On the last day of our exploration through the Inside Passage of the Alexander Archipelago, National Geographic Quest crossed over the Canadian-American border one last time. Waking up to a stunning sunrise, guests came out onto the bow to gaze at the coast of Spieden Island – a now-wildlife sanctuary previously a game reserve for hunting – watching Asian big-horn sheep and deer roam and graze in the morning light.
After breakfast, we had a visit with U.S. Customs before venturing into Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. This is the center of a group of islands, known as the San Juan Islands, that are home to an ecotype of killer whale in danger of extinction – the Southern Residents. Because these orcas are fairly “residential” (i.e. keeping within a hundred or so miles near the island group), they are well-documented and researched. The current research is focused on their body condition. These killer whales feed on chinook salmon, and with salmon runs having fewer and fewer returns each year, they are losing a fundamental part of their diet. Our guests later went to visit The Whale Museum to learn about the local marine mammals and how to support the conservation efforts focused on them.
In the afternoon, we anchored of the coast of a smaller island in the San Juan group, Jones Island. This State Marine Park has over 25,000 miles of coastline, and a little afternoon shower did not stop intrepid guests from circumnavigating the island either on foot or by kayak. Those that preferred to stay dry were educated with a presentation on the bird species of the Inside Passage, and then everyone returned for our last cocktail hour and recap. Watching the guest slideshow reminded us all of the amazing, awesome, inspiring, and fantastic moments we have had over the last 14 days. Not quite ready to return to the real world, we will definitely have stories to share from the last few weeks for years to come.