“Come to Alaska,” they said, “See the wildlife.” Well, we saw a LOT of wildlife today! We woke to find National Geographic Quest cruising through Chatham Strait, looking for whales. The sky was overcast, the weather was dry and relatively warm. Just another day in Alaska, right? Nope. First we spotted a few humpbacks in the distance, so we sailed closer to take a look. On our way, Sean spotted telltale black fins heading toward us. We turned the ship to get a better look at the pod of killer whales as they cruised the eastern shore. There was a very young whale in the pod which entertained us with tail slaps, spy hops, lunges, and just a general joie de vivre! What a treat it was to spend so much time with killer whales.
Eventually we left the whales and headed to our afternoon landing at Pavlof Harbor. Located inside Freshwater Bay, Pavlof has a small river that flows over a beautiful waterfall. There is a salmon run in the stream, and at high tide we drove our boats close to the base of the waterfall to look for bears. We spotted a young bear in the river who seemed to be looking for the best spot to catch some fish. Soon we heard something calling from the opposite direction. A tiny cub of the year (COY) was pacing up and down the stream looking for its family. Soon a sow with two larger cubs showed up and scared the juvenile away. They didn’t stay long, so the juvenile was soon back at the river. Bears came and went all afternoon, much to our delight. Everyone returned to the ship with full camera cards and smiles a mile wide!
After a lovely dinner, several people were enjoying the soft evening light on the bow when they spotted more spouts. A group of eight to ten humpbacks surrounded the boat and seemed to be savoring the evening light as well. It was a magical moment that we will remember for years to come.
Once we left the whales, undersea specialist Colin McNulty gave a fascinating talk entitled, “The Mating Game - Brown Bears of Alaska.” It was entertaining and enlightening all at once. He ended by showing us last year’s winners of the Fat Bear Week contest. It was a fun ending to a wonderful day in Southeast Alaska.