Glacier Bay Day never disappoints, and our experience today sure lived up to the bay’s notoriously exciting reputation. An early wakeup call invited us to witness Margerie and Gran Pacific Glaciers from the bow of the ship. As we neared the face of Margerie, a tidewater glacier standing around 200 feet in height and 21 miles in length, we were astounded by her sheer size, but something else caught our eye on the shoreline. Two huge coastal brown bears wandered the rocky beach near the tree line. It became evident that it was a male and a female, and the male began to initiate mating. Unsure if he was attempting to induce heat or inseminate the female, guests watched, amazed by this spectacle that is not often witnessed by such a large crowd. After about fifteen minutes of copulation, the bears retreated into the bushes. We recognized our luck as the sun peeked out from behind the clouds, and otters floated amongst bergy bits. I can’t imagine a more serene landscape to gaze upon through a window while enjoying a freshly prepared breakfast and hot coffee. As we bid Margerie adieu, a massive calving event sent waves rippling as if to send us on our merry way.
Our luck did not waver as the day pressed on. We found abundant marine and terrestrial wildlife in each hotspot we visited. Humpback whales slapped their massive pectoral flippers and breached several times as we cruised by Gloomy Knob, a site known for the presence of mountain goats. The tall, granite cliffs were peppered with white mountain goats perched high on steep ledges. Diving humpbacks flaunted their flukes only a few hundred yards from some harbor porpoises. These were just a few of the mammals accompanying us along our journey to South Marble Island. We arrived to what sounded like more than a hundred Steller sea lions noisily arguing over who would reign over the highest and warmest spots on the haul out rocks. The largest bulls proudly held their blubbery necks high in the air, establishing their dominance. South Marble Island is home to more than just pinnipeds, and our resident bird expert Alex Harper excitedly announced his bird sightings. Tufted puffins, pigeon guillemots, and black-legged kittiwakes were the highlights of Glacier Bay. We continued on and headed for Bartlett Cove, hopeful for a spot to dock.
As guests enjoyed another incredible meal and cheerfully celebrated anniversaries and birthdays, National Geographic Venture’s bridge team engaged the bow thruster and slid smoothly into our docking area. We offered several after dinner walks at Bartlett Cove, Glacier Bay National Park’s headquarters, which is about eight miles from the town of Gustavus. Hikers enjoyed short walks and were lucky enough to spot some terrestrial mammals. Two porcupines munched away at spring shoots and sedges along the hiking path. As we said our final goodbyes and walked toward the ship, many stopped to view and read about Snow, a pregnant humpback whale that was struck and killed by a cruise ship. The Big House was hosting Hoonah youth for a summer event. Today was another day filled with excitement, exploration, and the vibrant beauty that is Southeast Alaska.