Just as two humpback whales slipped beneath the surface, their blows still lingering against the dark forest beyond them, a tall, black dorsal fin rose from the water. Heart thumping, I fumbled with my camera with numb fingers and let out little shouts of ‘killer whales!’ to the few passengers braving the cold. With the killer whales barely behind us, a group of Pacific white-sided dolphins raced towards our bow, leaping in groups of twos and threes, as a sea lion snorted in the background.
Steaming south towards Bellingham, the M/V Kennicott had reached the Salish Sea — an inland sea that laps at the shores of Washington, British Columbia and Vancouver Island and supports a vast variety of plant and animal life. In turn, this abundance of life has supported many tribes of indigenous people in this corner of the Pacific Northwest. The Coast Salish Indigenous Peoples speak Salishan languages and have different cultural practices from their neighbours beyond the Salish Sea bioregion.
My route took me from Bellingham to Anacortes, across to the San Juan Islands, then beyond to Vancouver Island before turning south back to mainland Washington. My schedule was tight but promised adventure, plus much to learn about the Salish Sea.