The second day of our expedition through Alaska and British Columbia brought us to the Inian Islands, an archipelago of small, rocky islets covered with dense rainforest caught between the waters of Icy Strait and the open Pacific beyond. We spent the morning out on Zodiacs observing sea lions, sea otters, and other wildlife that congregate here to feed in the rich waters that flow through the islands. In the afternoon we landed at the Inian Islands Institute, a new center for environmental education, and met the caretakers there who gave us a tour of their rustic facilities and their off-grid power system. Wonderful wildlife and welcoming people—it was another great day in Alaska!
National Geographic Quest
We spent our final day in the San Juan Islands, a beautiful archipelago wedged between Washington State and the south end of Vancouver Island. We began the day by docking in Friday Harbor to clear U.S. Customs before exploring the small town that has become famous across the world for its iconic whale watching. Over the last couple of decades, the resident southern orca whales that have come to define this place have shrunk in numbers due to a variety of factors, including overfishing, climate change, and depleted salmon habitats. Hard-working people at the Whale Research Center and the nearby whale museum are working hard to educate the public and enact laws to protect salmon habitats and provide more space for the orcas among the boat traffic and people that love them so much. Many of us took the opportunity to visit the whale museum near the dock, where the life histories and family trees of these amazing animals have been meticulously documented for decades. In the afternoon, we cruised a short distance north to Jones Island, a marine state park with a maze of trails and campsites framed by a gorgeous forest of cedar, fir, and madrone trees. To cap off our two-week excursion through the Inside Passage, we sailed through the last of the San Juan Islands while an epic sunset bid us farewell.