This morning National Geographic Quest awoke to overcast skies and killer whales off the northeast coast of Chichagof Island. The orcas were super close to the ship, and we were blessed by their proximity for our first sighting of this amazing species of cetacean.
As we approached our anchorage a humpback whale was spotted in Iyoukeen Cove, near our planned landing point for activities after breakfast. Following another delicious meal, we headed to shore and explored Iyoukeen Cove; some by kayak or by various hikes in the beautiful temperate rainforest. Weaving through huge Sitka spruce and western hemlock trees on trails made by bear and deer, it was as if we were on a treasure hunt. From banana slugs to the vibrant chicken of the woods (fungus), to a bald eagle carcass… the forest did not disappoint. The long bushwhacking hike navigated through blueberry thickets while casual walkers enjoyed the shoreline. Some of the moderate hikers made it to Gypsum Creek and found evidence of recent brown bear activity. Bear prints and day beds dug in the sand next to a salmon stream — the perfect perch for a fishing bear. On the shoreline we observed old pilings from a pier built for a nearby gypsum mine that was active from 1906 to 1923. Digging around in the woods we found an old rail car that transported gypsum the mile distance from the mine to the pier for shipping to Tacoma, Washington. Though not a huge deposit, it was the only gypsum mine in Alaska.
In the afternoon we cruised Chatham Strait en route to our next destination: Petersburg on Mitkof Island. Another great day in Southeast Alaska!