This morning we enjoyed our coffees and teas before the awe-inspiring face of Johns Hopkins Glacier, deep inside Glacier Bay National Park. Flocks of black-legged kittiwakes swarmed the glacier’s face, perusing the churned nutrients of the glacial freshwater runoff. Harbor seals lounged in the morning light, seemingly unbothered by the intermittent outbursts of the glacier. These loud booms were dubbed “white thunder” by the local Huna Tlingit tribe, whose original settlements were at the mouth of the present-day park.

After lovely glacial views, we all enjoyed brunch aboard as we moved southward down the park in search of wildlife. Through Russell Cut and around to Gloomy Knob, we took time to watch two mountain goats that seemed to bounce around the cliffside.

For the afternoon we proceeded to South Marble Island, where we had amazing views of hauled out sea lions, sea otters, tufted puffins, horned puffins, common murres, and marbled murrelets. The bow was certainly at capacity with all guests eager to get views of the action.

After South Marble Island, our path was pleasantly crossed by an extremely curious pod of killer whales. Consisting of eight-to-twelve individuals, the pod hung around National Geographic Quest for about two hours, until we finally had to bid them adieu. We observed breaches, spyhopping, logging, and playful calves — this was an orca encounter that will be remembered by all.