2017: An Expedition Year in Review

As the year comes to a close we look back on our favourite memories and happenings of 2017.

Our 2017-expedition season began in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. We explored the many islands of the Broken Group and learned about the rich cultural and natural history of the region, once a bustling First Nations metropolis before European colonization. Remnants of ancient cultural histories of the Nuu-chah-nulth remain in oral traditions and archaeological evidence found in midden beaches and fish traps lining the shores.

We Joined forces with Sierra Club BC to support ongoing environmental initiatives in the Great Bear Rainforest. We visited a new expedition region south of Bella Bella, witnessed grizzly bears as they emerged from hibernation, had incredible acrobatic dolphin displays, and were in awe of the snow-capped peaks and brilliantly coloured wildflowers in bloom. We visited the field station of Hakai Institute with some of the world’s most beautiful white-sand beaches. We even came across a live archaeological dig revealing evidence of human history on the coast of BC, dating back to 14,000 years ago.

Our longest Haida Gwaii season to date offered many cultural and wildlife experiences, and even many firsts for us. We found ancient stone tools on the beach, explored the underwater biodiversity of Burnaby Narrows, and learned about the ancient Haida Village sites from the Haida Watchmen who watch over this land, sea, and sky. We saw countless migrating and nesting sea and near-shore birds, had excellent marine mammal sightings, and even had a very rare encounter with a sperm whale on the edge of the continental shelf – a first-ever sighting for our captain and owner, Russell Markel.

The Great Bear Sea proved to stand true to its name as a ‘Haven for Whales’ this summer, with so many encounters including resident and transient orcas, along with fins and humpbacks making a resurgence to the area. We explored the outer islands in search of sea otters, visited Cetacea Lab, and learned about ongoing whale research in the Gitga’at Territory.

As the Pacific salmon began to spawn we were reminded anew of why we call the Great Bear Rainforest our ‘megafauna’ expedition. We witnessed incredible wildlife in the sea, sky, and on shore. We saw a wide variety of marine mammals from killer whales, humpback and fin whales, to sea otters, sea lions and dolphins too! On land, the terrestrial life certainly did not disappoint. We viewed grizzlies, black bears, and the iconic white-fur spirit bears. On one expedition we even saw two spirit bears fishing in the same river at the same time! This year marked a milestone for grizzlies, not only in the Great Bear Rainforest but all of BC, as the provincial government called for a complete ban on hunting grizzly bears across the province, a long-awaited triumph.

As we began the southern voyage to complete our seasonal migration, we stopped in Port McNeill for the annual visit to Northern Vancouver Island’s Johnstone Strait and Blackfish Sound. With less boat traffic on the water at this time of year, we often felt we had the area to ourselves to observe the many resident killer whales that call this region home. We had a mix of sun and rain creating brilliantly coloured skies and beautifully full rainbows. We learned about the underwater currents and upwelling that occurs to supply the region with nutrients from the bottom up, resulting in the rich marine activity the area is so well known for.

Our 2017 season came to a close in the Southern Gulf Islands, where we reflected on the incredible distance we covered and unforgettable memories we made. We spent over 180 days at sea, travelled over 5,600 Nautical miles (~10,350 km!), explored 6 different regions, saw countless wildlife, and welcomed amazing guests from all over the world.

Thank you all for joining us on the journey. We look forward to new and exciting adventures in 2018.