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Day 3 - July 13, 2010 - Katmai National Park, Alaska

By Brad Siviour, Marine Biologist

Co-ordinates: N 58º04’, W 154º32’
Weather: Fine and Sunny
Air Temperature: 15ºC 59ºF
Pressure: 1016 hPa
Wind: 5 knots


This morning we were blessed with clear blue skies and light variable winds as we gently sailed into Kukak Bay an hour after sunrise. The bay acted like a giant mirror reflecting the snow-capped mountainous landscape off of the surface of the water. As soon as the Silver Discoverer was anchored, the deck crew begun speedily began lowering Zodiacs into the water ready for our Zodiac tour at 0815.

Each of the Expedition Staff got into a Zodiac and we set off in all different directions away from the ship to scout the shores of the bay for Brown Bears. Within a few minutes I found the first bear, which appeared to be a solitary female foraging along the shoreline during low tide. None of our guests had seen bears by this stage, so we started the disembarkation for the Zodiac tour a little earlier to give them the best possible chance of sighting the furry beasts.

We set off towards the same section of bay where I had seen the bear foraging in the shallows, and discovered that the female now had two cubs trailing her, who must have initially been hidden in the long grass up from the beach at the time of our scouting mission. The cubs were very playful, constantly contesting one another to a wrestle and chasing each other along the shore line. We stayed with the bears for approximately 45 minutes as they made their way around the bay -they were completely at ease with our presence.

After many thousands of photos were taken by both guests and Expedition Staff, everyone was very content with the sighting and it was decided that the Zodiac tour of Kukak Bay be shortened in order for us to depart for Amalik Bay where there was supposed to be a higher concentration of Brown Bears. We were all back on board by 0945 and once the anchor was heaved we set off out of Kukak Bay bound for Geographic Harbor.

During our time sailing further west around the coast our on-board Photographer and Videography gave a very interesting presentation entitled “An Introduction to Nature Photography” in the Explorer Lounge. While Richard was giving this presentation, the rest of the Expedition Staff were on whale-watching duty on the bride. As we sailed around the coast we saw a pod of eight Orca cruising along the shoreline, and two separate pods of Dall’s Porpoises – each of around 20 individuals.

We arrived in Amalik Bay around lunch time, and again the deck crew dropped the Zodiacs as soon as we were anchored. The guests were disembarked for the second Zodiac tour of the day, and again the hunt was on for the giant Brown Bear. It took around 30 minutes for us to find our first bear, which was a solitary sub-adult foraging along the shoreline. We then spotted three more adults at the end of Geographic Harbor, but unfortunately the tide was dropping and it was too shallow for us to get the Zodiacs in to get a good view of the bears.
Over the next two hours of Zodiac cruising, we came across an abundance of wildlife. There were many types of birds to be seen, including Surf Scoters, Golden Eyes, Common Loons, Pigeon Guillemots, Black-legged Kittiwake, and the very notorious Bald Eagle – one of which was sitting on its nest with chicks. There were also a lot of enquiring Sea Otters around the bay, and we also came across four more adult bears which were feeding on a dead bear carcass on the beach. We managed to get closer to the feeding bears, and one large adult male walked past, completely unconcerned about us.

It certainly was an incredible experience shared by everyone, and there was a lot of sharing of stories and photos amongst the guests once we were all back on board the ship. It was a truly epic day, topped off with a few relaxing drinks in the Explorer Lounge while members of the Expedition Team recapped on the things seen, and Expedition Leader Conrad briefed the guests about the plans for our day at the Semidi Islands tomorrow.

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