The final day of our glorious expedition to Southeast Alaska culminated in Sitkoh Bay on Chichagof Island. A long, narrow bay on the west side of Chatham Straight, Sitkoh is the capstone of our journey together, complete with beautiful scenery and natural, geologic, ancient, and modern human history. On long walks, we took in the magical meadow at the mouth of the river that feeds into the bay, and moderate walkers explored the forest. A secret activity for only the Global Explorers (those 18 and under) took place in the morning, wherein they were permitted (under close supervision) to learn to drive an Expedition Landing Craft, or Zodiac. Thrills were enjoyed by all. In the afternoon, we explored Chatham Strait and caught sight of two male killer whales moving together in what could have been a hunting/fishing party. During the evening, we navigated through the narrow and scenic Peril Straight and Sergius Narrows on our way to Sitka.
National Geographic Quest
Morning fog swallowed the Southeast Alaskan wilderness. As we cruised into Ushk Bay, anticipation seized the vessel. This morning’s hikes and Zodiac cruises were to be our final operations of the trip; every last one of us was eager to be ensconced in the wonders of the Tongass once again. Following a delicious breakfast — prepared by head chef Paul Cotta and his dedicated team — we set out for shore. Through a light rain we cruised on Zodiacs toward our landing, scattering bald eagles and common mergansers that had congregated along the shore. Ushk Bay’s annual salmon run was nearing its conclusion —and we could smell it. The shoreline was littered with rotting carcasses of pink and chum salmon, many of which were picked apart by corvids, gulls, and bears. Whether or not any of these individuals survived long enough to spawn is a mystery, but there is one certainty amidst this carnage — their sacrifice is not in vain. Their carcasses will enrich this place, injecting the forest with nutrients from the sea. Our last afternoon was spent cruising toward our anchorage near Sitka. The final day of a Lindblad Expeditions cruise is always a hard day. We have all forged new bonds in the fires of wilderness. Every one of us has found ourselves challenged and rewarded, humbled and humored, inspired and inspirational throughout this week. Our new bonds will, thanks to modern technology, be preserved in photographs and videos. Many will be carried on through photos and emails, but this group will never be reconstituted. Though it’s hard to say goodbye, the impermanence of this troupe makes the experience all the more poignant. These adventurers will surely be missed.