2023 Alaska Flotilla – Leg 5, Day 9 Tracy Arm to Foot Island | NW Explorations
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2023 Alaska Flotilla – Leg 5, Day 9 Tracy Arm to Foot Island

This morning opened gently into a calm sea, little wind and fair skies. A few large icebergs had drifted down to the entrance of Holkham Bay and were resting on the moraine as we departed. It wasn’t long before we spotted our first humpback swimming lazily with shallow dives just outside the moraine. We passed a small island close to shore that was particularly beautiful in the morning light with a small white sand beach, bright green grasses and wildflowers of fire weed and pearly everlasting. Perched atop was a lone bald eagle.

Within an hour we were again surrounded by numerous humpback whales all feeding in a rip tide. Their dives were relatively shallow but with more purpose than the lone whale we had seen in Holkham Bay. They were actively feeding but with no particular coordination. We turned off our engines and drifted while we watched them for about 45 minutes. Many were farther away while some swam between boats much to the delight of the onlookers!

Our destination in the float plan was Sandborne Canal which is a lovely and very protected spot with plenty of opportunities for wildlife viewing but it is a long canal and adds quite a bit of time to enter and leave it. Because the weather was so calm and forecasted to remain that way, Chris decided to try a new location that would not require such a detour… Foot Island. As we approached Foot Island, we could see a lot of whale activity along the shore about 3 miles away. The whales were repeatedly breaching, pec slapping, spy hopping and generally having a big party! We watched with binoculars as we approached and we could see the massive active splashes. It looked like maybe eight whales were all excitedly interacting. I kept taking photos with my largest lens knowing they were too far for a good photo but hoping that I might get a good shot. Within a mile, we could see that the activity was wanning but alas, one last breach and I captured it! By the time we were near enough for better photos it seemed the party had ended and about four whales moved off in a separate direction from the rest.

Foot Island was nearby so we slipped inside and built our raft. Everything about this place made everyone keen to explore. Eleven of us went kayaking, others went in dinghies and some for short walks ashore. As a group we leisurely circumnavigated the island. The water was flat calm, but it was obvious from the size of driftwood trees on shore that this could be very rough at times. Massive kelp beds and crystal-clear water allowed us to peer down and see what a kelp forest looks like. A flat glassy ocean surrounded us as far as the eye could see and we could see more whales frolicking in the distance. A large seal lion surfaced nearby and seemed a bit indignant that we should be in his territory but then accepted us and popped up here and there.

As evening fell, we were graced with a long and colorful sunset. We could still see the whales and the bow of every boat was filled with curious binoculared observers hoping to get a few more glimpses of breaching whales before dark. It was a spectacular day!

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