From the Field – Banquet at the Inians

By Joe Brown – Expedition Leader, Safari Endeavour

Each new day on an UnCruise tour is an unknown adventure. A raft of otters could float by the dining room windows while breakfast is being served, or an orca could rudely interrupt your conversation during cocktail hour in the lounge. Mother Nature is wild and we are in the midst of it.


Despite how random these events can be, there are moments when nature is predictable, like a clock. One such place is the Inian Islands, located on the Northern end of Chichagof Island where the seemingly infinite waters of the Pacific Ocean converge into Icy Strait.  We drop anchor in a cove with calm waters, but the energy on board is heightened. The crew of your ship is excited to show you what is out there, and we bring you onto one of our skiffs for a cruise around the islands.


As we motor our way out, the water starts to change around us. The waves, they seem to switch directions. They go this way or that as we cross them. Your skiff driver is constantly making course corrections as they manage their way through it all. A hundred feet below is a series of sea mounts, underwater mountains, and the tide is flooding in. All that deep water from the pacific is coming into the narrow channel with that tide and being forced up those sea mounts and pushed to the surface. The result is constant churning of the water around us. It appears as if it is a pot of water set to simmer, you can see it all up-welling around us.


As the tide stirs up the pot, it is also bringing in deep sea nutrients and fish to the surface. Halibut, rockfish, and others that prefer their lives on the seafloor are suddenly thrust up to the surface where sea lions, cormorants, bald eagles, humpback whales, and many others are waiting for them. The result is a banquet where everyone is invited, and all are feasting on what the pacific has to offer. The scene is chaos. Sea lions ripping fish apart, gulls are picking off the bits left behind, eagles are swooping in and stealing what they can from the gulls.


This is not an endless feast. It last only for a couple hours until the tide begins to slack. At which time the flow of upwelling water slows down, stops and ultimately begins to reverse. The feast is over. The eagles go back to the tall spruce trees to watch over the water, and the sea lions lay on the rocks to bask in the sun with their bellies full. We too, go back to our ship, and while we did not participate in the feast, our souls are satiated and our hearts content.