Cloud Ridge Naturalists
spacer Southeast Alaska


June 14-23, 2016 10 Days/9 Nights

Dr. Geoff Hammerson, Audrey Benedict, Bob Rozinski & Wendy Shattil, Sarah
Drummond, and the M/V Westward’s Crew

Few places in North America rival the scenic beauty and wildlife diversity of Southeast Alaska. Join us for an all-new voyage aboard our “classroom afloat”—the M/V Westward—as we explore the remote islands, spectacular fjords, old-growth forests, whale-rich waters, seabird colonies, sea lion haulouts, and tidepools of the outer coastal wilderness. The M/V Westward provides the perfect setting for our Conservation in Focus voyages. The use of sea kayaks allows us a special seal’s-eye view of the marine world. Beginning sea kayakers will find this an ideal setting in which to learn. Unlike big cruise ships, Westward is trim enough to explore the narrowest of fjords and to wander among remote rocky islands. Each evening, as you enjoy another superb dinner and share the day’s discoveries, we know you’ll agree that there is no finer way to experience the wonders of Southeast Alaska.

We begin our adventure in Sitka, the political and cultural hub of Russian adventurism in Alaska and the North Pacific during the 19th century. This city offers a unique window into Tlingit history and a native people’s struggle to preserve cultural identity in the face of a burgeoning European and American presence. Visits to the Totem Trail National Historical Park and the Sheldon Jackson Museum reveal a powerful cultural and artistic tapestry that interweaves the natural world with a human lifeway that respects both. The siren call of the wild outer edge beckons and we board Westward, casting off for Krestof Sound. This will be the first of several anchorages in the midst of island archipelagos that beg our exploration. We’ll island-hop our way from Klag Bay to White Sulphur Hot Springs, and then venture by kayak and skiff to the surf-lashed reefs and tidepools of the Porcupine Islands. Previous visits have been remarkable for their marine mammal and seabird diversity. Cruising north to Surge Bay, we’ll have yet another chance to experience the rich intertidal wilderness of the outer coast and to see petroglyphs left behind by ancient voyagers.

If sea conditions smile upon us—an important “if” because we need reasonable seas in both directions—we embark on a 64-mile open ocean run along the southern edge of the Gulf of Alaska to Lituya Bay. The only access to this legendary outlier of Glacier Bay National Park is by small boat or float plane. The bay itself is a spectacular whale-shaped fjord that lies within the snowy embrace of the Fairweather Range. The fjord is situated at the confluence of three glaciers—the Lituya, the Cascade, and the North Crillon—and centered along the famous epicenter of intense geologic activity known as the Fairweather Fault.

Archaeological evidence reveals that the ancestral Huna Tlingit lived in Lituya Bay for thousands of years prior to the arrival of Europeans. In fact, Tlingit villagers were at Lituya Bay and greeted the arrival of Lapérouse’s ship in 1786. The Tlingit’s rich oral tradition tells us that they experienced the devastating effects of multiple earthquakes associated with the fault. Since 1899, nine earthquakes have rumbled across the region, toppling mountains and flaying this ice-carved landscape to its bedrock roots.

Brown bear (MH)

In 1958, a magnitude 8.3 earthquake centered on Cross Sound, 45-miles to the southeast, set the fjord into earthwrenching motion and triggered a landslide and a 1,740-foot-tsunami-like wave. The opportunity to explore the extraordinary geology and human history of Lituya Bay is a rare gift.

If sea conditions force a change in course, we’ll head into Icy Strait and continue on to Dundas Bay, another fabulous outlier of Glacier Bay National Park. We’ll have myriad photographic and natural history opportunities as we navigate Icy Strait’s prime humpback whale waters. If our timing is right, the roiling waters near the mouth of the strait provide whales, Steller sea lions, harbor seals, and seabirds with a spectacular “fish buffet.” We’ll be watching for humpback whales lunge-feeding and may even spot groups of humpbacks working cooperatively to entrap schools of small fish or krill through the creation of a “bubble net.” Continuing toward Dundas Bay we should see increasing numbers of sea otters and will be on the lookout for both brown and black bears working the intertidal areas.

In addition to exploring the natural history of Southeast Alaska, we’ll discuss the impact that global warming is having on the region’s glaciers and how changes in prevailing ocean currents may affect the populations of small fish that marine mammals and seabirds depend on for food. We’ll also offer mini-workshops that help you hone your skills in portraying the world around you in a more compelling way—either through photography or sketching. We’ll create a book based on our shared experiences and observations that truly captures the essence of Southeast Alaska and the wild outer coast.


Sea otters (MH)

Sea otters (MH)

Price: $6,550 (includes a $1,000 deposit)
Group Size: 12 Trip Rating: 2-3
Price includes:

1 night’s lodging in Sitka (6/14) and 1 night’s lodging in Juneau (6/22), 8 days/7 nights aboard the M/V Westward, all meals and beverages (wine/beer included) aboard and onshore, the services of our 4 naturalist leaders, the Westward’s 4-person crew, full sea kayak outfitting and instruction, gratuities to the crew, boat/hotel transfers, and a copy of the trip’s photo book.

The price quoted is per person based on double occupancy; single accommodations are unavailable on this trip.

Does not include roundtrip airfare from your point of departure to Sitka on 6/14 or your return from Juneau on 6/23.

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