Up at , watching a pod of feeding humpback whales.Digital cameras just arent fast enough to
catch the flukes but I keep trying anyway.The
whales are truly beautiful!The morning
speeches are delayed as we spend time on deck watching the whales lunge feeding, blowing
and sounding all around us.Sounding
is a dramatic display of flukes before the whale dives and stays down for 15-20 minutes.The captain and first mate do an excellent job of
maneuvering the ship in close without disturbing the whales.
This impromptu display is followed by a
presentation by Bill Turner of The Land
Conservancy (TLC) of British
Columbia.It is the only organization of its kind in Canada and is modeled after the British Heritage
Trust.The mandate of TLC is to purchase and
protect wilderness regions, historically and culturally important areas and buildings.
Next on the agenda is
McCrory of the Valhalla Wilderness Society
who describes her life and home in the SlocanValley.A
high school dropout and the daughter of a logger, she evolved into an activist and became
the Executive Director of the society.Colleen
talks extensively about the VWS and its efforts to save forests and wildlife habitat,
first in the SlocanValley and now throughout the province of British Columbia.Colleen
and her brother Wayne are among the original founders of the VWS and are extremely
dedicated to the preservation of wildlife and wilderness habitat.
The ship sets a course for WindyBay on the west side of Coronation
Island.Evidence in caves suggests that
the island may have remained ice-free during the last ice age.Unfortunately, the west side of the island is
exposed to the open ocean and our ship begins pitching and rolling.Books, glasses and cups slide off their tables and
the contents of the bar crash and slide ominously.The
motion starts to take its toll.Many of us
head for the upper deck and fresh air and to keep our eyes fixed on the horizon to
minimize the nausea.Fortunately, lunch was
delayed by the whale watch.As it is,
disasters in the galley and dining room reduce our usual lunch menu selection to a choice
of YES or NO.The ship rarely goes outside the
sheltered waters of the inside passage so even many of the crew members are afflicted with
sea-sickness.Today, the dining room crew is
backfilled by an assortment of hardier deckhands and engineers.Finally, we abandon the attempt to reach WindyBay and turn back to calmer waters in the lee of
Some bird watching from the DIBs (durable
inflatable boats) fills in the gap and we get to examine the corpse of a young whale
bobbing on the surface.Back on board, we view
two documentaries by Dr. Briony Penn:one
focuses on the impact of salmon farming and the other shows whales feeding.Briony
Penn, an environmentalist of some determination, achieved notoriety in 2001 by riding
a horse through downtown Victoria, clad only in her hair to protest logging on
she is dressed more modestly.
At breakfast, we catch glimpses of orcas off
to starboard and Dalls porpoises to port.I
hate to think there might be a connection, but the predator shall follow the prey and it is breakfast time.
Carol Heppenstahl delivers a fascinating
presentation on modern NorthwestCoast art and crafts.She talks about the revival of old techniques and
how they are evolving into new ones.The rich
artistic culture and vibrant social fabric of this area is a consequence of the historical
abundance of food.The inhabitants did not
have to expend all their energy in a quest for survival as did most other aboriginal
populations.The luxury of ample leisure time
is directly responsible for the richness of their art and the complexity of their culture.
At Prince Rupert, we board buses to visit The North
Pacific Historic Cannery Village, which has been restored to preserve the history. These canneries were little, self-contained
communities where the workers lived in bunkhouses during the salmon fishing season. The workers were mostly local natives and Chinese
and Ukrainian immigrants. The company operated
a grocery store, post office etc. to meet their simple needs.The processing and canning equipment has been
restored and displays and posters document the transition of the cannery from a totally
manual workplace to the more mechanical age.The
Butcher Machine replaced about 30 workers and was dubbed the Iron Chink
because most of the fish processing workers were of Chinese ancestry.
Back on board, Herb Pond, Mayor of Prince
Rupert, Michelle Patterson of the World Wildlife
Federation and Erika Rolston of the Socio-Economic Study Group launch into a debate
over oil and gas development in the Hecate Strait.In
the middle of the debate, Dr. David Suzuki arrives on board to join us a resource person
for the rest of the trip.Almost immediately,
the debate becomes more spirited!It is
obvious that he and Mayor Pond are deeply divided over this issue.The need to conserve the environment and a
communitys need to survive are as far apart here as elsewhere.I am struck by the dilemma we all face and the need
to make better choices for a sustainable future.
The dinner conversation is peppered with
discussion and debate around the afternoons topic.Dinner is fresh Dungeness crab and I am in heaven!The evening is rounded out by a viewing of a Nature
of Things production called The Salmon Forest.Dr.
Suzuki explains the inter-dependency of the rainforest on the salmon spawning activities.The fish play a huge role in the life cycle of the
forest.They not only provide direct
nourishment to the bear, wolf and bird populations but their decaying remains, dragged
deep into the rainforest by animals and birds alike, foster and nurture the insects,
plants and other minute life forms required to sustain this incredible environment.Much research is being done in this area.As always, Dr. Suzukis message is presented
with passion in terms that can be understood by all.