Cruising for Critters

09-05-2013

By Flora Drury, Expedition Guide, Wilderness Explorer

After an eventful morning hiking around Glacier Bay National Park’s Headquarters in Bartlett Cove, the Wilderness Explorer headed north into the depths of the park to do what we like to call “cruising for critters.” Our destination that evening was Margerie Glacier, but on the docket for the day was to see as much cool wildlife as possible.

Our first stop, South Marble Island, provided sightings of Steller Sea Lions and Tufted Puffins.

Stellar Sea Lions

Steller Sea Lions

As we voyaged onward, crew and passengers scanned the shoreline with binoculars over and over again but there was little in sight. At long last we approached Gloomy Knob, and high on the cliff face stood a mountain goat. We doubled back and spotted another, this time a nanny and her two-month-old kid meandering along with ease, stopping every so often to graze upon the available vegetation.

Mountain Goats

Mountain Goats on Gloomy Knob

When satisfied with sightings and photographs we continued north believing the glaciers of the west arm to be our next stop. How wrong we were! Not five minutes after bidding our mountain goats goodbye, two brown dots were spotted on the water ahead. These dots turned out to be moose swimming across Glacier Bay’s West Arm!

Moose Crossing

Moose swimming across Glacier Bay's West Arm

The leading moose was equipped with antlers, indicating it was a bull; the following moose had no antlers and was therefore determined to be a cow. We all watched in awe as the pair of large animals crossed the bay with impressive efficiency. However, as we looked at the shoreline in front of them we realized, perhaps before they did, that landing would be no easy task. Giant cliff faces leading straight into the ocean met the moose on the bay’s opposing shore and so, after their intense crossing, the moose had to redirect their aim to a more suitable landing spot. At this point things became more difficult; the current had aided the moose during their crossing but as they turned to find a place to go ashore they were forced to swim against the tide. More than once the pair, male still in front, swam closer to the shore in hopes of landing only to realize that this would still be impossible.

As I walked around the decks of the Wilderness Explorer there was no shortage of imitations of the conversation the moose must have been having with each other.

Guest Aboard Watching Moose Crossing

Guests aboard watch the moose try to get to shore

Needless to say, people on the ship were giving the bull a pretty hard time, and things only got funnier when the cow took the lead. At long last, the pair of moose climbed wearily on the bank; everyone aboard breathed a sigh of relief and then joined in a round of applause to congratulate the moose on completing their journey.

Moose on Shore

The moose made it to shore! We can all breathe a sigh of relief

We have no idea why these moose left Glacier Bay’s western shore or what they were searching for on the eastern shore. We don’t know what a male and female moose were doing together outside of mating season or if the female moose will ever follow the male across a five mile fjord again. We do know that these moose made cruising for critters a great success!

The Wilderness Explorer was cruising our Northern Passages and Glacier Bay itinerary when Flora wrote this blog.



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