July 4 – Gustavus, Alaska - Fourth of July Parade and Bald Eagles
We had arrived on an Alaska Air flight from Washington DC Reagan Airport, thru Seattle, thru Juneau and then on to Gustavus around 5:00pm the night of July 3rd. It was a long day of flying!
We spent the 4th of July photographing Bald Eagles along the Icy Passage Gustavus Dock area and watching the great Gustavus July 4th parade. For a small town, they turn out three fire trucks and a small group of floats and other vehicles. It was great to see Gustavus celebrate our nations Birthday!
We spent two nights at the Gustavus Inn and rented a car for the 4th of July to give us mobility with our camera equipment.
Camera equipment used: Gitzo 3540LS Tripod, Wimberly Gimbal Tripod Head, (2) Nikon D2X Camera Bodies, AF-S Zoom-Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8D IF-ED Lens, AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G IF-ED Lens, Nikon D2X, AF-S VR Zoom-NIKKOR 200-400mm f/4G IF-ED Lens, AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/4G ED VR Lens, Nikon AF-S Teleconvertor TC-14EII, (3) spare EN-EL4A Li-On Battery Packs, Multiple 4Gb and 8Gb Lexar Professional CompactFlash Cards
Here is a photograph of Two Bald Eagles in the conifer trees near the Gustavus Icy Passage dock.
July 5 – Begin our Glacier Bay National Park Boat Cruise
Our trip into Glacier Bay National Park began on Monday July 5, 2010 through Gustavus Marine Charters aboard the forty-two foot Kahsteen, with Captain Mike Nigro at the helm. Peggie and I booked the Kahsteen for an exclusive trip for five days and four nights throughout Glacier Bay National Park and the Icy Strait.
Jada served as our first mate and cook - we ate mighty fine with all of Jada’s great cooking. She whipped up meals of Crab, Salmon, Halibut and many other great dishes, salads and desserts with little effort.
We enjoyed the size and comfort of the Kahsteen, and it was a pleasure to cruise with both Mike and Jada with their hospitality and knowledge of Glacier Bay.
We pulled out from the Bartlett Cove dock around 8am and cruised out through the Sitakaday Narrows and into the Bearslee Entrance channel. We continued north toward the East Arm along the coast, cruising between the Marble Islands and the Leland Islands. We stopped along South Marble Island to photograph the hauled out Stellar Sea Lions, along with a few Tufted Puffins and Common Murres.
A map of Glacier Bay (Courtesy of the U.S. National Park Service) is shown for reference
Mountain Goats Eating Kelp
We continued heading north in the East Arm toward the Muir Inlet. We cruised along the eastern shore behind Puffin Island. We saw a Moose Cow and her calf on the beach for only a few seconds before she ducked into the trees. It appeared, based on her tracks on the sand, that she and her calf had swam across the channel to get to the island.
We cruised between the shore and Garforth Island and began looking for Mountain Goats on Mount Wright. Jada quickly picked out a couple of Mountain Goat Doe’s with Kids heading down Mt Wright. We watched them come all the way down to the shore line and begin feeding on washed up kelp. This was a first for me. I had never seen a Mountain Goat eat kelp. I know they like mineral licks, so maybe the kelp gives them certain minerals needed for their health.
Here is a photograph of the Mountain Goats eating kelp.
A Lone Wolf on the Beach
We continued to cruise north and noticed a lone Black wolf along the far shore across from the Klotz Hills. It stopped once and howled, otherwise, it moved steadily along the beach and eventually exited back into the trees.
Here is a photograph of the Black Wolf.
We continued to cruise north and found a single Brown Bear, eating plants, along the shoreline near Goose Cove. We were able to photograph him for a period of time as he ate various grasses and plants, rolled on his back a couple of times for a good scratch, and generally ignored us. He also looked like he had been in a fight since he had a number of scratches across his back.
Here is a photograph of the Brown Bear.
We continued to cruise north into Muir Inlet. The weather started to quickly fog up and a light drizzle began to fall. We stopped in front of McBride Glacier to take several photographs of the Icebergs and McBride Glacier, then turned and cruised south to anchor in the mouth of Wachusett Inlet for our first night.
On the morning of July 6th, we pulled anchor, and cruised south down the Muir Inlet to leave the East Arm and head over to the West Arm. The weather continued to remain foggy with occasional drizzle. We entered the West Arm and cruised into Tidal Inlet looking for wildlife but found only a few Bald Eagles. We continued cruising north and observed three Brown Bears on the beach in a small bay just north of Tidal Inlet. The weather had deteriorated to steady drizzle and heavy fog, so were not able to photograph the three Brown Bears.
We continued to cruise north around the back side of Composite Island, through the Russell Cut and up into Tarr Inlet, where we anchored in a cove just south of Margerie Glacier, for our second night.
July 7 – Clearing Skies and Margerie Glacier
The morning of July 7th brought no rain and gradually clearing skies as the fog began to lift. We spent a couple of hours photographing around Tarr Inlet, Margerie Glacier and the Grand Pacific Glacier. We observed several small Margerie Glacier calvings, and the whole time we were the only boat in front of the Glacier. The sounds of the cracking ice are always awe inspiring in a remote location with no other boats or people around!
Here is a photograph of Margerie Glacier with the Mountains behind as the fog lifted.
We then cruised south out of Tarr Inlet, into the Johns Hopkins Inlet photographing Lamplugh Glacier, Topeka Glacier (hanging) and the John Hopkins Glacier. We had to photograph Johns Hopkins Glacier from a distance, since the Johns Hopkins Inlet is closed until mid July due to Harbor Seal pupping.
Two Brown Bears
Leaving Johns Hopkins Inlet, we cruised back through Russell Cut, and observed two Brown Bears on the beach.
Here is a photograph of the two Brown Bears.
We again checked out Tidal Inlet on our return down the West Arm, and again only Bald Eagles. We cruised down to Geike Inlet, where we anchored in a far end cove for our third night.
July 8th – Bull Moose
The morning of July 8th, as we were leaving the Geike Inlet, we observed a young Bull Moose along the north shoreline.
Here is a photograph of the Bull Moose.
Stellar Sea Lion
We cruised south through Whidbey Passage, turning back into the bay south of Francis Island, and then crossed the bay back over to South Marble Island for more Stellar Sea Lion and Tufted Puffin photography opportunities.
Here is a photograph of a Stellar Sea Lion Bull fighting for his dominance.
I spent a lot of time trying to get some close ups of Tufted Puffins. I was finally rewarded when some Tufted Puffins swam near the boat, did several dives and eventually flew way.
Here is a photograph of a Tufted Puffin swimming.
We then cruised back across the bay and re-entered Whidbey Passage north of Francis Island. We checked out Fingers Bay and then cruised down Sitakaday Narrows out into Icy Strait looking for Whales.
We had observed several Humpback Whales during our cruising through Glacier Bay, but in most cases they were far away and we could not approach them.
By the time we reached Icy Strait, the wind and waves had picked up considerably (3-4 feet) and after less an hour bouncing around we headed back into Sitakaday Narrows and anchored in the Beardslee Entrance in a small cove along Young Island, for our fourth and final night.
We were entertained for the next several hours with several groups of whales moving through the Beardslee Entrance channel and had a beautiful sunset.
July 9 - Icy Strait and Whales
The morning of July 9th we headed back into Icy Strait. You could look in a 360 degree view and see Humpback Whale spouts and dive activity in any direction.
Here is a photograph of a Humpback Whale in the beginning of a deep dive.
Humpback Whale Lunge Feeding
We were able to photograph one Humpback Whale while it performed a series of lunge feeding movements to the surface along a tide rip.
Here is a photograph of a Humpback Whale lunge feeding.
After several hours of photographing Humpback Whales in Icy Strait, we headed back to the Bartlett Cove dock around 2:30pm. We caught a ride back to the Gustavus Airport with Mike’s wife for our 5:30pm flight through Juneau and on to Anchorage, AK.
It was a great trip and the ability for just Peggie and myself to charter the Kahsteen gave us added comfort on board as well as more freedom of choices of spending time photographing the wildlife and scenics that we wanted to spend time with during our five days.
I would recommend this trip for a minimum of four to five days to really appreciate the size, grandeur, beauty and remoteness of Glacier Bay National Park. In Alaska you can always count on 25-50% of your photography days being challenged by weather and the elements. The Kahsteen gave us the mobility, size and comfort to enjoy our five days and four nights!