With binoculars and cameras in hand, early rising guests and naturalists on National Geographic Quest enjoyed heavy low clouds and a whisper of fog over a silky-calm Sergius Narrows between Chichagof and Baranof Islands this morning.
As we sipped coffee and scanned the shorelines, we were entertained by silvery salmon leaping from their aqueous home into the atmosphere of herring-hunting mew gulls, while Sitka blacktail deer wandered the shorelines nibbling browse.
Lured briefly from the bow by our first shipboard breakfast, guests quickly returned to the nose of the ship and were rewarded with a sow brown bear and two cubs on the distant Baranof shore, just as the telltale spouts of a pair of humpback whales appeared on the horizon ahead.
Soon afterwards, as we gathered in the lounge for introductions to our staff, the room was abuzz over our brief wildlife glimpses, and all were eager to get back to the bow and out on the shore for more Southeast Alaska wildness.
And more came soon. In the middle of an introduction to expedition photography presentation on the bow, Dall’s porpoises––three-hundred-pound water rockets––showed up to surf our bow wake and put on a spectacular, albeit short, show.
The afternoon of our first full day of the expedition was spent at Iyoukeen Bay where walkers in the forest discovered ripe, ready for harvest, and delectable chicken of the woods mushrooms, delicious blueberries, thimbleberries, and watermelon berries, as well as deadly poisonous baneberries.
For this writer, the highlight of the day was walking into the lounge following our shore excursions to find guests in the library passing around guidebooks and cameras, the images and information in them fueling excited conversations about the day’s discoveries.
As the day began, it ended on the bow, mist and cloud replaced with a tangerine sunset, hope for the day replaced with promise and expectation for the rest of the voyage.