Today was an exceptional day for wildlife encounters and stunning scenery. National Geographic Venture entered Endicott Arm, a fjord full of snowcapped peaks and ice floating in the sea. We cruised on Zodiacs, maneuvering around icebergs. We enjoyed many surprises as we traveled, including a black bear foraging along the shore. We all stayed quiet while Marylou maneuvered the Zodiac as close as possible without disturbing this magnificent animal. It was sunny, and the sky was totally clear. Glassy water offered the best reflections of the ice and the mountains. Everything was peaceful and quiet as we contemplated the bear. Suddenly, Marylou turned the engine back on – she heard a blow – and we headed back to see a humpback whale swimming by the shore. It put on a show, giving us the best possible ending of a Zodiac tour that we will surely never forget.
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.