We started our third full day aboard National Geographic Sea Lion by cruising west through Icy Strait, a glacially carved waterway. Glacier Bay National Park was located to the north and Chicagof Island to the south. Our search for wildlife was promising, and we spent the morning hearing the “psshhh” of humpbacks spouts. As the forty-five-foot baleen whales surfaced to catch their breath, they showed off their dorsal hump and sometimes arched their backs before flicking their flukes in the air. We even passed by a raft of what seemed like 500 sea otters! They were littered throughout a kelp forest, some of them twirling in the blades of bull kelp. As we continued along our way, we saw the quick splash – otherwise known as a rooster tail – of a Dall’s porpoise.
In the afternoon, we anchored at the Inian Islands. These islands are in Cross Sound, the northernmost entry and exit way for marine mammals and ships to the Inside Passage. The mix of the turbulent waters makes the Inian Islands a great location for marine life to thrive. Wanting to enjoy the scenery in a more personal way, we jumped into some Zodiacs to get a closer view of this productive place. The day was clear enough that we could see Brady Glacier and the Fairweather Mountains as we zoomed around. Sea lions were porpoising and gliding through the waters around us as we pulled next to one of their haul outs, a place where Steller sea lions congregate to rest out of the water. We saw more sea otters floating amongst bull kelp, and we even spotted a mother otter holding her baby on her stomach. A bald eagle was perched low on a rocky outcropping, providing an epic photographic opportunity. But there was also some silly fun to be had. Wellness specialist Tessa Taft caught this typically regal bird looking quite derpy with bugged-out eyes and its tongue sticking out. To round out this amazing day spent zooming through the Inian Islands on Zodiacs, we headed back to the ship for some warm and delicious dinner.
We could not have ended the day in a more magnificent way. As the sun began to set behind the Fairweather Mountains, we spotted a single humpback spouting and moving towards the setting sun.
Photo caption and photographer: The spout from the breath of a humpback whale is seen as the sun sets in fiery reds. The Fairweather Mountain Range can be seen in the distance on this unusually but wonderfully clear evening. Photo by Emily Mall