When we woke up on National Geographic Sea Lion this morning, we were completely covered by fog as we sailed through British Columbia’s waters. Clever and adorable sea otters inspected us curiously as we sailed by. We also saw a humpback whale. It came up close to us, and many delighted guests captured photos and beautiful memories. We sailed into the protected harbor of Alert Bay. Guests then made their way to the Umista Cultural Center, a museum where we observed and appreciated cultural masks and regalia from Alert Bay. Guests later took a hike where they experienced the cultural spirit of the land. Simultaneously, the underwater dive team was busy capturing footage right under the harbor’s docks. Next, we were able to go to the Big House for a rare opportunity to spend time learning about the culture of the area with local people and with guests from our sister ship, National Geographic Venture, which was alongside in the bay. A wonderful day was had by all as we experienced the wonders of Alert Bay.
National Geographic Sea Bird
This morning found us where the Pacific Ocean meets Cross Sound and Icy Strait, the Inian Islands. Named by William Healey Dall, one of Alaska's earliest scientific explorers, in 1879, the Inians are a mecca for wildlife. The powerful tidal currents flowing in and out daily create a tremendous upwelling of nutrient-rich water. This area is where fishing boats from the various ports in the northern portion of the Inside Passage enter and exit. It was a glorious day with calm seas, which allowed us to cruise around the various islands in our Zodiacs drinking in the fantastic scenery and looking for wildlife. Unmissable were the Steller (or northern) sea lions, the largest member of the “eared seals,” first described in 1742 by Georg Wilhelm Steller, the German surgeon and naturalist on the Bering expedition. We saw many of them on “bachelor haul-outs,” rocks where single males of all ages bask, posture and feed on numerous species of fish. Sea otters with pups are just about the cutest animals on the planet! As members of the weasel or mustelid family, southern sea otters are the smallest marine mammal. Like other members of this family, they have very thick fur. In fact, at 850,000 to 1 million hairs per square inch, sea otters have the thickest fur of any mammal. Without blubber to protect them from chilly ocean waters, sea otters rely on their thick fur.