Desolation Sound

Oct 06, 2017 - National Geographic Quest

Captain George Vancouver sailed into Desolation Sound on his Pacific Northwest exploration in 1792. He saw steep tree lined mountains rising from blue green waters that were 500 feet in depth. Glacier scoured granite peaks reached 10,000 feet high in the far background. Snow filled crevasses stayed frozen all year long. Marine birds fished along the water, and songbirds sang in the trees.  If he had stayed long enough to explore the deep woods, he might have seen black bear foraging along the coast line. However, he was not impressed. He saw a bleak grey waterway that dead ended to the east, without any possible use for his exploration. He called it Desolation Sound, and over 220 years later, the name still stands.  Today, Desolation Sound is a popular destination for all boaters, and kayakers and its magnificent beauty is unsurpassed along this beautiful British Columbia coastline.

We awoke this morning to a grey day upon our approach to Desolation Sound, but not far behind, dawn’s light brought a pleasant surprise. There were the big black fins of our local Bigg’s killer whales. These are the killer whales that hunt marine mammals, not our fish eating residents. They stay in smaller pods so that they can be stealthy and sneak up on their prey. As usual, the best wildlife to see shows up at mealtimes, and this was no exception. Breakfast had just been served when a call from the bridge came that killer whales had been sighted.

After enjoying this special marine mammal sighting, we headed into Desolation Sound. Anchoring at the head of Tenedos Bay, we took the Zodiacs to shore.   We divided into groups for hiking. Today offered an “Adventure Hike” for the hardy, with little time for stopping or sightseeing. The “Casual Hike” was slow and steady, with lots of time to look at plants, and hear stories about how the giant cedar trees were logged back in the olden days before this became a Provincial Park.

After lunch, we ventured back out into the rain (this is a temperate rainforest) for kayaking and Zodiac cruises. Here we did some birding and saw some great Pacific Northwest birds: black oystercatchers and black turnstones. Another a beautiful day with wildlife, birds and the sea. 

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About the Author

Victoria Souze


Victoria is currently director for the Whatcom Marine Mammal Stranding Network, a non-profit organization dedicated to responding to marine mammal stranding’s and the welfare of marine mammals. The network does research, education and response for marine mammals in distress. After completing her studies in fisheries and wildlife at Grays Harbor College and marine biology at Western Washington University, she moved to Lummi Island, a small island that is part of the San Juan Islands in Washington State. 

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