Geographic Harbor, Katmai National Park

Jun 20, 2019 - National Geographic Orion

Heavy fog blanketed Geographic Harbor as we dropped anchor right around 6:00 this morning. Geographic Harbor is a part of Katmai National Park, the site of the largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century. We set out early in our fleet of Zodiacs to look for the legendary coastal brown bears that come here to feed on salmon. We did find bears as the fog lifted, but the salmon will not be here until July so the bears were feeding on clams, mussels, and barnacles. These bears also enjoy their vegetables and like to eat protein-rich sedges and cow parsnip.

The landscape near the water has a thick cover of grasses and brush, mostly Sitka alder. Early wildflowers were in bloom—wild geranium, Kamchatka rhododendron, iris, lupine, and angelica. As we made our way back to our ship the fog dissipated and revealed a magnificent landscape of glacially sculpted mountains with patches of stark-white snow, gleaming against large areas of pale-grey volcanic ash from the 1912 eruption, still marking these steeps nearly a century later.

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About the Author

Grace Winer


Geologist and naturalist, Grace is a Montanan now living in Seattle. Grace received her degrees in geology (BS and MSc) from Montana State University. Funded by a grant from the National Geographic Society, she pursued her master’s degree in Alaska’s remote Pribilof Islands. Here she investigated the volcanic evolution of St. Paul Island, creating a geologic map, and predicting volcanic hazards in the event of a future eruption. Her knowledge of the Pribilof Islands and the Bering Sea region led to her work as a consulting geologist on St. George Island for NOAA’s Pribilof Restoration Project.

About the Photographer

Ralph Lee Hopkins

National Geographic Photographer

National Geographic photographer Ralph Lee Hopkins is the founder and director of the Expedition Photography program for the Lindblad-National Geographic alliance. For more than 20 years he has lead expeditions from the Arctic to Antarctica and points in between.

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