National Geographic Sea Bird sailed through Icy Straits in early morning surrounded by a thick fog. As we anchored in the Inian Islands, we could hear humpback whales breathing somewhere out in the fog. Nearer to the ship, we saw sea otters floating by lazily. After a hearty breakfast, we boarded expedition landing crafts for a cruise around the Inian Islands.
This area is a rich marine environment due to the surge of nutrients that well up in the incoming currents on the flooding tide, bringing food higher up in the water column and allowing birds, sea otters, sea lions, and whales an opportunity to get a meal. One group had a surprise encounter with a humpback whale that came up close to their boat, only to quickly dive again when it realized where it was. Sea lions swam through the eddies and whirlpools and occasionally caught a fish and thrashed it about to tear off pieces to eat, while gulls tried to steal pieces of the catch. It was all very exciting to watch!
We found sea otters eating and floating in bull kelp beds. Pelagic cormorants, black-legged kittiwakes, glaucous-winged gulls, pigeon guillemots, marbled murrelets, and more flew about in all the excitement of the flooding tide, each getting their meals. After lunch, we sailed into a primitive area of Glacier Bay called Dundas Bay in search of wildlife, and we spotted a black bear. Black bears live on mainland Alaska, and it was thrilling to spot this bear foraging along the rocky shoreline. We continued sailing around Icy Straits, Idaho Inlet, around Shaw Island, finding humpback whales blowing here and there. Finally, it was time to say goodbye to the area and we sailed eastward through Icy Straits toward the Lynn Canal and Haines, our destination for tomorrow.