Today we woke up to our first sunny day in Southeast Alaska. We spent the morning exploring Pavlof Harbor, which is a great place for watching the salmon that just started running upstream in the Pavlof River. Some guests hiked to the waterfall for a relaxing morning on the tidelines, others paddled the harbor via kayak and stand-up paddleboard, while others toured the bay on Zodiac rides. After our action-packed morning, we headed out to Chatham Strait, where we cruised for wildlife, spotting harbor porpoises, seabirds, and humpback whales. We ended the day with cocktails on the bow and got one last showing of humpback whales that breached off the bow of National Geographic Venture as the golden hour began.
National Geographic Quest
Morning fog swallowed the Southeast Alaskan wilderness. As we cruised into Ushk Bay, anticipation seized the vessel. This morning’s hikes and Zodiac cruises were to be our final operations of the trip; every last one of us was eager to be ensconced in the wonders of the Tongass once again. Following a delicious breakfast — prepared by head chef Paul Cotta and his dedicated team — we set out for shore. Through a light rain we cruised on Zodiacs toward our landing, scattering bald eagles and common mergansers that had congregated along the shore. Ushk Bay’s annual salmon run was nearing its conclusion —and we could smell it. The shoreline was littered with rotting carcasses of pink and chum salmon, many of which were picked apart by corvids, gulls, and bears. Whether or not any of these individuals survived long enough to spawn is a mystery, but there is one certainty amidst this carnage — their sacrifice is not in vain. Their carcasses will enrich this place, injecting the forest with nutrients from the sea. Our last afternoon was spent cruising toward our anchorage near Sitka. The final day of a Lindblad Expeditions cruise is always a hard day. We have all forged new bonds in the fires of wilderness. Every one of us has found ourselves challenged and rewarded, humbled and humored, inspired and inspirational throughout this week. Our new bonds will, thanks to modern technology, be preserved in photographs and videos. Many will be carried on through photos and emails, but this group will never be reconstituted. Though it’s hard to say goodbye, the impermanence of this troupe makes the experience all the more poignant. These adventurers will surely be missed.