The 2016 Season begins in Pacific Rim National Park
We are so excited to officially kick-off our 2016 season this month, beginning with a 6-day/5-night expedition cruise of Pacific Rim National Park that set sail from beautiful Ucluelet, B.C. on Tuesday, April 12.
We start our season off with the Passing Cloud in ship-shape after the most ambitious refit yet. With a month long haul-out in the shipyard for annual maintenance and updates, she is now sailing with enlivened elegance and grace for which she was designed.
We are always excited to start another season sailing Canada’s Pacific Coast and each new season brings with it so many fascinating and unexpected events and encounters, each with the potential to become the highlight of our year.
Our first expedition of the season hosted Quest University for a five-day field course onboard Passing Cloud, exploring the Broken Group Islands of Pacific Rim National Park. Record-high temperatures and sunshine welcomed this expedition and remained for the duration of the trip.
The wildlife did not disappoint with acclaimed appearances by a wide array of species. Five gray whales on their migration north transited past the boat, while three curious sea otters came to check out the group. Sea otters are finally making a comeback on our coast after being hunted to near extinction in the 1800’s. The group also spotted two river otters – often mistaken for sea otters, they, however, do not have that telltale fur pelt that made the sea otter so sought after. Although the river otter can be found in the ocean, they – unlike the sea otter – make their home on land.
Russell Markel and the field crew came across European green crabs, an invasive species that came to the Pacific coast in ballast ship water. The species is, unfortunately, becoming more and more abundant on our coast and its aggressive and rapacious appetite causes serious alarm for shellfish such as clams and mussels. The green crab also poses a serious threat to eelgrass ecological habitat, which provides an ocean nursery vital for many marine species. The crabs burrow in the sand and clip the roots of the grass from below, destroying one of the most productive and diverse ecosystems found in the ocean.
An assortment of seabirds put on quite a show, from bald eagles, loons, and buffleheads, to grebes, mergansers, and herons. On our trips ashore we traced wolf tracks in the sand from the elusive coastal sea wolves, who are often heard in the night but not seen. A lone deer tracked the grassy shoreline, ears alert for predators. With spring in full force on the west coast, hibernation has come to an end and a mother black bear and young cub meandered alongside the beach, foraging for fish and berries.
We are very excited to once again be spending our days exploring the shorelines and remote islands of British Columbia’s wild coast. With so much life and splendor to experience, you really never know what you will encounter on our expeditions. We welcome back our returning guests and crew and are delighted for the new faces that will grace the Passing Cloud this year.