The Great Bear Chase

Beginning my summer on the water I knew absolutely nothing about photography, at least in a classical sense. I had never taken any pictures outside of landscapes of beautiful places I happened to be, and hadn't even owned a camera in recent memory. As the summer went on, I started to realize that my exposure to beautiful, unique, and amazing things had quickly allowed me to flourish behind the lens and capture extremely special moments. I began thinking about selling my photography, and it changed how I thought about each photo and opportunity. And this one was one of the most amazing of my lifetime. At first I kicked myself for not getting the pictures in focus, but came to realize that capturing it at all was absolutely wonderful. So here's the scenario:

Many of you already know of Gloomy Knob in Glacier Bay, the birthplace of Benny Benson and the weekly stop to get an almost guaranteed shot at seeing mountain goats. Our final captain, Karen, would typically call the area Goat Island as the peninsula seems to be it's own little environment full of goats and only goats, and you can't see the other side(s).

Well right next to Gloomy Know (Goat Island) is a long, flat, sandy beach. As with most beaches in Southeast Alaska, the shoreline is short and quickly becomes a dense forested area. In Glacier Bay, these areas are carved out glacial valleys which have undergone succession at an incredible rate. And because of this, there's food and other resources available to the plethora of wildlife in the Park. Bears love beaches like this, and throughout the season we saw brown bears at nearly every beach in the Tarr Inlet, but some areas including the one we're talking about right now, boasted extremely heavy bear activity. For this reason, this beach became known as Bear Beach.

So we've got Bear Beach and Goat Island, right next to each other, but living completely separate lives. For good reason, the goats stayed in their area, and the bears, theirs.

One week as we sailed by the north side of Gloomy Knob and into the south side of Bear Beach, we noticed a lone mountain goat exploring the rocky peninsula of the beach. We stopped to take pictures, as he was pretty close to the boat, but also to observe this goat in such a peculiar spot. He then wondered from a slightly inconspicuous spot to the middle of the beach, and began a leisurely stroll.

Instantly the crew became aware of the situation. We knew bears were about, even if we couldn't see them at the time. Standing on the bow with my guests, I remarked that this goat was being pretty gutsy while internally thinking about the weirdness of the situation and the goat's complete disregard of his surroundings. Simultaneously in the wheelhouse, our captain and first mate watched the situation develop and turned to each other with an innocent comment, 'We're about to see a goat get eaten'.

And almost like they were triggered to do so, a mom and two cubs come sprinting out of the woods towards the goat. But the cubs went too early! Mom was trying to stalk much closer to the goat before making her attack, but the kids got anxious. Anyways, all three sprint down the beach as the goat tries to get back to the rocky cliffs of Gloomy Knob. He immediately heads up the rocks as quickly as he can, knowing this is where his advantage lies.

The bears split up and try to use their speed to close the gap and cut the goat off before it can get too high on the cliff for them to catch. Unfortunately the cubs were not quick nor nimble enough to do so and had to resort to sniffing along the shoreline to track him down.

It all happened in a matter of two or three minutes before the bears called off their search and headed back to their beach. Afterwards, we came together to learn that all of us were rooting for the bears. The only thing that could have made it even more incredible would be a confirmed kill. I consider myself extremely lucky for having been able to witness such an event, but to have captured it in photos really is an honor. I hope you've enjoyed this photo journey and that you too can witness such raw nature at some point.

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