Nature's serenity is star of Alaskan cruise

Meander through the coastal waters of Alaska on the National Geographic Sea Lion ship.
BY SARAH PHIPPS Staff Photographer Modified: September 23, 2012 at 12:11 am •  Published: September 23, 2012

The passengers can choose to kayak in the coves or explore the land by foot with a naturalist-led hike. For the less adventuresome, there is an option to explore the coast via zodiac. There are two activity times, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.

Calving glaciers and seals — The first day

On the first day, we set anchor near Williams Cove.

I chose to kayak. It was so peaceful to float in the calm waters with Alaska's towering mountains peering down on you.

After the morning activities, we boarded the Sea Lion and made our way toward the face of the South Sawyer Glacier. The passengers were once again loaded into zodiacs to experience an up close and personal view of the glacier.

It did not take long to hear a thunderous crash as the glacier calved, tumbling parts of itself into the icy-blue water. The Tlingitnatives call this “white Thunder.”

The glacier and icebergs reflected the most brilliant blue color. Sometimes, they looked like large chunks of sapphires floating in the water.

Often, on top of these sapphires were rolly-polly seals. They were gathering near glacier because the water was protected from their predators and they had babies with them.

After watching the seals and glaciers, once again, we reboarded the ship. Following dinner a few of us were in the lounge telling stories. We reminisced about the bears we saw earlier in the day wrestling in the meadow. We talked about how the seals were curious with our presence.

Around 11 a.m., a staff member came over and told us the captain saw the moon rising above the mountain.

We raced to the deck. To our surprise a large, orange-colored moon was just peaking over the mountain, contrasting with a deep blue-tinted sky.

This was my moment to channel my inner Ansel Adams in honor of the famed nature photographer. I clicked away on my shutter along with the other guests.

As the sky turned deeper blue, we passed a tiny iceberg illuminated by a stream of light from the moon. We continued to click our shutters mesmerized by stream of light. A bald eagle swooped down and perched itself of the iceberg, posing for us.

It was at this moment all each one of us knew this adventure was going to be extraordinary.

Every day was this magical.

Viewing nature

It seems clichéd but watching nature has a profound effect on a person. Watching the humpback whales flipping their giant flukes into the air as they dive under the ocean is awe-inspiring. To think that these giant creatures live in a vast ocean in a planet that sometimes seems so small in our daily lives.

Many of us learned about the glaciers in school. We learned how they carved and shaped the land we live on. To see them still moving, still carving, is a reminder that nature is always at work.

Experiencing Alaska was life-changing for the passengers of the National Geographic Sea Lion. Our trusted leader, Lee, said it best in our ship's video chronicle.

“I think that everyone that comes to Southeast Alaska goes home a different person; the immensity of this place is staggering,” he said. “There are many of us who go home feeling a little less significant. We find our place in the world changed when we see nature at work and the incredible life that mother nature has put on this planet and in this very special place.”

Travel and accommodations provided by Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic.

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