Cheers to an incredible start on Leg 2 of our 2022 Alaska Flotilla: Glaciers of SE Alaska!
After an evening of fleet orientation and crew mingling, we all left Ketchikan this morning buzzing with excitement for all that our future adventures have to offer. With clearing skies and chattering Bald Eagles, already we felt immersed in our environment and one by one, out of the marina we went.
Our first stop as we made our way north, was by the historical state park of Totem Bight. We all throttled back and took time to admire and appreciate the totem poles standing tall out of the tree line. At just the right angle we could also spot the park’s replica clan house vibrantly peeking out at the base of the totem pole clearing. This replica of a Tlingit clan house is authentic all the way to its 4-foot entrance, structured to detour invaders, to the hand carved walls and floorboards. With the growth of non-Native settlements exponentially increasing in the 1900’s, Native communities left their village sites and could not take with them their standing totems and constructed shelters. Thus, abandoned, they were quickly overgrown and eroded by the local weather systems. In 1938, the U.S. Forest Services aimed to salvage and reconstruct the large cedar monuments while teaching young artisans the trade, repairing and duplicating the totems left rotting away.
Cruising into Clarence Strait, we were joined by a pod of Dall’s Porpoise that played alongside our bows for a long time. They are known for swimming and playing alongside vessel’s and surfing their wake. These marine mammals are almost entirely black, except for a large white section on both their sides, and a striking white triangular marking on their dorsal fin. Even though they are very compact, at an average of 6 feet and 300 pounds, they rival Orcas as the fastest marine mammals in Alaskan waters, reaching upwards of 35 miles per hour. One of the telltale signs of cruising alongside Dall’s porpoise is that given their speed, they often generate a “rooster tail” spray as water rushes off their heads in a cone like fashion.
As we all soaked in the incredible moment alongside the Dall’s, we were then greeted by a pod of Transient Orcas. There were around 5-6 animals split up and flanking either side of the channel but as a mother and a calf then surfaced closest to us, we came to a stop and shut down our engines, giving them the right of way. Floating within the scene, we dropped our hydrophone in the water hoping to hear them communicating across their distances. A few minutes after the equipment was set up, loud and clear we hear their breathtaking calls. Predominantly, Orcas will communicate through vocalizations heard as clicks, whistles, and pulsing calls.
Unique to the transient killer whales, they will hunt silently, given their marine mammal prey can pick up on their calls. Whereas resident orca populations will hunt their prey of fish with active echolocation calls, as fish cannot pick up high frequency sounds.
Spending time alongside these powerful animals, we watched them continue cruising south through the channel and started up our engines again once we were a safe distance apart. We spent just a few more hours on the water making way into Meyers Chuck, and pulled in as a single file line, tying up to the dock for the night.
Meyer’s Chuck was first inhibited by settlers in the 1800’s, primarily as a shelter for fishing boats caught in the stormy waters of Clarence Strait. A ‘chuck’ is known as Chinook jargon for a body of saltwater that fills at high tide, and Meyers Chuck was named after its oval harbored ‘chuck’ that was protected by the natural breakwater. Quaint private homes have been perched along this breakwater and along the inland shores is their dock and state float plane landing.
Once settled in and prepared for our first adventure out, a group of us walked a short path from the docks up past a few homes, that then led us into a lovely lush forested trail to a southwestern beach. Along the trail we saw some signs of bear activity and made sure we kept our group together and chatty throughout the trek, making it to the beach in time for the tide to have just switched to a flood, enjoying exploring the exposed rock and marine critters.
Due to tomorrow’s Strawberry Full Moon, our next few days of tidal fluxes will be in extremes and our attention to navigational detail will be all the more important. With these extremes though, a great deal of marine critters will be active and much of lower low intertidal regions will be exposed. This full moon is especially intense on our tides not only due to the gravitational pull increased by the effects of a full moon, but due to the ‘supermoon’ effect of the moon also being very close in orbit to the earth. Known as being in perigee, the technical distinction of a supermoon is when any full moon is at its closest position to earth in its orbit.
June’s full moon, typically the last full moon of spring or the first of summer, was named by the Native American Algonquin tribes that live in the northeastern United States. The seasonal timing of this full moon marked the ripening of the “June-bearing” strawberries, denoting their readiness to be gathered, earning the name of Strawberry Full Moon.
Back on our vessels we settled in further to our new spaces and cozied into our new homes with our accompanying crew. Dinner was prepared and plans were set for our travels tomorrow. Tracking the tides and calculating our crossings, our adventure into Santa Anna Inlet will surely be a beautiful one.
P.S. Is Alaska on your bucket list? We can take you there! Email us to reserve your spot on our 2023 Mother Goose AK Flotilla. firstname.lastname@example.org