May 13, 2019 - National Geographic Quest
Today was a day full of unexpected and wonderful wildlife encounters onboard National Geographic Quest! Yesterday evening, guests arrived in Seattle from all over the world to embark on an expedition through the Inside Passage of North America. After traveling north through the night, we woke to a gorgeous sunrise in a cloudless sky: a positive omen for the day to come.
The morning consisted of briefings and introductions covering ship procedures and natural history staff, followed by a circumnavigation of Spieden Island. As we cruised around this small, privately-owned island, all eyes were fixed to binoculars and spotting scopes. Historically used as a refuge for hunting game birds and grazing mammals introduced from Asia in the ‘70s, this island is now a wildlife refuge with a few remnants of those transplanted mammals still roaming around. Suffice it to say none of the guests expected to be able to return home with the tales of the Alaskan expedition involving flocks of Asian bighorn sheep!
After lunch, we got our first taste of exploration as we ventured onto Jones Island – a marine park within the San Juan Archipelago. Surveying the coastline by kayak and stand-up paddleboard, we spotted harbor seals and river otters munching on intertidal invertebrates and fish. Hikers were enchanted by Douglas fir trees standing hundreds of feet tall and learned about the cultural relevance of the western red cedars to the native populations of the Pacific Northwest. Wandering along the state park trails, we encountered an abundance of North American bald eagles of all ages as well as Sitka black-tailed deer, and even a raccoon posed for some photos!
In the evening, we were joined by presenting guests from Friday Harbor, who spoke on the health of the southern resident killer whale pods. Their presentation was an enlightening, and one which lent an intimate look into the current state of this endangered population and its struggle against extinction.
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