After a stretch of incredibly good weather, we woke this morning to typical Southeast Alaska weather with overcast skies and cool temperatures. This is what makes this place so special and allows the conditions of these spectacular temperate rainforests. Today’s destination was Thomas Bay on the mainland but not before transiting the Wrangell Narrows between Kupreanof and Mitkof Islands. This shallow, winding waterway has about 60 lights and marker poles used by ships to safely navigate the strong currents that often run in both directions each day. Today’s passage was very scenic with lots of bald eagles and glassy waters. In Thomas Bay, we disembarked to enjoy a variety of hikes, including a long aerobic hike and photo and nature walks. Once back on the ship, we sailed to the back of Thomas Bay and were treated to drinks on the bow by our hotel team as we entered Scenic Cove. It was another wonderful day in Southeast Alaska.
National Geographic Sea Bird
This morning found us where the Pacific Ocean meets Cross Sound and Icy Strait, the Inian Islands. Named by William Healey Dall, one of Alaska's earliest scientific explorers, in 1879, the Inians are a mecca for wildlife. The powerful tidal currents flowing in and out daily create a tremendous upwelling of nutrient-rich water. This area is where fishing boats from the various ports in the northern portion of the Inside Passage enter and exit. It was a glorious day with calm seas, which allowed us to cruise around the various islands in our Zodiacs drinking in the fantastic scenery and looking for wildlife. Unmissable were the Steller (or northern) sea lions, the largest member of the “eared seals,” first described in 1742 by Georg Wilhelm Steller, the German surgeon and naturalist on the Bering expedition. We saw many of them on “bachelor haul-outs,” rocks where single males of all ages bask, posture and feed on numerous species of fish. Sea otters with pups are just about the cutest animals on the planet! As members of the weasel or mustelid family, southern sea otters are the smallest marine mammal. Like other members of this family, they have very thick fur. In fact, at 850,000 to 1 million hairs per square inch, sea otters have the thickest fur of any mammal. Without blubber to protect them from chilly ocean waters, sea otters rely on their thick fur.