back in the seagrass, we located an old abandoned ore cart, a relic from the past history of copper-mining in the area. Ravencroft Lodge is built on a former mining site and, in addition to this submerged cart, there are artefacts scattered about the grounds of the lodge.
A short hike into the forest will take visitors to the site of the original mine. Mining for copper occurred in the early parts of the 20th century before being abandoned due to a drop in copper prices.
An opalescent nudibranch on the seagrass.
Before setting our sights on deeper dive-sites, we took advantage of favourable tides to explore a glacier-fed river in which salmon begin their migration from the sea upstream to their preferred spawning grounds deeper into the forests. Here, in only 1.5m depth, we battled the fierce rush of tumbling 8°C water to remain still and photograph hundreds of chum and pink salmon, as they raced by in a desperate push to pass through fallen trees, waterfalls and rocks and continue their journey upstream.
Some would dart past us at a frenzied pace, while others could be found resting in the eddies and pools, as if to catch their breath before making another push upstream. By the time we hiked back to our skiffs we were all exhausted, excited and gratified to have witnessed one of nature’s miracles.
Dawn comes early to Alaska in the summer months, and the next day we were awake way before breakfast, eagerly anticipating our first search for the mysterious salmon shark.
As we fiddled with our cameras and assembled our gear, we went over the details of what conditions we would be looking for, and how to dive with the skittish sharks.
According to the experts at Ravencroft, we needed flat-calm water to spot the small dorsal fin slicing through the surface. Once spotted, we needed to find a “player”. This is a shark that’s interested in feeding and not too skittish as to be unapproachable.
It can take some time, we were told, and indeed it did. In fact, after several hours of looking, we had found none.
This pattern would repeat over the next few days. We did see one individual on the surface, but we were never able to get into the water with one.
Nature is not predictable: an unusually cold summer could be why we failed to find salmon sharks during our visit.
Theories as to why salmon sharks frequent these waters and linger on the surface for the summer months focus on water temperature. Warm-blooded, they might be rising from deeper, colder water to bask in the warmer surface layers of the sea. The season for spotting them is short, only a few weeks across the months of June and July.
Our quest will continue on a future trip, in the hope of finally capturing photographs of this elusive creature!
After our search for sharks, we decided to dive some rocky outcroppings nearby.
At a site known as the Magic Garden, we found carpets of huge plumose and metridium anemones adorning the boulders. In addition, we photographed black rockfish and other species of Alaskan bottom fish.
The dive-sites here generally consist of a rocky sloping terrain until about 20-25m depth, when they typically drop off on a vertical wall to 180m or more.