Today was an amazing day! We woke up to National Geographic Quest cruising into Tracy Arm fjord. Eager to get a glimpse of South Sawyer glacier, we all took in the sights on the bow of the ship. After breakfast, we rode Zodiacs as close as we could to the glacier. We saw arctic terns, mew gulls, marbled murrelets, harbor seals, and shooters (chunks of the glacier that break free from the bottom and shoot to the surface due to the buoyancy of the ice). Arctic terns complete the longest migration on Earth! They are amazing birds. The chilly boat ride was accompanied by hot chocolate. It was great! Then we received a great talk on photo composition by our certified photo instructor. As we were leaving Tracy Arm, we saw icebergs, waterfalls, U-shaped valleys, and North Sawyer Glacier from the ship. The Global Explorers had a chance to paint. After dinner, we enjoyed another talk, this one about kelp and its importance. What a great day!
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.