist Rachel Crane delivered an evening presentation that highlighted dive footage from a plankton-rich site along our voyage. We went off to bed and dreamt sea star dreams.
We woke this morning to the rushing sound of Kasnyku Falls. The captain positioned the ship perfectly for us to take selfies with the beautiful waterfall cascading down the mountainside behind us. Some of us were lucky enough to get a very brief sighting of a brown bear waltzing across the front of the falls. We reluctantly left the falls so we could make tracks to continue to the next adventure scheduled for the afternoon. It was a relaxing morning with an amazing talk by Luke Manson about the evolution of humpback whales. After lunch, we started activities in the rainy Keku Islands. We became one with the weather and enjoyed an afternoon kayaking and doing Zodiac tours. Harlequin ducks, a mink, and a bald eagle nest were some of the highlights. The Global Explores had a lesson on driving the Zodiacs, and each took a turn driving the other explorers around National Geographic Quest as the proud parents took pictures of the next generation that will assume our jobs. Zoey Greenberg, National Geographic field educator, told the young explorers to hold on and took the tiller for an exciting ride to the cheering delight of the kids. We all made our way back to the ship. We looked like we had showered under the Kasnyku Falls after a long day in the Alaskan “liquid sunshine.”