It is not uncommon for hikers to find trash in even the most remote of wilderness areas, so Luc Mehl assumed the worst as he neared odd looking piles left on the banks of an Alaska lagoon.
But closer inspection proved him wrong in an unsettling way.
It was a graveyard he was seeing — with bones up to 6-feet-long spread across the sand.
“As we approached the debris I thought they were garbage, (I) was pleased to recognize whale bones instead!” Mehl, a 44-year-old from Anchorage, wrote in a Facebook post.
“I don’t know what kind of whale this was. I assume it swam into the lagoon at high tide and then got stranded. I bet there were a lot of bear feasts on that carcass!”
Photos shared on Mehl’s Facebook page show the bones were stripped clean of flesh and scattered 30 feet in every direction. Some of the vertebrae were 2-feet across, he noted.
It would be a rare sight in the Lower 49, where authorities are quick to remove foul-smelling and potentially explosive dead whales from beaches.
Mehl says the bones showed up along an ATV trail, 20 miles into a 42-mile ”beach walk” from the Alsek River to the city of Yakutat in southeast Alaska.
“It was eerie, for sure. We had heard wolves during the night and were hoping to see a wolf ... not a huge pile of whale bones!” he told McClatchy News. “We were walking through a few inches of water, in the rain ... so ... I think that dampened the awe of the bone pile.”
The trip included time on the water, too, with the group paddling 140 miles over six days on the Tatshenshini and Alsek rivers. Mehl says the group had an equally strange experience during that leg of the journey.
“Within a few miles of the ocean, the river was enveloped in sea fog. .... We heard crashing waves, but couldn’t see anything,” he wrote. “All of the sudden we heard a rapid. But then the noise of the rapid disappeared. Then we heard it again. And finally … a burp.”
What they thought was a rapid was instead hundreds of seals sitting in a line along a gravel bar, he said.
“The seals clamored into the water from the bar, making the splash that sounded like rapids,” Mehl said.