After transiting overnight through Seymour Narrows and south along Vancouver Island, National Geographic Venture saw the sunrise midway down the Strait of Georgia. A beautiful and productive body of water, this area is part of the Salish Sea we have been learning about for the past few days. We slept in for a change and were treated to a fabulous brunch, complete with a mimosa or bloody mary. A few talks were presented, an illuminating discussion about smart-phone photography with the photo-team, and a discussion about environmental restoration of this area, from Katie Mills-Orcutt, our naturalist / expedition diver. Low and behold if we didn’t discover a loose group of perhaps a dozen humpback whales! Whales can communicate over vast distances, so while these animals don’t form pods, they certainly were in the same area together, exhibiting what looked like feeding behavior. A mother and calf pair approached the ship slowly, and after twenty minutes or so of the ship being clutched out of gear and drifting, the whale pair swam right next to us! Our afternoon saw us ashore at Wallace Island, one of the Gulf Islands of Canada’s portion of the Salish Sea. We went ashore in the sunshine for leg-stretching walks, interpretive ambles, and a few took to kayaks and Zodiacs for a sea-based tour. The day finished as usual with a fun and entertaining recap from the staff, a delicious dinner from the galley, and libations from the bartenders.
National Geographic Venture
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. After wrapping up our morning outings we set out in search of wildlife, cruising the many channels that wind their way through the various islands in the Salish Sea. As luck would have it, we came across a group of 9 Biggs (transient) killer whales. These largest members of the dolphin family are common in these waters but are constantly on the move in search of prey such as harbor seals, porpoises, and Steller sea lions. It would appear this tight-knit family group had just recently made a kill as they were being very playful at times, breaching, tail lobbing, and spy hopping, as well as rolling along the surface in close contact with each other, likely portioning their recent kill. It was a truly grand performance and an iconic and fitting conclusion to our expedition in this rich and diverse area of the world.