It’s a difficult question: “When does an expedition begin?” There are many answers. Of course, it may be when one arrives at the place of embarkation. Before that, though, there are the many places from which we depart. There is the packing, the list making, the researching of places to visit. Ultimately, the beginning is no doubt in the curiosity, the interest, the desire to explore. A diverse group of explorers who share that desire, some experienced and others just taking the plunge, gathered in Seattle to begin our voyage through the Inside Passage along the western coast of North America to Alaska. We embarked National Geographic Sea Bird yesterday evening and quickly settled into our cabins before gathering for important safety briefings and orientations. More importantly, though, we assembled to bring together our group. Some are old friends from previous expeditions, and others are now new friends. All feel the excitement to go, to see new places, to jointly share the experience of inquisitive travel.

Not only are we embarking on a voyage to explore this unique natural world, but we also want to learn about the cultural history, including that of Indigenous people and the First Nations, those who are an integral part of this place. Today, we must deal with the requirements of the modern world: clearing immigration into Canada, how to best use the technological tools we carry in our packs and our pockets, best practices for using our expedition landing craft and hiking in bear country, and how to be respectful as visitors to another country. We covered many miles, through straits wide and narrow, to get us to where we need to be tomorrow.