After an icy start to our expedition with the glaciers and ice of Tracy Arm and LeConte, today we had our first real taste of the temperate rainforest and coastal ecosystems of Southeast Alaska. Our day started with beautifully misty conditions sailing into Halleck Harbor of Saginaw Bay. Spreading out in all directions from the ship, guests ventured off to experience a wide range of expedition activities. Our naturalists led walks through the forest and the rich exposed intertidal while kayakers were treated to sightings of otters and eagles around the calm waters, while the more adventuresome set out for longer “bushwhack” exploration. Meanwhile, our undersea team donned their warmest layers to explore the cold, nutrient-rich waters below, capturing footage of the spectacular life to bring back to the surface. Among abundant fields of giant plumose anemones, the colorful symbiotic relationships, cryptic camouflage, and gelatinous zooplankton of Southeast Alaska did not disappoint.
Cruising after lunch, it wasn’t long before the outer decks filled to enjoy the lifting clouds and hungry whales. Between wildlife sightings, photo instructor Max Siegal shared tips for smart phone photography. Making our way through Frederick Sound and into Chatham Strait, our original plan was to meet our special guest for the afternoon, Dr Andy Szabo, director of Alaska Whale Foundation and National Geographic Grantee, to share with us about whales of Southeast Alaska. However, given our predicament of being surrounded by humpback whales feeding in the rich waters around us, Dr Szabo agreed to come out to meet us instead, and we adjusted our plans accordingly to listen to Andy’s insight while watching the whales from the bow. There are worse plan B’s one could experience!
We continued with the theme of going with the flow into the evening, taking advantage of the perfect conditions to swap our traditional evening recap for an outdoor cocktail hour on the deck, enjoying the beautiful scenery. As we sailed past waterfalls and diving whales, the light lowered behind the elevation around us and cocktail hour turned to ethereal blue hour to wind down another magnificent day exploring Alaska’s coastal wilderness.