On our first full day aboard National Geographic Quest, we awoke to sun and blue skies as we cruised into Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness Area. Many of us spent the morning watching for black bears and mountain goats from the bow until we arrived at our destination: South Sawyer Glacier. We hopped into Zodiacs and cruised up to the glacier front, watching massive icebergs calve as we listened to “white thunder” boom through the fjord. Some of us were even greeted by friendly Vikings delivering warm drinks to our Zodiacs. After a successful glacier day, we cruised out of Tracy Arm Fjord admiring the glacial scouring across the rocks and the turquoise waters of this magical place. Today was a great start to our voyage.
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.