While heading towards Youkeen Inlet, we spotted numerous columnar blows on the horizon. These whale blows were very close together. We had found what we were looking for. A group of humpback whales were exhibiting a cooperative feeding behavior. As the National Geographic Quest got closer, we counted twelve whales that participated in the group. We stayed with them for some time, and at the end, when we though the experience was about to end, one whale breached right after another on a spectacular double breach!

At Youkeen Cove, we explored the temperate rain forest, walking through ancestral bear trails and experiencing the diverse intertidal life at extreme low tide. Many of us decided to kayak and even to try out the paddle boards. Paddling our own craft in Southeast Alaska was worth the effort!

Later, the National Geographic Quest, repositioned to Freshwater Bay, on Chichagof Island. Our goal was to look for bears on the river, where salmon have just started to congregate to spawn. Although bears decided not to show up, we spent enough time out in the wilderness, listening, observing, and just taking in the moment. Hundreds of pink salmon splashed on the surface of the clear water, and we learned the multiple connections between the salmon’s life cycle and the nature of the temperate rain forest.

While we were waiting, a young bald eagle, landed in the shallow water, where many salmon had been trapped by the outgoing tide. We could tell that this bird had recently learned how to become independent. It was attempting to catch fish, without seeming to realize how big and strong the salmon could be. With apparent excitement and fear at the same time, this young eagle kept catching salmon that were too big to handle. The eagle finally realized that its efforts were not ending in any reward and flew away, to rest on a distant spruce branch.

As these words were being written, a group of transient orcas appeared close to the ship. At the same time, two different cooperative groups of humpback whales became quite active. All this happened right next to Point Augusta.