Southeast Alaska in the Spring
By Ted Gatlin, Expedition Guide on the Wilderness Discoverer
The dense rainforests and the omnipresent green of Southeast Alaska are thanks to the high rainfall of this area. After being here long enough you get accustomed to, and eventually come to expect, the grey and mist that most days bring. This week, however, has been exceptionally sunny and clear. Cruising up Glacier Bay we can see the towering peaks of the Fairweather Range all around us, which are typically shrouded by cloud cover.
The wildlife in the area seems to be soaking up the sun’s rays. We passed South Marble Island earlier today. South Marble is a favored nesting site for some of our ocean-going birds, as well as a sea lion haul-out. Spring is in the air because there are a lot of birds getting ready to nest for the season, including everyone’s favorites, the puffins. There are both the tufted puffins, as well as the rarer horned puffin preparing to nest.
Passing between the narrow, and at the same time, impossibly steep cliffs that line the channels of Glacier Bay, you get the sense of magnitude of the glaciers that grinded downhill and carved out this dramatic landscape. As a result, some of the cliff walls are either too steep for vegetation to grow, or there hasn’t been enough time for the plants to get a foothold, and all you see is bare rock towering out of the ocean. These barren cliffs are the home of mountain goats. Their agility and surefootedness allows them to inhabit terrain that predators can’t reach, and they don’t have to compete for resources like they would on more level ground.
Glacier Bay is a unique place. Here you get to see the raw forces of nature sculpting some of the most dramatic fjords on the planet. And at the same time you can see the abundance of wildlife and plant life that calls this place home and thrives in this colossal landscape.
What wildlife will you see in Alaska this spring?