Lowe Inlet, 9/14/2022, National Geographic Venture
National Geographic Venture
Dense fog surrounded us in Prince Rupert as we pulled the anchor and began sailing into the mist. We expected the fog to clear in the early morning, but it persisted on the water while some blue sky peeked through above us. On occasion, we were able to see whispers of the shoreline in the Grenville Channel. Eventually, the beautiful temperate rainforest was revealed, and everyone was excited to see a few bald eagles and harbor seals near a channel marker.
After a talk about birds by naturalist Lee Moll in the afternoon, the Zodiac groups boarded the vessels and set out into Lowe Inlet. This inlet was visited by John Muir in 1879 on his first visit to Alaska, and naturalist Shawn Lucas recreated the photograph today. Muir’s poetic words, as well as modern videography and photography, still inspire visitors to the west coast of British Columbia and Southeast Alaska.
On this, the final day of our expedition, we awoke to the sound of rain in Lowe Inlet Marine Provincial Park. After several days of attempting to make our way to Lowe, only to get thwarted by whales, killer whales, bears, and other wildlife, we finally arrived today. The rainforest greeted us with the full rain shower service we have come to love and expect, and we greeted the rainforest first thing in the morning with the option to either hike or cruise through this lovely place. Intrepid hikers made their way from the inside of the back bay of Lowe through the home of the Great Bear and into the muskeg typical of this landscape, which used to be covered in glaciers. Those of us who explored by water were treated to a close-up view of Vierney Falls. We also explored the back bay where salmon swam, herons hunted, eagles perched above us, and kingfishers dipped about. Early on, our Zodiacs spotted yet another black bear, who greeted us before wandering back into its forested home. This trip has been so full of bears that we are struggling to keep count. After our cruises, we loaded back onto the vessel and turned due north to our final destination of Prince Rupert, our first stop where we began so many days ago. Our journey here was unexpected in every way. It was so full of life and memories that we will carry with us as long as we tell the story of where, how, and who. Where these animals live, how they need this forest to survive, who the people that live here are, and how they continue to fight for this land after calling it their home for thousands of years.
We could not have had a more incredible day aboard National Geographic Venture . It was truly a once in a lifetime experience, one that I am sure can never be repeated. The early morning started off with dense fog obscuring the coastline, but as the sun continued to rise, the fog burned off and the conditions changed to an overcast sky and a slight drizzle. The coastline became clear and with a low tide, we suddenly had the perfect conditions for spotting wildlife. The past couple of days have already offered us wonderful wildlife viewing opportunities, including orcas chasing a Dall’s porpoise, spouting humpbacks, and a sighting of a spirit bear, also known as a white Kermode bear. Everyone was blown away by seeing one spirit bear, and it never crossed our minds that we might have the extraordinary luck to see a spirit bear twice! And yet, as we cruised along Princess Royal Island, a waterfall came into view, providing a perfect opportunity for a potential bear. Naturalist Jesse Humbert was on the spotting scope, prepared to spot another spirit bear! Two black Kermode bears were also quickly spotted, adding to the magical moment. Already more than satisfied with the day, we continued to cruise. A couple of the naturalists noticed a tall dark fin rise above the surface of the water only a few hundred feet from a small sailboat. Orcas were spotted! Turning the vessel around, we observed the orcas until humpbacks were seen spouting and swimming along the coastline of Work Island and Princess Royal Island. One would never think you could ever see anything more unique and awe-inspiring than a white Kermode bear, but all of us aboard the ship were happily mistaken when a pod of orcas started to engage with a humpback mother and calf. At first, we assumed the worst…the humpback calf was about to start fighting for its life, but soon the interaction appeared nonviolent. At the risk of anthropomorphizing the situation, the orca and humpback calves were swimming in tandem, taking a breath together and diving simultaneously. Witnessing this seemingly playful interaction was absolutely breathtaking. We could not imagine a more beautiful way to end our day searching for wildlife.
Today, guests of National Geographic Venture were honored and privileged to be invited to the Big House at the Kitasoo/Xai’Xais Nation village of Klemtu, on the east side of Swindle Island. The caretaker, Shane, hosted us, answered our questions, and talked about life in this small native town of about 480 residents. We had many photo opportunities and visited a small museum. It was a good cultural learning experience. We visited Green Inlet in the afternoon and explored by Zodiac and on foot. The groups on shore found a trail across the peninsula that led to a muskeg with fascinating plants. Baffle Falls is an interesting feature that flows the other direction when the tide gets high enough. The Zodiacs visited waterfalls, examined meadows for bears, and encountered a humpback whale as it repeatedly surfaced and dove, and even lunged up through a bubble net that it made by itself.