Misty Fjords National Monument, Southeast Alaska, 7/9/2022, National Geographic Sea Bird
National Geographic Sea Bird
There was an air of excitement and the anticipation of adventure aboard National Geographic Sea Bird last night as we departed Ketchikan, sailing into the network of waterways and islands that make up Southeast Alaska. Early this morning, those feelings were manifested when a gentle wakeup call came (wait a minute, that's an hour early!) with the words: "Whales have been sighted up ahead." We were in the Behm Canal, ready to explore Misty Fjords, the largest wilderness area in the Tongass National Forest and the largest of the national forests, in the biggest state in the Union.
Growing up in the Appalachian foothills of the Garden State, Rob instinctively knew it made a lot more sense to head over the hill into the fields, forests, lakes, and streams behind his house, rather than down the road to the shopping mall in front ...
Surrounded by a circumference of whales, we started our five-day voyage towards Ketchikan. Shallow dives and occasional lunge feeding seemed to be the breakfast technique of the morning. One whale had an incredibly distinctive fluke print and scar—it certainly has a story to tell. From our morning with whales, we spent the afternoon in the temperate rainforest. The low tide on the beach allowed us a look at purple shore crabs and other denizens of the intertidal zone. Also washed up along shore were seal bones and the skull of a sea otter. A small clump of scurvy grass on a log brought to mind the generations of sailors lost due to a lack of vitamin C sources on their far-reaching expeditions. Fortunately, not an issue for the modern-day mariner.
Today we woke up to a gorgeous day here in Southeast Alaska aboard National Geographic Sea Bird . The waters were glass calm as we enjoyed a delicious breakfast. Right as we were finishing up, the bridge spotted a lone male orca swimming around us. We all went out on the bow and were able to see the massive six-foot dorsal fin of the world’s largest dolphin species as it swam around the ship. After we watched this majestic creature fade into the distance, we began our sail up the breathtakingly beautiful Endicott Arm fjord. This area is hard to put into words. We sailed past icebergs with granite walls rising 3,000 feet out of the water directly on either side of the vessel. Waterfalls cascaded down from hidden snowfall and hanging glaciers. Glacial silt coming from the rock flows and mixes with the sea, creating a beautiful green hue in the ocean. Shayne, our Certified Photo Instructor, gave a presentation on smartphone photography and taught us all the settings for these incredible devices. It could not have come at a better time as the Dawes Glacier came into view. After a wonderful lunch, we headed out in our expedition landing crafts to explore the ice field in front of the glacier. Being this close to icebergs and the face of an active tidewater glacier is life changing. The blue of the ice, the crackling of icebergs, the haul outs of harbor seals, and the crash of calving is an experience that will not soon be forgotten. Back on the ship, we were treated to yet another amazing meal before heading into the lounge for a dual presentation by Naturalist Frankie Wilton and Certified Photo Instructor Shayne Sanders. They taught us about "The Story of Southeast Alaska" by talking about the important forest ecology and how to incorporate composition to capture this magic through the lens. It was an amazing first day, and we cannot wait for what is to come.
Overnight, National Geographic Sea Bird brought us through Frederick Sound and Stephens Passage from the Kuiu Islands to Holkham Bay. We crossed the bar–an underwater, terminal glacial moraine–at Holkham Bay in the late morning, and we enjoyed cruising through the tall, glacially carved walls of the dramatic Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness on a rare blue bird day. As we made our way up the fjord, naturalist and geologist Nicole Yamagiwa taught our guests about the glaciology of Tracy Arm from the bow of our ship. Is there any better way to learn about U-shaped valleys, moraines, cirques, hanging valleys, and roche moutonnée than with a geologist holding a whiteboard whilst sailing through the features you are learning about? I think not! It was incredible! A stop at Hole-in-the-Wall Waterfall was an incredible addition to our day. Upon arrival at our heave to location, our able crew lowered inflatable boats to the water, and our team of naturalists and photographers took our guests out by small watercraft to the South Sawyer Glacier terminus to explore icebergs, seals, glacial calving, and even mountain goats! At the end of our day, our guests enjoyed a last dinner aboard National Geographic Sea Bird , followed by a photography slideshow prepared by our photo instructor Lisa Hornak. It has truly been an incredible journey these last six days!