Dawn saw National Geographic Quest battling a plucky headwind as it plowed northwest through Johnstone Strait. Fog and wind eventually abated, leaving us with bluebird skies and calm seas as we explored the long, narrow passage that connects the east side of Vancouver Island with Queen Charlotte Sound.

After stopping to investigate a large haul-out of Steller sea lions, we were pleasantly surprised by two large rafts of sea otters! While the world’s smallest marine mammal can trace its ancestral roots to this region, they have been absent for centuries after the species was hunted almost to extinction along the northwest coast. Finding two large rafts numbering more than 100 individuals was an inspiring sight and hopefully a sign of things to come.

After lunch, we docked in the small town of Alert Bay on Cormorant Island to experience the unforgettable ceremonies and traditions of the Namgis First Nations, who have lived in the area just as long as the sea otter! The memorable day was capped by a brilliant sunset over the Pacific as we continued north toward the mysterious and beautiful Great Bear Rainforest.