Desolation Sound, B.C.

Oct 13, 2019 - National Geographic Venture


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 stay 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 bears foraging along the coastline. 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 in the Gulf of Georgia to a brisk wind and grey skies. A bit chilly for many, but the warm lounge this morning offered many tips on photography from our experts. By the early afternoon when we turned into Desolation Sound, the wind had died down and the clouds retreated to the back mountains.

A Zodiac ride, a kayak paddle or an advanced hike were available. By this time, the sun was shining, and it promised to be a great afternoon. The Zodiac ride started out with investigating a harbor seal haul out. Harbor seals have to haul out every few hours or they get hypothermic. They are different from all their pinniped cousins, who can stay in the water for long periods. They nonchalantly watched us as we circled their haul out while they scratched, groaned and napped. There were at least 75 harbor seals hauled out or swimming nearby the rock.

Kayakers enjoyed the solitude and quiet of a paddle along clear waters with the rainforest and rocky islets. Bald eagles and gulls were watching us float by. Jellyfish were abundant in the water (white moon jellies). Mergansers, loons, and grebes nest and breed in inland lakes, but they are arriving here to spend the winter. They will stay here in the protected sound where there are abundant fish to eat. However, the songbirds have left to go south for the winter and the forest is quiet. With the cooler weather and shorter days, the peaceful season of autumn is here.

In the twilight before dinner, a couple of humpback whales made an appearance next to the boat. It was getting too dark to get a good sighting. I hope that this is a promise of good sightings tomorrow!
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About the Author

Victoria Souze

Naturalist

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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