Most people would choose to stay indoors during an all day, driving rainstorm, but not the intrepid guests on board National Geographic Sea Bird. Right after breakfast, two rounds of activities were offered and welcomed: kayaking around Shaw Island or hiking along the shore and in the rain forest of adjacent Chichagof Island. Although driving rain may have dampened some clothes, it certainly did not dampen enthusiasm!
After lunch, we sailed to the spectacular Inian Islands for Zodiac cruises. If anything, the rain was more intense, but the afternoon was worth the slight discomfort. We saw several mom-pup sea otter pairs in the kelp canopy with the pups frolicking in the rain, much like a human three-year-old jumping in puddles! We also witnessed a raft of seven to ten Steller sea lions as they jumped, twirled, and chased each other and our Zodiacs. They frequently ‘periscoped,’ or extended their necks high out of the water to look at us with their large and enticing brown eyes, as if issuing an invitation to join their party.
A spectacular coda to a wonderful day occurred just before most of us were ready to turn in. A message came from the bridge: bubble-netting humpbacks, dead ahead! We all raced to the bow and saw one of the most impressive sights that Southeast Alaska can offer. A pod of ten to twelve humpbacks formed a ring of bubbles (a “net”) to concentrate fish (probably herring). Then the humpbacks rose in the middle with mouths open, and their expanded throats filled with small fish that were subsequently trapped by the baleen and swallowed by the humpbacks. This occurred several times, each event eliciting shrieks and shouts of amazement and wonder from guests on the bow. As if this were not enough, one of the individuals breached just off the port side, followed by three breaches by a smaller individual. As the light dimmed, the curtain came down on the performance. We all returned to our rooms relishing everything about the day…from driving rain to feeding humpbacks. The decision to embrace the rain, rather than hide from it, was totally justified!