We had an incredible day exploring Southeast Alaska, starting with Peril Strait. As we cruised along the narrow passage, we saw a plethora of bald eagles hunting for fish. We watched at least seven eagles soaring and diving for food as we sailed through Chatham Strait. Guests were excited to see a coastal brown bear foraging on the shoreline. We brought out the scope and headed out to the bow to enjoy watching this bear look for food. After lunch, we went ashore. Some guests took an exploratory hike, some combed the beach, and some enjoyed a Zodiac cruise, where they were treated to views of a gray whale. As if things couldn’t get any better, we were interrupted by a huge group of humpback whales bubble-net feeding as we ate dinner. We were treated to a show of tremendous power and strength. While watching the bubble-net feeding, two more coastal brown bears appeared on the shoreline. Guests had the option of watching whales feed to the right of the boat or brown bears foraging to the left, which turned out to be a very hard decision.
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.