George and Inian Islands

May 20, 2019 - National Geographic Sea Lion

Today we awoke to dense fog banks shrouding the magical seascape of Icy Strait and the Inian Islands. Dall’s porpoises swam by not giving us a second thought as they headed along on their way. A Gray Whale spouted in the distance, and the call for breakfast came over the intercom as we reluctantly put aside our attempts to capture the early morning light on this magical landscape.

After breakfast we headed to George Island, the site of a large, decommissioned military gun installation that was built during World War II to dissuade Japanese aggression. The gun was never used in battle but did provide 40 or so U.S. military personnel with some phenomenal exercise while they hauled 18 tons of gun-steel to the northwest corner of the island.

At George Island, we split into groups to kayak, stand-up paddleboard, explore tide pools, and hike to the old gun. We who hiked out to the artillery emplacement found ourselves greeted with beautiful bird songs and a cathedral-like ambience in the woods of George Island. A body of a decomposed eagle on the side of the trail shook us from our reveries, however, reminding us of the impermanence of life and the great carbon cycle.

After we concluded our activities at George Island, we headed back to the Hobbit Hole where we would stage our afternoon cruises in the Inian Islands after lunch.

Having concluded lunch we boarded our expedition watercraft for some spectacular wildlife viewing in the Inian Islands.

Sea otters, eagles, and Steller sea lions greeted us as we made our way around North Inian Island. On the northwest corner of the island we saw several sexually mature young male sea lions who had recently been pushed out of the breading colony because they were competing with the dominant male.

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About the Author

Jeff Campbell


Jeff Campbell fell in love with the ocean while attending boatbuilding school in Eastport, Maine. Since completing his MS in Marine and Estuarine Science at Western Washington University, he has worked for NOAA documenting the ecological impacts of transoceanic fiber-optic cable; the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife developing an aging method for sixgill sharks; the Lummi Tribe as a Harvest Biologist; Northwest Indian College teaching Fisheries and Wildlife Biology, and as a volunteer for the Whatcom County Marine Mammal Stranding Network. He has been involved in research developing mitigation methods for harmful algae blooms, sterilization methods for oil tanker ballast water, and techniques for screening refinery effluent for harmful ecological effects. He also served as Principle Director on a USDA-funded grant using student interns to study the impact of nutrient-rich run-off on seasonal dead-zones in Bellingham Bay.

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