It is day six of our trip, the final full morning of operations before we sail to Sitka. We have missed seeing good views of brown bears. Our expedition leader has a plan that ends up giving us views of bears beyond what we hoped for. Breakfast is early before we hustle to shuttle guests to shore. A ten-minute hike around the point and up the small salmon river is the setting for a fabulous show. There are five brown bears! We observe a pair of subadults and a sow with cubs. At one point, the more aggressive of the cubs starts an unearthly growling noise and tries to nurse on his mum. She is hungry and focused on fishing, and she gives a much louder and more aggressive growl in response, as if to say, “Dinner is ready when I say it is!” The youngster gets the message, and the family moves on. This opportunity to watch such wildlife in silence is a gem within the trip. We witness two successful catches of silver salmon and must refrain from cheering for the bear’s reward. There is much to contemplate as we sail through stormy weather back to port.
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.