The Keku archipelago is full of life, and we found all manner of excitement during our morning exploring these islands in our expedition Zodiacs. Marbled murrelets, belted kingfishers, pigeon guillemots, and bald eagles flew nearby as we poked our noses into all the nooks and crannies of the islands covered in forest and flowers. Jellies and pteropods floated through the kelp forest while sea otters and harbor seals bobbed around nearby, but the humpback whales gorging themselves on bait balls just offshore truly stole the show. It was truly a case of not knowing where to look, but not really caring because there was something magical to see in every direction! After lunch, some of our more daring guests went for a dip in the chilly waters before we started heading out to Frederick Sound where we may have had the highlight of the day: we found some northern resident killer whales from the R5 matriline! We watched this family group for a while before going our separate ways in the peaceful, flat, calm waters.
National Geographic Venture
Southeast Alaska is endlessly dynamic. Sailing north in Chatham Strait, the coast of Baranof Island showed us pumping waterfalls from the melting winter snow. Ephemeral spring blooms from salmonberry and shooting stars added a flush of pink to the coastal meadows. Geese and pipits on their northbound migration flitted about on the tidal flats, resting before the next leg of their journey. A single humpback whale corralled fish against the shoreline, feasting on the seasonal abundance present in these waters. Taking in this majesty built our excitement for our exploratory day ahead. Today, we looked to Cosmos Cove, a small and rarely visited inlet on the east side of Baranof Island. This protected bay offered perfect opportunities for us to set out in our expedition craft to explore by land and sea. Hikes in the littoral zone and tidepools gave us close looks at crabs, fish, annelids, and other residents of this very active habitat. The tidal swing in Southeast Alaska can be over twenty feet in areas; in our short time ashore, we could see the water rise at our feet in real time. Peeking behind the trees, we followed game trails set by bear and deer, which led us deep under the towering canopy of the rainforest. By sea, we cruised the coastline by kayak and paddleboard. Serene seas and clear skies offered us the perfect opportunity to explore. After a full day in our private cove, the distant blows of whales in Chatham Strait beckoned us. In the smooth waters of this massive fjord, we could see for miles. Seabirds and humpback whales filled the landscape. The long days of the northern summer gave us incredible light during the afternoon and evening to capture the landscape with our cameras and in our memories. This truly is a place like no other, and we look towards tomorrow with anticipation of what might come.