Daily Expedition Reports

Daily reports from our days in the field

  • Cape Disappointment, Washington and Astoria, Oregon

    Today we had the opportunity to experience the brisk wind on our faces and pelting of cool, occasional raindrops as we visited Cape Disappointment in Washington and the Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria, Oregon. This was nowhere near the level of discomfort the Corps of Discovery endurred when they explored these same grounds in the fall of 1805. As the Corps came west, they were excited to get to the Pacific Ocean, but that excitement was literally and figuratively dampened with the white-capped waters of the Columbia and miserable weather that initially pinned them and their canoes to the Washington shoreline at a campsite to be later named Dismal Nitch. A most notable feature was the sound created by 30-knot winds as they swept through the needled branches of Sitka spruce and the leafy limbs of Red Alder.

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  • Hood & Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

    When we woke this morning, we were met with an almost completely different environment than the one we’ve traveled through the last few days. We had arrived at the town of Hood River, in the Columbia River Gorge. The slopes on both sides of the Columbia were covered in Douglas fir, ponderosa pines, bigleaf maple, and Oregon white oaks. And the weather, too, had changed. It was rainy and dark with clouds. This is exactly what one should expect at this time of year when moving westwards across the great Cascades Range toward the Pacific Ocean.

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  • Sucia Island and Cruising San Juan Islands

    We concluded our expedition in the Pacific Northwest by exploring picturesque Sucia Island, one of the many islands that make up the San Juan Archipelago. Comprised entirely of sedimentary rock and nearly entirely forested, it provided a perfect setting for our last operations of the week. Setting out in almost all directions on the well-manicured trails of this State Park, and from the driftwood strewn beach, we launched our kayaks in the protected waters of Shallow Bay. Still others set out by Zodiac to examine the many nooks and crannies of the shoreline and witness the current and windswept seas bringing productivity to the fish and birds that call these waters home.

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  • Crow Butte Island and the Columbia River

    Come 6:15 a.m. – in the very earliest light of dawn – the constellation Orion, the Mighty Hunter, studded the southern sky just below a waning gibbous moon. Overnight we had sailed from the Snake River onto the mighty Columbia, the Great River of the West. We entered the lock at McNary Dam and down we went. The great barn-door-style gates split before us, and we continued our way downriver. In the morning, we enjoyed presentations by our naturalist Ivan and photo instructor Linda. Our afternoon destination was Crow Butte Island where we hiked and launched our kayaks for some quality paddling. Crow Butte Island has an arid sagebrush steppe climate with many interesting plants adapted to this environment.

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  • San Juan Islands & Gulf Islands

    Today we awoke dockside in the port of the small town of Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. San Juan Island is the second largest island in the archipelago, and is enjoyed for its beautiful scenery and marine and terrestrial wildlife.

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  • Palouse Falls & River, and Lyons Ferry

    The day began as the sun rose across the Snake River, illuminating expansive basaltic landscapes connected by historic bridges. Completed in 1912 for a staggering sum of 2 million dollars, the 3920-foot-long bridge – with supports dug 65 feet below the riverbed – stands 260 feet above the Snake River. Guests enjoyed a buffet breakfast followed by a presentation on the Columbia Basin basalt flows caused by the Missoula Floods (“Fire, Ice, and Flood”) by Grace.

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  • Victoria, British Columbia

    Today we awoke in the heart of Victoria, a beatiful and vibrant city here on the south end of Vancouver Island. Today we took in all the city had to offer; historical and architectural walks, bicycle tours, trips to the Royal British Columbia Musuem, garden tours, all culminating in a private reception at the Robert Bateman Center and Gallery. A fantastic final day here in Canada.

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  • Hells Canyon

    The jet boat reached 145 miles from the Snake River mouth. Lewiston, our port of call, was Idaho’s former capital and westernmost city. The neighboring city of Clarkston, Washington (once called Jawbone Flats) lined the western shoreline. Further upriver lay the town of Asotin, Washington (named for the onetime plentiful lamprey eels in the river). The Grand Ronde River at Heller’s Bar marks the 30-mile point southward.

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  • Cruising Strait and Wallace Island

    Guests aboard National Geographic Venture were treated to a late start, and a late morning brunch. We cruised through the Georgia Strait looking for wildlife such as a humpback whale. In the afternoon we dropped anchor and went ashore on Wallace Island for afternoon operations.

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  • Alert Bay and cruising Black Fish Sound

    Early this morning National Geographic Venture arrived at the Government Dock on Cormorant Island in the community of Alert Bay. It was extremely calm, not a breath of wind and high clouds moving in slowly from the north. After the gangway was lowered and secured, everyone onboard made their way down the dock and walked a short distance to the Namgis traditional burial grounds. We were greeted by Trevor Issac from the U’mista Cultural Center.  The ‘Namgis original burial grounds is more than one hundred years in age and is the ancestral burial grounds that have been located on Cormorant Island for many generations. Trevor presented much information about totem pole commemorating deceased members of the Kwakwaka’wakw Nation. Figures on the poles depict family crests and these were the bulk of the questions many of us had for Trevor. He went into much detail about the origin of crests and how families trace their ancestry through those crests.

    From the burial grounds, we could either walk the one mile to the U’mista Cultural Center or take one of two small vans to the center. The U’mista Cultural Center was established in the early 1980s. It houses an exceptional collection of traditional and ceremonial masks and artifacts all vital regalia for the Potlatch. This system of governance and ceremony has been the central foundation of the cultural lives for the people of the Northwest Coast for thousands of years. After seeing the Potlatch collection, we saw a short film about the continuum of potlatching. Afterwards we were introduced to Chief Bill Cranmer who leads the Board of Directors for the U’mista Cultural Center. Born and raised in Alert Bay he has spent nearly all of his eighty years involved in many central issues of the lives of his people. He has spent much of his life fighting for the retention of Indigenous languages throughout British Columbia. A quiet man but fiercely observant he stepped forward and gave just a glimpse into the life and value of elders in the world of Indigenous peoples. Bill answered many questions, opening our eyes to the current issues faced by Indigenous peoples up and down the Northwest Coast.

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