The Keku archipelago is full of life, and we found all manner of excitement during our morning exploring these islands in our expedition Zodiacs. Marbled murrelets, belted kingfishers, pigeon guillemots, and bald eagles flew nearby as we poked our noses into all the nooks and crannies of the islands covered in forest and flowers. Jellies and pteropods floated through the kelp forest while sea otters and harbor seals bobbed around nearby, but the humpback whales gorging themselves on bait balls just offshore truly stole the show. It was truly a case of not knowing where to look, but not really caring because there was something magical to see in every direction! After lunch, some of our more daring guests went for a dip in the chilly waters before we started heading out to Frederick Sound where we may have had the highlight of the day: we found some northern resident killer whales from the R5 matriline! We watched this family group for a while before going our separate ways in the peaceful, flat, calm waters.
National Geographic Quest
Many of our guests book their trip for one reason – they want to see a brown bear roaming free in wild Alaska. This morning, they got their wish! We dropped anchor in Pavlov Harbor located on the northeast coast of Chichagof Island. The area hosts a productive salmon stream, and the bears were there to feed! We staggered our guests to keep the groups to a manageable size and headed for the landing. Bears were seen even before we landed, and as we approached the stream we saw two large sub-adult female brown bears near the water. Closer to the small cascading waterfall, a mother bear was teaching her two cubs to fish while gorging herself on the abundant salmon. One more sat close to the waterfall, seemingly satiated on the feast provided by the returning salmon. Our first group returned to the ship, and we kept our fingers crossed that the bears would remain. We were not disappointed! In fact, the second viewing was possibly even more exciting. A total of eight bears were seen, and while we watched the waterfall action, the mother and her two cubs emerged behind us on the trail we intended to use! Our plans quickly changed; we loaded our Zodiacs and made our retreat, allowing the bears full access to the beach and their salmon breakfast. Before we pulled anchor and left Pavlov Harbor we had one more “real” Alaskan experience, the polar plunge! Seventeen brave souls lined up along the beach and charged into the chilly water. All survived and headed back to the ship for a hot shower and lunch.