Our morning was filled with wildlife viewing from the bow of National Geographic Quest. Early on, we saw our first Pacific loons and rhinoceros auklets. A distant flurry of bird activity turned out to be five bald eagles, more Pacific loons, and many Bonaparte’s gulls all feeding together. We figured it might be a bait ball of fish. Moments later, we discovered a pod of killer whales nearby and realized the birds might have been feeding on the leftovers of a killer whale breakfast. We could not confirm, as we turned the ship to spend the rest of our time with the orcas. In the afternoon, we traveled to Alert Bay, where we disembarked the ship. We had a very special cultural experience on Cormorant Island with a welcoming ceremony by the Kwakwaka’wakw, one of the Indigenous peoples of the coast of the Pacific Northwest. We enjoyed a tour of the U’mista Cultural Centre. It was another beautiful and fun day here in British Columbia!
National Geographic Quest
As we all awoke aboard our valiant vessel, National Geographic Quest , we were greeted by something we had not come across in quite some time: the sun! Making our way down the Gulf Island, British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast held true to the name. After finishing our breakfast, we mingled about on the decks, photosynthesizing, when we heard multiple voice yelling, “Blows!” Always quick to investigate, our bridge team safely tucked us toward what turned out to be a pod of Bigg’s (or transient) killer whales. These whales, identifiable by their closed saddle patches, gave us quite the show. Five altogether, they took turns posturing towards us. With a dorsal fin almost six feet tall, a large male broke through the water. This was followed by some smaller females and, at the end, a young calf learning to navigate these waters. The whales swam around us for quite some time, enough that we decided to forgo the intended Zodiac tour and instead spend our time with these magnificent creatures. Full of smiles and rosy cheeks from the sun and wind, we had another treat in store. Our guest speaker, Uncle Jim, engaged us with a talk on the pathways of his life that led to becoming a speech writer for the vice president and how he became friends with the highly regarded actor, Marlon Brando. After lunch, we took a short Zodiac ride to shore on Wallace Island. Home to a resort complex in the 50s, a few buildings and artifacts remain. Now a marine park, local cruises shared the dock with us as we relished the sunshine and the opportunity to explore independently or under the excellent tutelage of our expedition staff. Regardless of the chosen path, the island seemed like paradise with sunshine flirting through the waxy madrona leaves that greeted us with each step we took along the salal-lined path. When things seemed like they couldn’t get better, a surprise was in wait as bartender Miranda patiently waited with snacks and blueberry lemonade to quench our parched throats. Blissed out from another spectacular day, we followed the rays of sunshine back to the ship to fill our minds and bellies as we continue south.