Sitkoh Bay and Tongass National Forest, 7/11/2022, National Geographic Quest
National Geographic Quest
We left the pier in Sitka on July 10, 2022, and sailed through Sergius Narrows and into Peril Strait in the last hours of light. Our morning was spent sailing toward Sitkoh Bay. Utilized by the Tlingit for thousands of years as a place to fish for salmon, Sitkoh Bay was then settled by August Bushman and later a salmon cannery was built.
For a lot of our guests, today was their first experience in the Tongass National Forest, the second largest rainforest on the planet. It was a typical southeastern Alaskan day as far as weather: misty, rainy, and chilly. This weather allows the forest to thrive, and we saw quite a few banana slugs on the trail. A couple coastal brown bears were seen from the ship, across the bay from the trail and on the logging road we used as a path today. At the end of the day, after dinner, we saw a humpback whale surface and fluke next to National Geographic Quest.
Southeast Alaska is endlessly dynamic. Sailing north in Chatham Strait, the coast of Baranof Island showed us pumping waterfalls from the melting winter snow. Ephemeral spring blooms from salmonberry and shooting stars added a flush of pink to the coastal meadows. Geese and pipits on their northbound migration flitted about on the tidal flats, resting before the next leg of their journey. A single humpback whale corralled fish against the shoreline, feasting on the seasonal abundance present in these waters. Taking in this majesty built our excitement for our exploratory day ahead. Today, we looked to Cosmos Cove, a small and rarely visited inlet on the east side of Baranof Island. This protected bay offered perfect opportunities for us to set out in our expedition craft to explore by land and sea. Hikes in the littoral zone and tidepools gave us close looks at crabs, fish, annelids, and other residents of this very active habitat. The tidal swing in Southeast Alaska can be over twenty feet in areas; in our short time ashore, we could see the water rise at our feet in real time. Peeking behind the trees, we followed game trails set by bear and deer, which led us deep under the towering canopy of the rainforest. By sea, we cruised the coastline by kayak and paddleboard. Serene seas and clear skies offered us the perfect opportunity to explore. After a full day in our private cove, the distant blows of whales in Chatham Strait beckoned us. In the smooth waters of this massive fjord, we could see for miles. Seabirds and humpback whales filled the landscape. The long days of the northern summer gave us incredible light during the afternoon and evening to capture the landscape with our cameras and in our memories. This truly is a place like no other, and we look towards tomorrow with anticipation of what might come.
A calm morning found National Geographic Quest anchored in Glacier Bay at Bartlett Cove near the National Park’s headquarters. We rose early to stroll various trails and listen to the songs of the thrushes and wrens amongst this young forest where a massive glacier stood just 240 years ago. The morning was highlighted by a mother moose and a pair of calves browsing near a pond! But the day was just getting started. Near a sheer rock face called Gloomy Knob, eight mountain goats were waiting for us along with a coastal brown bear that was working the tideline and grazing on mussels and barnacles. After departing Gloomy Knob, we reached the main event: the tidewater glaciers that stand sentinel at the head of Glacier Bay’s west arm. Margerie Glacier treated us to one beautiful calving event that sent water rocketing into the air along with the distinct sound known as “white thunder.” But Glacier Bay still wasn’t done with us. Shortly before dinner, we found three more brown bears and a moose near the shoreline of Russell Cut, a wildlife corridor that provides plenty of food. The evening was capped off with a beautiful sunset and a stop at South Marble Island to enjoy an assortment of seabirds and Steller sea lions. Whatever tomorrow has in store for us, today will be difficult to top!
After yesterday’s wet and icy embrace by Endicott Arm, clearing skies and warm climes greeted us as we sailed across from Le Conte Glacier in Frederick Sound to Ideal Cove for early (early!) morning hikes in the beautifully awakening Tongass National Forest. Following a rejuvenating brunch back on board, we sailed to Petersburg, a small slice of Norway tucked away at the mouth to the Wrangell Narrows on Mitkof Island. Following excursions galore and a crab feast conquered, we set off into the unknown of a potentially new anchorage on Baranof Island for tomorrow’s ad- Ventures . We’ll let Steve tell you what we saw in tomorrow’s report!