Whales and Marine Ecology of Southeast Alaska with Josh McInnes

One of our most fun trips of the year is back! Join us as we welcome back marine biologist, educator, and killer whale researcher, Josh McInnes for an exciting cruise where we’ll explore the ecology of southeast Alaska’s marine life. We’ll search killer whales in Endicott or Tracy Arms and humpback whales in Frederick Sound, as well as troll for plankton and explore the unfamiliar microscopic world. There will be lots of time for kayaking, tidepooling and learning how the sea and the forest are interconnected.

Itinerary – 8-Days Southbound Juneau to Petersburg

Trip #298
Dates: June 20-27, 2017
Departs: Juneau 12:00pm
Disembarks: Petersburg 1:00pm
For availability see your Schedule and Rates Page

Day 1

Juneau to Taku Harbor
You’ll board the David B in Juneau at noon and soon leave this busy tourist town for your first introduction to the abundance of sea-life in Southeast Alaska’s cold nutrient rich waters. Once underway we’ll head out into Gastineau Channel and make our way to Taku Harbor. Along the way Josh talk about the uniqueness of Southeast Alaska and why it’s home to so many kinds of sea mammals.

Day 2
Taku Harbor to Tracy Arm / Fords Terror Wilderness Area

We’ll get an early start and work our way down Stephens Passage to the Tracy Arm/Fords Terror Wilderness. This is an unspoiled part of the Tongass National Forest with a unique ecosystem that hosts three tidewater glaciers within two deep water fjords. In the spring the two fjords, Tracy Arm and Endicott Arm, are teaming with life. Seals come to haul out on icebergs to give birth, and with the seals around, it’s not uncommon to find killer whales. On our way you’ll learn about the types of killer whales found in southeast Alaska.

The first stop for the day is at Wood Spit at the mouth of Endicott Arm. We’ll explore tidepools and go for a walk on animal trails in an old growth forest. What makes Wood Spit remarkable is that it is made up of rocks piled up and left by the maximum advance of Dawes Glacier.

After lunch, we’ll get underway again and head deeper into Endicott Arm and anchor in Fords Terror. Along the way we’ll look for killer whales, and maybe even spot a humpback whale while Josh talks about the relationship between seals and mammal eating killer whales.


Day 3
Fords Terror – Dawes Glacier – Little Dawes

Fords Terror is a breathtaking anchorage and we’ll spend the morning exploring the beach, and hiking up to a cliff face where you can see the David B anchored a couple hundred feet below. The hike at Fords Terror is vastly different from Wood Spit. You’ll get to see first-hand the incredible sculpting power of glaciers and how they affect the landscape.

After hiking, you’ll visit the source of all of the Endicott Arm icebergs, Dawes Glacier. Along the way you’ll see harbor seals hauled out on icebergs, and maybe even killer whales.

In the evening we’ll anchor at Little Dawes and go ashore for a meadow walk. You’ll also want to take binoculars with you since this is an area where mountain goats are often seen.


Day 4
Little Dawes to Tracy Arm to Williams Cove

The David B will get underway early and cruise up Endicott Arm. You’ll cross the Tracy Arm Bar and spend the rest of the day searching for killer whales, humpback whales, brown and black bears. Depending on time, tides and ice conditions, there’s a chance of visiting the twin Sawyer Glaciers.

Before we leave the Tracy Arm / Fords Terror Wilderness, you’ll have the opportunity to kayak in Williams Cove our anchorage for the night.

Day 5
Williams Cove to Cannery Cove

Our next destination is Admiralty Island. The Tlingit people’s name for Admiralty Island is Kootnoowoo, which means Fortress of the Bear, and this evening’s anchorage in Cannery Cove is an excellent place to spot brown bears from either the deck of the David B, or by kayak. To get to Admiralty, you’ll cruise across Stephens Passage where humpback whales spend their summer feeding. Part of the underway time will be spent with Josh talking about the natural history of humpback whales. If the conditions are right and there are enough whales around we might have the opportunity to drop a hydrophone in the water and listen to the whales as they feed.

Day 6
Cannery Cove to Baranof Warm Springs

After breakfast you’ll be able to go ashore for a low tide walk. You’ll get to see many of the animals that live in the intertidal zone that are often hidden from sight during higher tides. After walking, the David B will once again get underway and we’ll visit a Stellers sea lion haul out, watch humpback whales, and look for sea otters as we round the tip of Admiralty Island on our way to Baranof Warm Springs. After the anchor is down, you’ll have a chance to go soak in either some natural warm springs whose pools are adjacent to a spectacular roaring waterfall.

Day 7
Baranof Warm Springs to Cleveland Passage

In the morning, you’ll have the choice of either kayaking in Baranof Warm Springs Bay or going for a hike in muskeg, a peatland habitat with unique plants. In the afternoon the boat gets underway for Cleveland Passage and you’ll cross Frederick Sound where you’ll have another chance to get to watch high concentrations of humpback whales foraging.


Day 8
Cleveland Passage to Petersburg

It’s the last day and we’ll raise anchor early in the morning. Breakfast will be underway and you’ll be treated to Christine’s hand-made croissants and pain au chocolat. You might feel a little sadness that the trip’s ending, but as we cruise into Wrangell Narrows and soon after, Petersburg, we’ll make one last stop at a buoy crowded with sea lions pushing, shoving, growling, and lying on top of one another. They’re sure to put a smile on your face and mark the perfect way to end an amazing adventure


Please note that this is a sample itinerary and it is subject to change depending on weather and wildlife.


Josh McInnes:

Josh at Dawes Glacier

 Josh is currently working towards a graduate degree on transient killer whales. He is very interested in foraging and diet studies and the ecological relationship exhibited by prey. Besides conducting research, Josh has been a whale watch guide throughout British Columbia and was recently interviewed for the upcoming documentary Fragile Waters. He is also conducting independent research on killer whales with a small group of volunteers. We’re looking forward to having Josh on board and to the new insights on killer whales he brings through his research. For more information about the Transient Killer Whale Research Project.

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