Skanax Bay & Chatham Strait
  • Daily Expedition Reports
  • 19 Jul 2022

Skanax Bay & Chatham Strait, 7/19/2022, National Geographic Venture

  • Aboard the National Geographic Venture
  • Alaska

Of all the sights to wake up to, bubble-netting humpback whales may be the most memorable. This morning, these gentle giants won our hearts during a spectacular display in which more than ten individuals collaborated to herd fish to the surface using a net of bubbles. We held our breath on deck, waiting, waiting, then THERE – ten whales burst through the surface, their throats ballooning with gallons of water as they strained a salty breakfast through their baleen plates. Our undersea team quickly deployed a hydrophone and broadcasted the whales’ hauntingly beautiful call, a soundscape arguably unmatched by any other on this planet. We gasped, hugged, thanked the whales, and stumbled back inside to eat a breakfast of our own, digesting our awe along the way.

The whales kindly led us to the entrance of Skanax Bay, a lovely beach with opportunities for intertidal exploration, kayaking, and forest walks. As we stepped from sea to shore, a kaleidoscope of species unfolded in front of us – sea stars, urchins, anemones, bull kelp, Pacific wrens, golden-crowned kinglets, stairstep moss, Sitka spruce, banana slugs, and more. Kayakers floated quietly near a sea otter vigorously combing his pelt. Hikers strained to hear the elven melody of a thrush singing from the shadows of some unseen perch. Knowing which organism to focus on was difficult. Each had too many stories to share in just one visit, but we gave them an ear and listened for as long as we could.

For the rest of the afternoon, we sailed up Chatham Strait. Naturalist Oren delivered an eye-opening presentation on intertidal organisms. We visited the Skasnyku Waterfall, a gorgeous torrent of snowmelt pouring into the sea. Just when we thought we had seen it all, we encountered another group of bubble-netting humpback whales, scribing their mark on evening water. All we could do was shake our heads and smile.

Photographers: Zoey Greenberg and James Hyde

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