Early this morning, around 6:20, naturalist Lee Moll spotted three killer whales off the port side of the National Geographic Sea Bird. The bridge officers navigated with great skill, and we were able to view the killer whales from both sides of the ship. After a great sighting and a delicious breakfast prepared by our talented galley team, we cruised into Thomas Bay.
In a light drizzle, the hardworking deck crew led by the ship’s bosun lowered our inflatable boats into the water with the ship’s hydraulic crane on the lido deck. Guests disembarked from the fantail onto Zodiacs and were shuttled through the turquoise-colored waters to the shore.
Many guests went kayaking or chose hikes of varying distances up Cascade Creek, including a long hike that traveled a few miles over the rugged terrain. The creek today was very full, with the near constant sound of the falling water joining the mist and spray from the main waterfall.
Hiking further up into the forest we found various nurse logs, as well as tall western hemlocks and a few very tall Sitka spruce trees. Along the trail we sampled some past-ripe Alaskan blueberries, ripe salmon berries, and very ripe watermelon berry. We also had the chance to observe many ground plants including the bunchberry, false azalea, and of course, the infamous and spike-covered Devil’s Club. Even with the constant downpour, spirits were high amongst the guests, staff, and crew.
Back on the vessel, many guests and staff enjoyed hot showers. Warm soup was a welcome accompaniment to a delicious lunch. Shortly after, naturalist Lee Moll gave an excellent presentation on forest ecology. As the talk wrapped up, the bridge alerted us to a distant blow.
As we carefully approached, we spotted two humpback whales. We were able to observe them for quite some time, and one of them appeared to be much smaller than the other whale. After some time making more careful observations, we made the educated guess that the two humpback whales were a calf and cow pair.
Then, as it seemed as if the day could not get any better, the bridge spotted an orca whale in the distance. As we carefully approached, we noticed there were quite a few orcas in the vicinity. We spent a lovely hour, or perhaps two, slowly following the many orcas. It was really an outstanding day spent exploring this beautiful and exciting part of Southeast Alaska.