Peril Strait runs for about fifty miles between Chichagof Island to the north and Baranof Island to the south. Along with Admiralty Island, Chichagof and Baranof Islands make up the great majority of land in the northern part of Alaska’s Inside Passage. While there are passages that require expert ship handling, such as Sergius Narrows, Peril Strait is named for a completely different reason. More than one hundred fifty Aleut people, enslaved by the Russians to hunt sea otters, died here in 1799 after they ate shellfish containing the paralytic shellfish toxin.
This morning, we sailed through Peril Strait and turned north into Sitkoh Bay on the southeastern corner of Chichagof Island. Bald eagles abounded. Our level of excitement went up even more as we spotted brown bear after brown bear after brown bear after…eight brown bears! Early in the season, brown bears tend to forage near shorelines where there are grasses and wildflowers for the taking. They also look for barnacles, mussels, and other intertidal sources of food.
Still before lunch, we spotted a huge commotion in the water, close to shore. We observed a group of cooperative bubble-net feeding humpback whales, perhaps a dozen individuals. These whales work as a group to herd prey fish, often herring, into tight groups. The whales then explode through the densely packed fish, mouths agape, capturing huge numbers of prey as they emerge through the water’s surface. I am at a loss to describe how spectacular, awe-inspiring, and beautiful this is. It is an honor to observe this stunning spectacle.
Our afternoon landing in Pavlof Harbor, on the east coast of Chichagof Island, is an excellent spot for exploring by foot, kayak, paddleboard, and Zodiac. This well-protected anchorage was employed by Russian vessels as a dependable spot to bunker water.
Evening recap and another fine dinner brought an extraordinary day to closure.
Photographer: Alex Joseph