Daily Expedition Reports

Daily reports from our days in the field

  • Georgia Strait/Gulf Islands/San Juan Islands

    On our final day aboard National Geographic Sea Lion we awoke cruising south in Georgia Strait, across from the port city of Vancouver, British Columbia. We maneuvered through Porlier Pass and threaded amongst the Gulf Islands, finally crossing the international border between Canada and the United States. We continued to the San Juan Islands, encountering commercial vessels, ferries, and pleasure boats that ply the region. The twisting branches and peeling red bark of madrone trees were one indication of the dryer climate here in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains. People used the time to finalize photos for the guest slideshow. Read More

    • Sep 17, 2016
    • National Geographic Sea Lion in Alaska
  • Friday Harbor, San Juan Islands, Washington

    The morning sun displayed streaks of pink and orange light on the decks of National Geographic Sea Bird. The loyal yoga stretchers gathered for the final class on the sundeck waking up and welcoming the day. The clouds extended the length of the horizon, across the sea, as our floating home traveled closer to the San Juan Islands and the U.S. state of Washington. On the hunt for killer whales, people lined the decks enjoying the views and spectacular weather. In the lounge, David Stephens, cultural interpreter, presented information about the native cultures we experienced on this trip, complete with dancing and singing. Read More

    • Sep 16, 2016
    • National Geographic Sea Bird in Alaska
  • Alert Bay

    Early this morning the National Geographic Sea Lion made her way south out of Queen Charlotte Sound heading towards her morning destination of Alert Bay on Cormorant Island.  Our weather had returned to grey on grey with shades of dark green as the southern half of our journey along the Northwest Coast’s Inside Passage received some of its first rain in many weeks. Arriving at the Government Dock in the center of the town of Alert Bay at approximately 8:30 am we prepared for a wet day. Read More

    • Sep 16, 2016
    • National Geographic Sea Lion in Alaska
  • Alert Bay and Johnstone Strait

    A dense bank of fog enshrouded the National Geographic Sea Bird as she steamed towards Cormorant Island off the British Columbian Coast. On approach to the dock at Alert Bay a pod of twenty or more Pacific white-sided dolphins zipped passed the ship as guests enjoyed breakfast. Shortly thereafter we explored the small community visiting the totem poles that adorn the cemetery as well taking a tour of the U’Mista Museum and cultural center. Next we made our way to the Big House where the community shared the rich cultural revival that has taken place for the Kwakiutly (natively Kwakwa̱ka̱wakw) in the form of elegant dances and drumming in full regalia in similar fashion to a traditional Potlach. After the ceremony’s conclusion, several members of the community shared with us traditional foods such as smoked salmon, fry bread and assorted jams made from natural berries. After lunch we set sail down Johnstone strait in search of wildlife and soon rewarded. Read More

    • Sep 15, 2016
    • National Geographic Sea Bird in Alaska
  • British Columbia Inside Passage Video

    National Geographic Sea Lion had a smooth transit across Hecate Strait and back into the protected, glacier-cut channels of the Inside Passage. We awoke in McKay Reach north of Butedale, between Gribbel and Princess Royal Islands. Butedale is an old fish processing site. Read More

    • Sep 15, 2016
    • National Geographic Sea Lion in Alaska
  • Queen Charlotte City, Haida Gwaii

    We awoke, having returned to the dock at Queen Charlotte City. This time, we set out to experience the Haida Heritage Centre, an impressive set of buildings housing a museum, cultural artifacts, classrooms, and gathering spaces. The museum describes the history of the people of Haida Gwaii, reaching back hundreds of years ago – before first contact with European explorers. The Centre has brought the culture of the six southern ancestral villages of the island together by commissioning six totem poles - one representing each village. The poles were crafted by local carvers using 50-foot long cedar trees in 2000-2001 and erected one per day over six days. Guests of the Centre enjoy all six poles from one grassy, peaceful beach lining the bay. After returning to the ship for lunch, we headed back out for some exercise – to the Spirit Lake Trail just uphill from the ancient village of Skidegate. Read More

    • Sep 14, 2016
    • National Geographic Sea Lion in Alaska
  • SGang Gwaaii World Heritage Site

    Greek mythology describes Orion being carried into the sky riding on the back of a dolphin and then gifted three stars by the gods. This constellation is now known as Orion’s Belt. Like Orion, our remarkable journey from Southeast Alaska into British Columbia was carried by dolphins–the two killer whale pods we found last week. Orion glowed overhead at 6:00 a.m., and carried our tiny ship through a glassy ocean with a million diamonds shining above. The sun rose brightly, bathing the shorelines in a deep golden light. Read More

    • Sep 13, 2016
    • National Geographic Sea Lion in Alaska
  • Queen Charlotte City

    Today was our last day in Haida Gwaii. The good weather trend continued, with a lovely sunrise as we pulled into the dock at Queen Charlotte City on Graham Island. We boarded our buses and headed off to the Haida Heritage Centre, a lovely complex of museum collections, totem poles, and canoes. Local guides led us through the museum, telling stories about individual artifacts and the history of their people. A storyteller greeted us at one point to regale us with Haida stories and songs. Outside on the lawn, several totem poles flanked the building, and the guides told us about the stories carved in wood. We passed a handful of canoes stored in the Centre's carving shed, as well as a totem in progress.  Following lunch, the group split up. Read More

    • Sep 13, 2016
    • National Geographic Sea Bird in Alaska
  • SGang Gwaay

    A motion filled transit of 120 nautical miles south along the eastern shore of Moresby Island (from Queen Charlotte City) rewarded us with a pacified anchorage on the exposed southwest coast of Gwaii Haanas and SGang Gwaay (briefly known as Anthony Island). The open Pacific Ocean outwardly within reach, we were soon reminded how resourceful the Haida people whom chose to settle this particular area were. We were led through the Sitka spruce dominated forest by our respective Watchmen–James, Ken, and Fallon; it was not long before we came upon house sites of old where up to 300 Haida people lived for roughly 2,000 years prior to the last big epidemic in the 1860s that extinguished the last of these great water people. Memorial and mortuary poles rose above the hidden beach, which aided in our personal reflections of this thriving culture. The sacredness of this site was felt by all, as we were able to watch the daughter of one of our Watchmen guides play along the shores of her ancestors.  While some explored this UNESCO World Heritage site by foot, others had the opportunity to explore the coastline via expedition landing craft. Read More

    • Sep 12, 2016
    • National Geographic Sea Bird in Alaska
  • Haida Gwaii - Old Massett

    The windows of National Geographic Sea Lion were dark when many of us made our way up or down into the forward lounge. Dawn’s first light was just making its way over the eastern edge of a point called Sandspit. Pink clouds began reflecting on the calm seas, clear skies opened up above and slowly, sunrise began to decorate the harbor of Queen Charlotte City. Our plan for the day was a drive north along the entire length of Graham Island along the only road leading to one of the oldest village sites in Haida Gwaii the town of Old Massett. We boarded two busses and one van and began our journey north, arriving in the late morning. Once in Old Massett we divided into two groups according to bus colors and one group headed to the north end of town to James and Rosemary Hart’s house. Upon arrival we were greeted by Rosemary who invited us to come into the carving area, which consisted of a huge outside area just next to their house where an enormous and complex totem pole was nearing completion. At least six carvers were at work on this reconciliation pole which has been planned and worked on for over two years! James Hart a hereditary chief and master carver jumped up on one of many large blocks of wood and began a wonderfully detailed description of the work in process. Questions flew through the air along with wood chips and under warm and blue skies we were taken into the spell of a working village completely immersed in Haida culture. Each carver, each family member, each neighbor came forward to share conversation with us.    After approximately two hours our busses traded houses and we found ourselves at the carving shed and Big House of Christian White. Read More

    • Sep 12, 2016
    • National Geographic Sea Lion in Alaska

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