Club Expedition to Alaska “Day 3”
(Whittier to Perry Island, Meares Glacier and Unakwik Inlet and return via Esther Island) “A Temperate Rainforest?”
18th August (Saturday) – Perry Island to Olsen Island
Despite the long length of the first full day, the team was up and ready to go by the normal 9am start.
After ensuring that each team had restocked with water, it was time for team brief. Under grey skies the plan was outlined, a 7km crossing to the Dutch Group of Islands for lunch and then via some abandoned oil tanks to Axel Lind island (13km) where we would scout for a campsite. But we might head on a little further if appropriate. Everyone was ok with the plan, but there were a few requests for a repeat viewing of the whale – let’s see what we could do.
Heading off as a tight group it was great to hear that everyone chatting that they had recovered from the day before. Just as we were settling into paddling rhythm there was an excited cry of “Whale!”. We eagerly looked in the direction pointed, and lo and behold there was the distinctive spout, and noise, of a whale. Alas it was too far away in the wrong direction to make paddling over worthwhile, but at least it was a request met and another tick in the wildlife box.
With spirits high, and the weather conducive to paddling, we headed on towards the Dutch Group. Despite the solitude of the location, at all times we could hear these barks and howls travelling across the sea. The only answer could be sea lions, and it appeared as if the noise was coming from a group of skerries just off our planned route. In my opinion a sea lion colony outweighs historic ruins of oil tanks, so we decided to have 11’s on the Dutch Group and then head to skerries instead.
With the prospect of a wildlife encounter the group sped up as we headed towards the ever-increasing noise of the colony. A distinctive smell was also ever increasing – Sea lions stink! Regrouping just before the colony, it was obvious that we were massively outnumbered. Cameras at the ready, we quietly paddled in – some more bravely than others. As we neared, but still some distance out, the sea lions decided that they wanted to us to stay away, and the slumbering group became a seething mass of muscle, teeth and barks as they raced into the sea. Recognising that this was their environment we paddled back out – some with rather more vigour than others! Did I mention their big teeth?
Giving the skerries a wide birth so as to give the sea lions some space, you could see the alpha bulls like the generals of old, commanding the troops from their high spots. Given their physical size, and size of their teeth, I was glad that the bulls were still simply observing and ordering from on high.
With the weather closing in we had a quick lunch on Axel Lind island. The plan had been to possibly stay here for the night, however the weather report suggested a storm was coming in, and it was decided to paddle on into the less exposed Olsen Island in Unakwik Inlet.
The miles passed easily as we crossed over to Olsen Island, marvelling at the varied fauna and epiphytic mosses that were draped over the tree branches. All too soon we arrived at Olsen Island where it was time to play the daily game – How high is tonight’s tide???But nothing to worry about, this was a great spot that provided a brilliant spot to stay.
Another fabulous day on the sea. With good friends and good times.