After leaving Sitka, we travelled overnight in Chatham Strait and, just before breakfast, turned into Icy Strait. Within a few minutes, we had a cannon ball with wings shoot across the bow: a single tufted puffin. Several minutes later, we saw a pod of humpbacks … then another … and another. Soon, we were surrounded by four or five pods of 3-8 individuals each. All were feeding, probably on a mixture of krill and small fish near the surface. Beyond these pods, several more were sighted on the horizon. Truly, we were in Whale Central—a traffic rotary of sorts, complete with “traffic” noises in the form of variably loud “whooshes” as the whales exhaled and a single random “honk” nearly as loud as a tuba. After nearly an hour in Whale Central, we continued along Icy Strait and soon sighted a single male orca with a dorsal fin nearly four feet in height. Nearby was a family unit consisting of a male, his mother, and two other siblings. Everyone with a camera got the same shot of all four whales surfacing at the same time. We also saw several sea otters, both single individuals, as well as a raft of 5-6 adults. We reluctantly left the bow for lunch, but with full memory cards.
After lunch, we anchored off a small beach on George Island for hiking and kayaking. Some hiked to the WWII cannon, slowly rusting away with time. Along the way, numerous flowers and other fascinating plants were studied and photographed. Another hike ventured into the intertidal to investigate algae, snails, hermit crabs, sculpins, and sea anemones. After a cloudy morning, sunny and warm afternoon simply enhanced the entire experience. But the excitement continued. After dinner, we again were treated to pods of feeding humpbacks. And thus ended a particularly exciting day: humpbacks, orcas, sea lions, sea otters, hovering kittiwakes, soaring eagles, all sorts of terrestrial plants, and a rich intertidal zone. Tomorrow promises even more, if that is possible!