People throughout the world enjoy hiking in the wilderness, usually on established trails. Hiking in Southeast Alaska is best suited for those who are in good physical condition, as it may require walking on unimproved trails, often for several miles. Sometimes it is necessary to climb steep paths on mountainsides, and cross small streams. The reward for this effort can be a serene mountain lake, a beautiful view of the surrounding wilderness, and photos of wildlife seen along the way.
The Inuit invented the kayak, a light, narrow, and maneuverable boat with an enclosed cockpit, propelled by a double-bladed paddle. Kayaks were crafted by stretching oiled hides from sea mammals over wooden or whale rib frameworks. Most were designed for a single person, but some had an additional seat for a passenger.
Stand up paddle surfing and stand up paddleboarding (SUP) is an offshoot of surfing that originated in Hawaii. Unlike traditional surfing where the rider sits until a wave comes, stand up paddleboarders stand on their boards and use a paddle to propel themselves through the water. The sport was documented in a 2013 report that identified it as the outdoor sporting activity with the most first-time participants in the United States that year. Variations include flat water paddling for outdoor recreation, fitness, or sightseeing, racing on lakes, large rivers and canals, surfing on ocean waves, paddling in river rapids (whitewater SUP), paddleboard yoga and even fishing. Paddling with giant icebergs and glaciers is an opportunity few people get to experinece. Mmarine mammals thrive in this area, and the opportunities to see these majestic animals are many. On a typical trip we usually see humpback whales, orcas, harbor seals, sea lions, sea otters, and Alaska brown bears.
A wide variety of digital cameras are available for both professional photographers and amateur enthusiasts. For our photo workshops, we recommend bringing a Digital SLR with a wide angle zoom and telephoto zoom. Most digital cameras are able to transfer image files directly into a laptop computer. Bring one if you want to edit your photos. And please be sure to bring your camera manual.
Sport fishing is the top outdoor recreation activity in Alaska. Alaskans spend their vacations, days off, and time before and after work fishing. Tourists almost always spend some time fishing for salmon, halibut, and other Alaska fish. Alaska ranks among the best places in the world for sport fishing. King salmon weighing over 50 pounds are common. Sockeye salmon enter Alaska's waters in the millions. Pink salmon, while smaller, are even more plentiful. Silver salmon may be, pound for pound, the best fighters. Halibut can weigh 300 pounds or more. Rainbow trout are abundant in area rivers and lakes and are supplemented by regular stocking.
Whale-watching expeditions are a popular tourist activity. Unfortunately, these interactions of whales with humans can negatively affect whale populations. Occasionally boaters cruise too close to whales, preventing the animals from hunting for food, or inadvertently separating mothers from their calves. Alaska Wilderness Charters has a deep commitment to protecting the natural resources we share with our guests.
Alaska Wilderness Charters helps to maintain the wildness of the beaches, forests, rivers and waterways we visit. It's our commitment to the wildlife and the land itself. This environmental responsibility drives many of our decisions as a company, and greatly influences the approach we take on our trips.
The Arctic char is closely related to both salmon and lake trout, and has many characteristics of both. The fish is highly variable in colour, depending on the time of year and the environmental conditions of the lake where it lives. Record-sized fish have been taken by anglers in northern Canada, where it is known as iqaluk or tariungmiutaq in Inuktitut. The flesh colour can range from a bright red to a pale pink.
Throughout their native and introduced ranges, cutthroat trout vary widely in size, coloration and habitat selection. Their coloration can range from golden to gray to green on the back. Cutthroat trout can generally be distinguished from rainbow trout by the presence of basibranchial teeth at the base of tongue and a maxillary that extends beyond the posterior edge of the eye. Depending on subspecies, strain and habitat, most have distinctive red, pink, or orange linear marks along the underside of their mandibles in the lower folds of the gill plates. These markings are responsible for the common name "cutthroat", first given to the trout by outdoor writer Charles Hallock in an 1884 article in The American Angler.
The back and sides of Dolly Varden are olive green or muddy gray, shading to white on the belly. The body has scattered pale yellow or pinkish-yellow spots. There are no black spots or wavy lines on the body or fins. Small red spots are present on the lower sides. These are frequently indistinct. The fins are plain and unmarked except for a few light spots on the base of the caudal fin rays. S. malma is extremely similar in appearance to the bull trout (S. confluentus) and Arctic char (S. alpinus), so much so that they are sometimes referred to as "native char" without a distinction.
The Pacific halibut is the world's largest flatfish. In July 2014, 76-year-old Jack McGuire caught a 482-pound Pacific halibut in Glacier Bay, Alaska. Halibut are dark brown on the top side, with an off-white underbelly and have very small scales invisible to the naked eye embedded in their skin. Halibut are symmetrical at birth with one eye on each side of the head. Then, about six months later, during larval metamorphosis one eye migrates to the other side of the head. The eyes are permanently set once the skull is fully ossified. At the same time, the stationary-eyed side darkens to match the top side, while the other side remains white. This color scheme disguises halibut from above (blending with the ocean floor) and from below (blending into the light from the sky) and is known as countershading.
Rainbow and steelhead trout are the most widely known trout in the world, and they are highly prized by anglers because of their strong fighting abilities. Freshwater resident rainbow trout usually inhabit and spawn in small to moderately large, well-oxygenated shallow rivers with gravel bottoms. They are native to the alluvial or freestone streams that are typical tributaries of the Pacific basin, but introduced rainbow trout have established wild, self-sustaining populations in other river types such as bedrock and spring creeks. Lake resident rainbow trout are usually found in moderately deep, cool lakes with adequate shallows and vegetation to support production of sufficient food sources. Lake populations generally require access to gravelly bottomed streams to be self-sustaining.
Salmon is the common name for several species of ray-finned fish. Other fish in the same family include trout, char, grayling and whitefish. Alaska has five species of salmon. They are native to tributaries of the Pacific Ocean. Salmon die after spawning, and their decomposing carcasses enrich the land and waters for future generations.
(Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) up to 100 lb. (45.4 kg)
King salmon (Chinook) is blue-green, red, or purple on the back and top of the head, with silvery sides and white ventral surfaces. It has black spots on its tail and the upper half of its body. King Salmon have a Black gum line which is present in both salt and freshwater. Adult fish range in size from 24 to 36 inches (61 to 91 cm), but may be up to 58 in (150 cm) in length. The current sport-caught world record, 97.25 lb (44.11 kg), was caught on May 17, 1985, in the Kenai River (Kenai Peninsula, Alaska). The commercial catch world record is 126 lb. (57 kg) caught near Rivers Inlet, British Columbia, in the late 1970's.
(Oncorhynchus kisutch) up to 25 lb. (11.3 kg)
During their ocean phase, Coho salmon (Silver) have silver sides and dark-blue backs. During their spawning phase, their jaws and teeth become hooked. After entering fresh water, they develop bright-red sides, bluish-green heads and backs, dark bellies and dark spots on their backs. Sexually maturing fish develop a light-pink or rose shading along the belly, and the males may show a slight arching of the back. Mature adults have a pronounced red skin color with darker backs and occasionally reaching up to 36 pounds (16 kg). They also develop a large kype (hooked beak) during spawning. Mature females may be darker than males, with both showing a pronounced hook on the nose.
(Oncorhynchus nerka) up to 15 lb. (6.8 kg)
Sockeye salmon (Red) is sometimes called red or blueback salmon, due to its color. Sockeye are blue tinged with silver in color while living in the ocean. When they return to spawning grounds, their bodies become red and their heads turn green. Sockeye can be up 20 33 inches (84 cm) in length and weigh from up to 15.4 pounds (7.0kg). Two distinguishing features are their long, serrated gill rakers that range from 30 to 40 in number, and their lack of a spot on their tail or back.
(Oncorhynchus keta) up to 22 lb. (10 kg)
The body of the Chum salmon (Dog) is deeper than most salmonid species. In common with other species found in the Pacific, the anal fin has 12 to 20 rays, compared with a maximum of 12 in European species. Chum have an ocean coloration of silvery blue green with some indistinct spotting in a darker shade, and a rather paler belly. When they move into fresh water the color changes to dark olive green and the belly color deepens. When adults are near spawning, they have purple blotchy streaks near the caudal peduncle, darker towards the tail. Spawning males typically grow an elongated snout or kype, their lower fins become tipped with white and they have enlarged teeth. Some researchers speculate these characteristics are used to compete for mates.
(Oncorhynchus gorbuscha) up to 12 lb. (5.4 kg)
In the ocean, Pink salmon (Humpy) are bright silver fish. After returning to their spawning streams, their coloring changes to pale grey on the back with yellowish-white belly (although some turn an overall dull green color). As with all salmon, in addition to the dorsal fin, they also have an adipose fin. The fish is characterized by a white mouth with black gums, no teeth on the tongue, large oval-shaped black spots on the back, a v-shaped tail, and an anal fin with 13-17 soft rays. During their spawning migration, males develop a pronounced humped back, hence their nickname "humpies". The maximum recorded size for a Pink salmon was 30 inches (76 cm) and 15 pounds (6.8 kg).
Rainbow and steelhead trout are the most widely known trout in the world, and they are highly prized by anglers because of their strong fighting abilities. In Alaska, the two commonly recognized forms of the rainbow trout and their “forms” are based primarily on where they spend their time feeding and maturing. The most common rainbow trout in Alaska is the stream-resident form that lives its life entirely in freshwater with maybe short periods of time spent in estuarine or near-shore marine waters. The second form is commonly known as steelhead, and these trout leave freshwater as juveniles and migrate long distances in the ocean where they grow to maturity before migrating back to their original home waters.
The yelloweye rockfish is one of the biggest members of the genus. Its name derives from its coloration. It is locally known as "red snapper", not to be confused with the warm-water species that formally carries the name red snapper. The yelloweye is one of the world's longest-lived fish species, and can to live to a maximum of 114 to 120 years. As they grow older, they change in color, from reddish in youth, to bright orange in adulthood, to pale yellow in old age. Yelloweye live in rocky areas, and feed on small fish and other rockfish. They range from Baja California to Dutch Harbor in Alaska. Yelloweye rockfish are prized for their meat, and were declared overfished in 2002, and is subject to a rebuilding plan.
The Dungeness crab inhabits bays, estuaries, and the nearshore coast of Alaska. The species is named after one of its representative habitats — a shallow, sandy bay inside of Dungeness Spit on the south shore of the Straits of Juan de Fuca. It is widely distributed, and can be found as far north as the Aleutian Islands and as far south as Magdalena Bay, Mexico. The Dungeness crab is a decapod, related to shrimp, lobster, and other crab. It has a broad, oval body covered by a hard chitinous shell, four pairs of walking legs and a pair of claws. This species can be distinguished from other commercially important crab (King Crab and Tanner crab) because its legs are much smaller and shorter in relation to its body size, and because the dorsal surface of its carapace is smooth and spineless.
Spot Prawns (also known as Alaska Prawns) are a large shrimp found in the North Pacific. They range from the waters off Unalaska Island, Alaska, to San Diego. The commercial spot prawn industry is considered sustainable. Spot Prawns occur in sufficient numbers to support several small commercial and recreational fisheries.
Baranof Warm Springs is located on Warm Springs Bay which is just off of Chatham Strait. Just about a half mile up from the settlement is Baranof Lake, a large glacially-fed freshwater lake. Baranof Lake is fed from small unnamed glacial run-off streams as well as the relatively large Baranof River. Between the half mile outlet between Baranof Lake and Warm Springs Bay there are a series of rapids and waterfalls that have proven to be lethal when run. Baranof Warm Springs is a very small community, having only caretakers in the winter and intermittent visitors in the summer. There are around 15 seasonal homes. Baranof Warm Springs was used frequently by the Tlingit of Angoon. People of western descent did not find the springs until 1891.
A mass of freshwater ice that is calved, or broken off, from a glacier or an ice shelf (a huge slab of permanent ice that floats on water near the edges of polar land masses) and that floats in the ocean or in a lake. Ice floats because it is less dense than water. A typical iceberg shows only about one-fifth of its total mass above the water; the other four-fifths is submerged. Icebergs can be large.
Chatham Strait is a ten-mile wide body of water that separates Admiralty Island from Baranof Island and Chichagof Island -- the three "ABC" islands (A: Admiralty, B: Baranof, C: Chichagof. It is bounded on the north by Icy Strait.
This glacier is as good as any in Southeast Alaska. A wall of ice hundred feet high and half a mile across greets the traveler. Three glaciers merge to form the Dawes Glacier. The two main glaciers are visible, and a smaller glacier adds to the flow from high on the north side, above the face. An additional glacier with an impressive icefall is in the hanging valley just before Dawes, on the north side of the fjord.
Endicott Arm features a tidewater glacier, Dawes Glacier. One is often alone in Endicott, Arm perhaps one or two other craft passing by in an all day visit. Not quite as narrow as Tracy Arm, Endicott Arm is classic fjord, particularly nearer the glacier, where the sheer granite walls soar thousands of feet above the water.
The Five Finger Islands Light is a lighthouse located on a small island that lies between Stephens Passage and Frederick Sound. It and Sentinel Island Light Station were the first U.S. government lighthouses opened in Alaska on March 21, 1902. It became the last lighthouse in Alaska to be automated on August 14, 1984.
Ford's Terror is a very steep and narrow fjord 60 miles southeast of Juneau within the Tracy Arm-Ford's Terror Wilderness. It is named after a naval crew member who, in 1889, rowed a dinghy into the narrow entrance of the fjord at slack tide and suffered six "terrifying" hours trapped in the turbulent currents. Luckily for us, tide tables and plenty of experience allow us to contemplate Ford's predicament from the safety of a nearby camp!
Reaching its beginning, we turned left into Frederick Sound, where we sailed a good part of the morning west, towards Chatham Strait, that huge north-south water avenue leading to the northern parts of Southeast Alaska. We had a special watch for marine mammals, but only saw Dall’s and harbor porpoise.
Holkham Bay (also known as Sumdum Bay) is a bay in Endicott Arm, Alaska. Gold was mined from quartz veins found in the black graphite slate. The Sumdum Mine is located 2.5 miles south of Sanford Cove. Two ledges constitute the Sumdum Chief and Bald Eagle Mines and "have been mined to a depth of several hundred feet below their surface outcrops.
The Inside Passage, a natural protected waterway in northwestern North America, is 1,500 km (950 mi) long. It extends along the coast from Seattle, Washington, to Skagway, Alaska, and is an important year-round shipping lane. The passage is made up of a series of straits sheltered from Pacific Ocean storms by Vancouver Island and other islands. Ports along the passage include Vancouver, Prince Rupert, Ketchikan, Sitka, Wrangell, Petersburg, Juneau, and Haines.
Juneau is the capital city of Alaska. In 2014, the population estimate from the United States Census Bureau was 32,406, making it the third most populous city in Alaska, after Anchorage and Fairbanks. Juneau's daily population can increase by roughly 6,000 people from visiting cruise ships between the months of May and September. The city is named after gold prospector Joe Juneau.
LeConte Bay is an 810-foot-deep, six-mile-long bay in the southeastern region of the U.S. state of Alaska, located east of Frederick Sound. LeConte Bay is a very steep-sided fjord that is home to a seal rookery and the terminus of LeConte Glacier. It was named in 1887 by U.S. Navy Lieutenant-Commander Charles M. Thomas in honor of a California biologist Joseph LeConte.
LeConte Glacier is 21-miles long, and 1-mile wide. It flows southwest to the head of LeConte Bay. Since its discovery, the glacier has retreated nearly 2.5 miles, although it is considered to be in a stable position today. The glacier is known for its "shooter" icebergs which calve off underwater, and shoot to the surface due to their buoyancy. LeConte Glacier is the southernmost tidewater glacier in the Northern Hemisphere.
Lituya Bay is located on the outer coast of Glacier Bay, and it has a major fault line through its head. Geological, and native oral history attest that about twice each century, an event has taken place that created abnormal waves within Lituya Bay. On July 10, 1958, an earthquake caused a landslide and sudden glacial surge, creating the highest tsunami ever recorded on earth. The wave that swept the nine-mile long bay sheered the trees off the nearest mountain to an elevation of 1,720 feet! This sheer line is still evident today.
The strait was named by Russians because of a fatal incident during a fur seal hunting expedition led by Alexander Baranof in 1799. Baranof employed Native Aleut hunters, and ate poisonous shellfish from the strait, which resulted in approximately one hundred and fifty deaths. Beyond the strait are the points Poison Cove and Deadman's Reach, also named for the incident.
Another typical day in Alaska, beautiful clouds and weather. In the morning we sailed away from Petersburg, into the Wrangel Narrows, where we had the opportunity to see Steller sea lions, bunched in two buoys at the entrance to this very useful waterway, the short way to Seattle. Big ships cannot navigate it, as it is too narrow. It is also called Christmas Tree Alley, due to the big number of blinking red and green light navigational aids.
At the northernmost tip of Chichagof Island, Pt. Adolphus protrudes into Icy Strait — directly across from Glacier Bay National Park. The area is a striking setting for viewing one of the densest populations of feeding humpback whales in Alaska. The tidal currents around the point stir up the herring and krill upon which the whales, sea lions, seals, bald eagles and other marine animals feed.
Point Retreat Light is a lighthouse located on the Mansfield Peninsula at the northern tip of Admiralty Island in southeastern Alaska, United States. It provides aid in navigation through the Lynn Canal.
Red Bluff Bay features a high ridge at the seaside which is brownish-red in color, due to presence of certain heavy metals, including iron, chromium and magnesium. We enter the bay along a very narrow path, turning frequently, and find ourselves in a secluded jewel of a fjord, with an open meadow at the end. We encounter dozens of small waterfalls, and a single large waterfall that roars into the water. Steep mountains surround us on all sides.
The Sumdum Mine is located 2.5 miles south of Sanford Cove. Two ledges constitute the Sumdum Chief and Bald Eagle Mines and "have been mined to a depth of several hundred feet below their surface outcrops." Supporting structures included a 10-stamp mill, 4 large Frue Vanners, 2 Pelton wheels, a wagon road, a short tramway, and a wharf. Gold was mined by the Portland Group from a silicious schist ore body containing gold-bearing pyrite, galena, and sphalerite.
Ready for a day at the beach? Sealion Cove on Kruzof Island offers more adventurous people an opportunity to hike to a remote sandy beach on the Gulf of Alaska. A 2.5-mile long trail starts at Kalinin Bay along a river estuary, and miles through forest and muskeg to Sealion Cove. A mile-long sandy beach on the open Pacific Coast at Sealion Cove allows for excellent beach combing, hiking, camping, and bird watching. Littered with driftwood and brilliantly colored seaweeds and shells, hikers spend hours combing the sand for treasures.
Security Bay is located on the north end of Kuiu Island facing Frederick Sound and Chatham Strait. It provides safe haven anchorage for vessels in an area of large open water. The nearest village is Kake, about twenty miles to the east. There are two private landowners within the park, and one historic native site in the park.
The Russians settled Old Sitka in 1799, calling it Fort Saint Michael. The governor of Russian America, Alexander Baranov, arrived under the auspices of the Russian-American Company, a colonial trading company chartered by Tsar Paul I. In June 1802, Tlingit warriors destroyed the original settlement, killing many of the Russians, with only a few managing to escape. Baranov was forced to levy 10,000 rubles in ransom for the safe return of the surviving settlers. Baranov returned to with a large force, including Yuri Lisyansky's ship Neva. The ship bombarded the Tlingit fort on August 20, 1804, but was not able to cause significant damage. The Russians then launched an attack on the fort and were repelled. However, after two days of bombardment, the Tlingit deserted the fort.
Stephens Passage runs between Admiralty Island to the west and the Alaska mainland and Douglas Island to the east. It is roughly 105 miles long. Stephens Passage was named in 1794 by George Vancouver, probably for Sir Philip Stephens. It was first charted the same year by Joseph Whidbey, master of HMS Discovery during Vancouver's 1791-95 expedition.
Taku Harbor is a natural, bowl shaped harbor that was once home to a major salmon cannery. The 700-acre marine park is located on the eastern shore of Stephens Passage, about 22 miles southeast of Juneau. Taku Harbor is frequently used as a night anchorage by commercial fishing boats and small tour ships. Taku Harbor offers lots of fishing and crabbing opportunities.
This remote group of small islands is a photographer's paradise. We can pick wild strawberries, learn about native plants, and revel in the glorious meadows of harebells, Indian paintbrush, lupine, columbine, irises, chocolate lilies, river beauties, fireweed, and more. We'll also explore a productive intertidal zone, home to hundreds of sea stars, sea cucumbers, spiny sea urchins, sponges, periwinkles and whelks, to name just a few of the species that literally hang around, waiting for the return of high tide.
Glaciers occur in many different forms and locations, from the big ice sheet that covers the entire continent of Antarctica, to the small valley glaciers that are present in many parts of the world. They are generally divided into several categories, depending on their size and location. Glaciers categorized by size include ice fields, ice caps, and ice sheets. Glaciers categorized by location include alpine, hanging, valley, tidewater and piedmont glaciers.
The Tlingits are a group of North American tribes of the Athapaskan language family and of the Northwest Coast culture area. They inhabited the Pacific coast of southeastern Alaska and northwestern British Columbia. All the tribes speak the same language. The economy of the Tlingit is based mainly on fishing, and they are especially noted for their skill in woodcarving. In both appearance and social customs, they closely resemble the neighboring Haida. The tribes include the Sitka, Auk, Huna, and Tonga. The Tlingit fought frequently with the early Russians who settled in Alaska. The ancestral home of the Tlingit people that currently live in Hoonah, Alaska, was Glacier Bay. They were forced to leave by advancing glaciers during the Little Ice Age, around 250 years ago. The Tlingits moved their village across Icy Strait to north Chichagof Island.
Although the name grizzly bear is sometimes used to refer to all brown bears, grizzly actually refers to one subspecies in the northwestern interior of North America. Members of the subspecies that range throughout coastal Alaska and western Canada are known as Alaskan bears; those on Alaska’s Kodiak Archipelago are called Kodiak bears. Brown bears forage on the abundance of berries during early summer, while offshore our paddling is often punctuated by sightings of the spectacular humpback whale. This most dramatic of wild marine species adds an exclamation point to a rich and rewarding Alaskan adventure. The Alaskan coastal brown bear is genetically the same as a grizzly bear. Coastal brown bears grow larger than grizzlies, due to the high amount of protein in their diet, primarily salmon.
The American black bear is a medium-sized bear native to North America. It is the continent's smallest and most widely distributed bear species. Black bears are omnivores, with their diets varying greatly depending on season and location. They typically live in largely forested areas, but do leave forests in search of food. Sometimes they become attracted to human communities because of the immediate availability of food. The American black bear is the world's most common bear species.
The bald eagle can be found from Alaska to Florida, with the largest individuals coming from the northern parts of the range. After the breeding season the northern birds migrate south, and many Florida eagles wander northward. The name bald, often thought to be a misnomer, does not imply a lack of feathers, but is derived from an obsolete word meaning marked with white, as in piebald. Young birds of this species lack the white head and tail of the adults, which take four to five years to attain. Compared to other eagles, the bald eagle is a relatively clumsy hunter and fisher, and for its prey relies heavily on dead or injured fish, or those that come to shallow water to spawn.
Dall's porpoise (Phocoenoides dalli) is a species of porpoise found only in the North Pacific. It came to worldwide attention in the 1970s when it was disclosed for the first time to the public that salmon fishing trawls were killing thousands of Dall's porpoises and other cetaceans each year by accidentally capturing them in their nets. Dall's porpoise is the only member of the genus Phocoenoides. It was named after American naturalist W. H. Dall.
The harbor porpoise is one of six species of porpoise. It is one of the smallest marine mammals. As its name implies, it stays close to coastal areas or river estuaries, and as such, is the most familiar porpoise to whale watchers. This porpoise often ventures up rivers, and has been seen hundreds of miles from the sea.
Harbor seals have a highly developed diving metabolism that allows them to hold their breath for up to two hours. They store most of the oxygen in their blood and muscle instead of their lungs.
Humpback whales are highly acrobatic. They often slap their flippers and tails on the water's surface and breach, or leap out of the water. An adult humpback whale may leap completely clear of the water, then fall back in a cascade of foam. Such aerial activity occurs at all times of year but is especially prevalent in the winter mating and calving grounds. Males, females, and even young calves may engage in such displays. Whale acoustics vary depending on the whale's environment. Humpback whales make high frequency sounds that are more localized.
The moose is a member of the deer subfamily and is the largest and heaviest extant species in the deer family. Moose are distinguished by the broad, palmate (open-hand shaped) antlers of the males; other members of the deer family have antlers with a dendritic (twig-like) configuration. Moose typically inhabit boreal forests and temperate broadleaf and mixed forests of the Northern Hemisphere in temperate to subarctic climates. Hunting and other human activities have caused a reduction in the size of the moose's range over time. Moose have been reintroduced to some of their former habitats. Currently, most moose are found in Canada, Alaska, New England, Baltic states, and Russia.
Orcas are commonly called killer whales, although they are actually a member of the dolphin family. Fish-eating "resident orcas" and mammal-eating “transient orcas” are genetically distinct from each other, and never intermingle. Both male and female orcas (killer whales) have bold black-and-white coloring. The animals are glossy black over most of the body, with a white belly and striking white patches above the eye. The shape of a fainter grayish-white patch just behind the dorsal fin is unique to each killer whale and scientists use this marking as one way to identify individual animals.
Sea otters feed mainly on mollusks and sea urchins, which they crush with their large, blunt teeth. Sea otters also regularly use rocks as tools to open shellfish while swimming on their backs. The female gives birth to a single offspring at a time, which she nurses while lying on her back in the water. The sea otter is the only marine mammal lacking an insulating layer of blubber, which serves to protect the animal from the frigid ocean waters. To compensate for this lack of blubber, the sea otter must constantly preen its fur, keeping it meticulously clean and allowing an insulating layer of air to be trapped against the skin. When contaminated by oil, sea otters lose the ability to protect themselves against cold ocean waters, since the oil mats the fur, preventing the insulating air space from forming. In addition, the sea otter will ingest the oil as it cleans its fur, usually causing illness and death.
The Sitka deer or Sitka black-tailed deer is a subspecies of mule deer. Their name originates from Sitka, Alaska, and it is not to be confused with the similarly named sika deer. Sitka deer are characteristically smaller than other subspecies of mule deer. Reddish-brown in the summer, their coats darken to a gray-brown in mid- to late August. They are good swimmers, and can occasionally be seen crossing deep channels between islands.
Stellar Sea Lions are highly social animals, and are usually found on rocky islets or on the open seacoast. Often several hundred sea lions will take to the ocean, swimming and diving together. Females and young pups sometimes converge in large groups to form what appear to be floating rafts. Steller’s sea lions swim by using their long, broad front flippers in a powerful breaststroke.