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Whales and Marine Ecology of Southeast Alaska

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 for 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, tide pooling, and learning how the sea and the forest are interconnected.

To get to know a little more about Josh, have a listen to our podcast where we talk about Josh’s love for marine biology, whales, and cephalopods. Listen here…

Itinerary – 8-Days Northbound Petersburg to Juneau

Trip #379
Dates: June 17 – 24, 2021
Boards: Petersburg
Disembarks: Juneau
Price: $7,100 per person

For availability and discounts visit our Schedule and Rates Page.

Day 1

Petersburg
Semi palmated plover in Alaska
You’ll board the David B in Petersburg at noon, stow your luggage and familiarize yourself with the boat, your fellow passengers, and the crew.  After lunch, you’ll have time to explore Petersburg’s rich fishing community with an interpretive dock walk with Captain Jeffrey. In the evening, our naturalist Josh will introduce you to marine mammals in Alaska. Our anchorage that night will be at Scenery Cove. 

Day 2
Scenery Cove, Baird Glacier, Eliza Harbor

Early in the morning, the David B will get underway for Thomas Bay and Baird Glacier’s outwash plain. You’ll get to explore a landscape that has gone through a rapid change in recent years. You’ll discover a microcosm of plant-life as well as a chance to see Arctic Terns. On our way to Eliza Harbor, we’ll stop off at Farragut Bay to pick up local organically grown veggies grown by Marja and Bo of Farragut Farms. Then we’ll spend the bulk of the day in Frederick Sound watching for humpback whales, sea lions, sea otter, harbor seals, and killer whales.

Day 3

Eliza Harbor, Baranof Warm Springs (weather permitting)

If the weather looks right, we’ll make our way to Baranof Island and Warm Springs Bay. Once we’re there we’ll be on the lookout for brown bears that sometimes forage at low tide, and for humpback whales that occasionally frequent the harbor. We’ll also stop by the Alaska Whale Foundation’s research station to see if anyone’s around to talk about their work. While we’re there you’ll have time to visit the hot springs for a soak and go for a hike.

Killer whales in AlaskaDay 4

Baranof Warm Springs, Cannery Cove

Cannery Cove is located on Admiralty Island, known as Kootznoowoo, or Fortress of the Bear. It’s an island known for its brown bear population. With approximately 1600 brown bears on the islands, there’s always a good chance of spotting one on the beach. While we’re at Cannery Cove, you’ll get to kayak, take a skiff ride, and go ashore to learn, hands-on, about intertidal life.

Day 5
Cannery Cove – Wood Spit

Wood Spit is our first stop in the Tracy Arm / Fords Terror Wilderness area. The spit is the ancient endpoint of Dawes Glacier which now rests 25-plus miles away at the end of Endicott Arm. Here’s you’ll get to walk along the ancient moraine, discover tidal life, and discuss plant succession and how the forests change over time as glaciers retreate. It’s not uncommon to see black bears and porcupines here. It’s also a spot we have occasionally seen moose and wolves. We often see humpback whales in this anchorage as well as killer whales.

Day 6
Wood Spit to Fords Terror

From our anchorage at Wood Spit, we’ll enter Endicott Arm, a fjord made by Dawes Glacier. We’ll watch humpback whales, and search for killer whales as well as numerous sea birds that come to these nutrient-rich waters. Our anchorage at  Fords Terror is breathtaking and was described by the famed naturalist John Muir as more “Yosemite than Yosemite.” Here we find icebergs, harbor seals, small sea birds called marbled murrelets and occasionally harbor porpoises swim near the boat. There is also lots of time to go ashore for a walk that includes glacier-carved kettle ponds, muskeg plants, and lush forest.

Glacier in Alaska calving ice.

Day 7

Fords Terror to Dawes Glacier to No Name Cove

When the tide reaches high-water and the current is slack, we’ll take a skiff ride through a narrow cut at Fords Terror that opens into a glacier-carved canyon with walls approximately 3000 feet high. It’s one of the most breathtaking places to experience. You’ll learn about the geology that created this landscape. When you return to the boat, we’ll get underway for Dawes Glacier, where you’ll witness first-hand the raw power of nature as she sculpts rocks and landscapes. In the evening, the David B will exit Endicott Arm and anchor at the mouth of Tracy Arm.

Day 8

No Name Cove to Juneau

We’ll leave our anchorage early, and be on the lookout for humpback whales and bald eagles as we make our way to Juneau. Josh will lecture on ecology and how all of the places you visited and all the plants and animals that you saw are intertwined to bring you a greater understanding of the ecology of southeast Alaska.

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 McInnes is a marine biologist specializing in the ecology of marine mammals. He has spent over a decade studying their ecology. Josh’s work on killer whales started in British Columbia, where he focused on the transient or Bigg’s mammal hunting ecotype. He also collaborates with researchers studying killer whales in Australia, South Africa, Washington, Alaska, and California. Josh obtained a BSc in marine biology at the University of Victoria, British Columbia, and taught ocean sciences at the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre in Bamfield BC, and guided in Antarctica.