We started our morning anchoring in a sheltered bay near the point where the Gulf of Alaska meets the Inside Passage. Situated amongst these channels are a series of islands known as the Inian Islands. From National Geographic Quest, the details of the islands and their denizens were indiscernible through the drizzle and mist. We were here to get closer to the islands, and we set out on Zodiacs to explore the channels. Here we would make out the details with clarity.
Because this region is where tides flood and ebb much of the passage, fast-moving waters and underwater topography work to create exciting Zodiac rides, and lure in wildlife. During a flooding tide, scores of Steller sea lions gather to take advantage of disoriented fish moving in the current. Joining the melee were bald eagles, and a variety of gulls to pick up the scraps. Waiting out for more favorable conditions in calmer, kelp-filled coves were sea otters. Guests and naturalists were treated to countless observations of hunting sea lions, with curious individuals inspecting the boat passengers.
After a morning of Zodiac rounds, passengers disembarked to hang their thoroughly soaked rain gear, and National Geographic Quest made a short reposition to our afternoon destination. The skies eased on us, and for the afternoon, guests were able to visit George Island. An outermost island of the Inside Passage, the island was a strategically important point to defend Alaska and the United States from Japanese invasion during World War II. On the island, relics of the war exist in the forms of an artillery shed and impressively large gun, still mounted and pointed out into the Gulf to this day.
The guests on board have the ability to choose from multiple adventures on George Island, from kayaking amongst sea mammals near shore, to a variety of walks and hikes along the seashore or to the gun. After several hours exploring the moss-laden trails and tidepools of the island, groups converged at a beach for a group swim into the 45-degree water. The turnout was impressive; our expedition leader commented that more people joined the swim than he could recollect. Energized from the swims and long day, we departed back to the ship, admiring the rounded, salt-and-pepper granitic rocks on the way to our floating home.