Inian Islands, Port Althorp

Rich Kirchner, Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor, August 2021

  • Daily Expedition Reports
  • 19 Aug 2021

Inian Islands, Port Althorp, 8/19/2021, National Geographic Venture

  • Aboard the National Geographic Venture
  • Alaska

This morning clouds were laying low on the water. The quiet of clouds allows the mind to wonder. We were surrounded by forest-covered islands and mist and then rain. Rain gear and boots, hats and gloves all were donned as we boarded the Zodiacs for our morning outing. We were in a remote wild place with the impending fog. What will we see?

 

Current lines clearly marked the chop of the incoming tide. The rocks of the Inian Islands are a puzzle of dark rocks scribbled with lighter rock lines that twist and curl. On top of these designs grows tall forests of spruce and hemlock conifers. The fog obscured the sky.

 

In calm water, sea otters rested in kelp beds while their pups slept on their chests. Bull kelp pointed the direction of the incoming tide. Rougher water brought the Steller sea lions out to feed. The waters burst with the leaping pink salmon. We watched a sea lion take a salmon and turn the fish in its mouth, so that it was head-first. Then the sea lion swallowed it whole. A curious group approached our Zodiac. Some seemed to brave a closer look then dive for the safety of the turbulent sea.

 

Flocks of migrating birds also fed along the current lines. Congregations of mew gulls, glaucous-winged gulls, black-legged kittiwakes, and red necked phalaropes covered large areas of the water. Then the blow of a humpback whale turned all eyes toward that massive animal. That was all before noon.

 

The afternoon activity brought us to shore in Port Althorp. Pink salmon were jumping everywhere. The biannual run of pinks is on. The stream, at the far end of the inlet, ran over various sizes of gravel. Salmon squirmed against the clear running water. Remnants of fish sprinkled the rocky streamside. Bear signs were prolific. Depressions along the shore were numerous. These holes, intentionally dug by the bears, allow the bears to lay down with bellies full of salmon.

 

The forest was a maze of bear trails. Impressive piles of scat littered the trails. Many of us bush-wacked along the trails and up the hillside to the muskeg and beyond. The air was fresh. The smell of trees and wet vegetation filled our noses. We walked, we climbed, we slipped, we crouched and, most importantly, we lived in the moment every step of the way.

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