Archive for category Films and Other Media
It’s not normally recommended to expose yourself so entirely; out here storms from the southeast can churn up the seas before you can say ‘purple ringed top snail’. Bobbing over the remnant swells from the last blow, we look back at the mainland before it blurs into a darkened silhouette of peaks and valleys that make up the coast mountain range. With anchor secured, we are visited by a gang of Steller sea lions, a family of river otters and the bulbous heads and watchful eyes of harbour seals in every quiet cove.
As the western sun dips below the horizon, leaving its imprint of amber and crimson light, we soak in the panorama atop a rock nearby our lonely anchorage. We hear the squeals of a sea otter pup before it comes into view, riding on its mother’s furry stomach. A curiously placed snowy owl lands on an islet nearby as we savor the experiences of another wonderfully rich and diverse day.
Extra preparation was required for today: extra paddles, air tanks, VHF radios and a sat phone, in addition to a pre-departure agreement on emergency hand signals. Rising up the steep swells in our trusty dinghy, the three of us hunkered down as white foam whipped across us. I was jealous of Ian and Tav’s dry suits. After thirty dives this past week, the divers have fallen into a familiar rhythm, and as they drop to the bottom I could see the waves of mysids flowing over them. Later they would tell me that these tiny shrimp were so thick that they blocked out the sun.
In mixed seas like this it was hopeless to keep track of their bubbles, so I relied on the strobe from Ian’s flash to monitor their positions. So much shrimp biomass ensured the surface lens was covered in sea birds and plenty of fish below.
The third dive of the day was chosen up a quiet pass, protected from the ocean swell but with lots of tidal current pushing late season bull kelp forests. I could see dozens of harbour seals swimming below in the crystal clear water weaving back and forth as they curiously watched on.
Tuning into the weather channel brings news of storm conditions descending on our rocky perch, so we make a late departure for the safety of the mainland; now instead of big swells and surfing pescavores the tannin waters of the mainland bring brilliant orange sea pens, fields of nudibranchs and a travelling group of transient orcas. After breakfast, Ian admits he’s behind on some paperwork (some excuse about due dates for a book) and sits out the morning’s dive, so Tav had the pleasure of yours truly filling in as his dive partner – what a wonderful treat to see it first hand!
The days have gone too quickly and we have only explored a tiny fragment of the Great Bear Sea, but bearing witness to this rarely-observed world has been a gift. It’s not just the magnificent combination of flora, fauna and geology that faces such an uncertain future, it’s also the human communities that rely on the health of these systems. The continuing fight against oil tankers is found in the unity of all nations, in the unprecedented alliance of the walkers and swimmers, of the slimy and spiny. And perhaps if you experience a moment of despair for this coast, know that there are thousands and millions of creatures still blowing bubbles for the Great Bear Sea!
Thanks for reading!
Ian, Tavish and Ashley
Ashley Stocks is on a Pacific Wild diving expedition through the Great Bear Sea and will be uploading a three part blog series with new images and footage.
A twice daily flushing and filling of lagoons creates the dynamic environment that supports diversity, strengthening the fabric of the natural world here and the main ingredient that Ian and Tavish are searching for – strong tidal current! We anchored up shortly before dark and Tavish was eager to get in the water. Ian fielded media calls from the Habitat while I cooked up some dinner; back at Pacific Wild headquarters, international media are reporting on the amazing fishing wolf coverage their remote cameras are getting. Tav emerged with stories of an overly curious octopus – apparently he’s a sucker for a good close up.
There’s a special time when ebb turns to flood and the only indication of current is the twisted up bull kelp laying battered on the surface. This time of year you’re lucky if you have two slack tides in daylight, but we missed it. Our first dive was about 0900, two hours before low slack, so Ian and Tav ducked into eddies out of the 12 knots of white water that was pouring out of the lagoon. I tied the tender to an overhanging tree, finding solace in the low boughs like the belted kingfishers. Peering over the side of the dinghy I got a taste of the beauty below, I could see green surf and plumose anemones and a few schooling striped sea perch, anticipating what Ian and Tav had captured in this challenging environment.
The following day, low slack was timed well; midday it was supposed to turn. With enough time for a morning dive to get the kinks worked out, I drop the divers on the edge of the raging current. It was a stunner of a morning: clear sky, great blue herons fishing the shore, cormorants and grebes pursuing the swift water, and a sea lion, investigative of the dual streams of bubbles rising up from below.
Back on Habitat, the crew busily set up for our window of stillness, lights were charged and air tanks were filled. Ian and Tav donned their suits in giddy anticipation of such ideal conditions – slack tide, excellent visibility, no wind, a reliable tender to fetch them, and sunshine!
We arrived on scene with water still draining from the lagoon. With each diver set up in his chosen spot, I fastened the boat to a few stipes of kelp. Above the water, everything went quiet and the stillness was enchanting. It took only a minute for my kelp hitching post to go slack and slowly bow in the opposite direction, indicating the flood was on the way. Below the water, all types of fish came up from their bunkers and swam about freely, enjoying the brief relief from their windy existence.
Our time was spent well in the protection of these tidal lagoons and the divers’ spectacular images and footage will surely become part of the conservation agenda in the coming months, but for now it’s time to move on. The tender is hauled out and lashed in its cradle, air tanks are tied down, and the galley’s contents are stowed securely away as we work our way to the wave-beaten outer coast.
Ashley Stocks is on a Pacific Wild diving expedition through the Great Bear Sea and will be uploading a three part blog series with new images and footage.
A quick remedy of tape around the neck cuff of Ian’s loaned oversized drysuit made the seal watertight against the numbing North Pacific. Equipped with lead weights, air tank, and gauges dragging along the bottom of our dinghy, I eagerly tied the bow line to the bough of a fallen cedar. In my bold reach and instability, I fell right out of the boat onto the rocks. My mask could not find a seal against my face and my feet had slipped out of the suit feet, leaving my flippers limply clinging to empty rubber. But eventually I descended, all sounds fell away into silence and I entered another world… through my blurry mask were thousands of hooded nudibranchs clinging to giant kelp, waiting for zooplankton to enter their fleshy nets. Only moments ago, a group of mammal-eating orcas, celebrating a recent meal, glided under the twin hulls of our sailing vessel, slapping tail flukes and showing their white bellies as they vanished into the misty distance.
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It’s always exciting when seasons change on the coast, deciduous trees drop their leaves, the air cools and adopts the comforting scent of fir fire smoke, and humpback whales start their southbound migration. But perhaps most noticeably, salmon carcasses remain in rivers as essential nutrients, while fertilized eggs are left to over-winter in their frigid watery baths – the promise of a future for all species. Most of the larger predators have moved out of the valley bottoms and onto winter living, fat with salmon omegas, onto a life of minimal daylight and ruthless coastal storms. But today the coast is cold and quiet as we get ready to cast off on this underwater exploration.
There are always a few things to work through on the days leading up to a trip and this time our sailing vessel Habitat required minimal attention before charging into heavy seas and gleaming bays. More dire pre-departure agendas, at least for the Denny Island kids, were the Sunday soccer game and helping neighbours move engine blocks up a flight of stairs.
Through these dive surveys, Tavish and Ian hope to document in video and still imagery, the delicate workings of the seascape that are so rarely seen and reported. The aim is to collect unique observations, accounts, and behaviours of submarine creatures during a season that is largely unvisited along this highly threatened coastline.
I am closing in on my fifth year crewing on boats on the coast of B.C. now, and on this expedition, I’ve been tasked with keeping track of things on the surface: looking after the tender, crew nutrition, and watching the diver’s exhalations – boils and bubbles indicating their positions below.
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Launching our first dive at King Island, we get into the routine and testing of equipment. From my vantage point, I spot a belted kingfisher perched low over the water darting about and following Ian’s bubbles while Tavish brings up his first footage from depth, a psychedelic box crab, cruising the ocean bottom.
We continue south to Namu; a once thriving and bustling cannery (B.C. Packers) is now abandoned and vacant of a responsible land-owner. Perhaps a fault of the economy, or bad parenting, there is lacking desire to clean up the mess after boom and bust, and now Namu crumbles iconically leaching harmful waste into the mouth of a salmon bearing stream. The concern here is not the retroaction of the parties responsible, it is the adequacy in coping with modern messes, say, a V.L.C.C. gushing out barrels of bitumen into critical fin whale habitat and river estuaries.
A few miles down Fitz Hugh Sound, we set the hook at the mouth of the Koeye River. The clarity of the water here shows the divers’ bubbles climbing emerald green through the water column. I find comfort knowing they’re snapping away while I bravely keep guard, paddling around in the tender left to my thoughts –
An adventure but surely with a purpose – an expose of sub-tidal Great Bear Sea! Perhaps we do this for our children who will strive to make a life on this coast, or for the folks in Washington, D.C. who listen to the live feed of the audio from Pacific Wild’s remote cameras so they too can enjoy howling wolves from their office chairs. Or it’s because salmon swim every inch of the coastline feeding all nations – the towering spruce of valley bottoms and scarlet anemones.
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Casting my gaze towards Hakai Pass, a few remaining humpback whale spouts are spotted against the darkened shore, and a quick snorkel trip up the river reveals two juvenile grizzlies, searching for the last of the pinks in a late pulse up their natal stream.
Out here, the most influential agent of landscape change is fluids. Water carving and dissolving, wind throwing up great stands of forest and soil, and ice sculpting peaks and fjords, defining the geography of this coastline. The great mass of ice, 10,000 years ago, causing areas to bulge up, while others only miles away, were pushed deep into the ocean resulting in a staggering variability of sea level. You could imagine then, there might be a place where the land wasn’t depressed nor bulged (like that of the fulcrum of a teeter-totter), a unique attribute of the coast where sea level has been relatively constant.
Knowing this might change the way you look at the landscape. Ecological communities could be much older than once perceived and perhaps a more refined use of the coastal zone, would be common among all species that have resided here since the last glacial maximum. Perhaps Ian and Tavish are documenting ancient adaptations of the creatures here, in their quest for survival in the Great Bear Sea.
LAUNCH EVENT: January 14, 3pm – 8pm outside the hearings at Burrard & Nelson
HOPE IN THE PARK: January 15-18, 8am – 8pm, Nelson Park, Nelson & Thurlow. *Projections will begin at 4:30 pm.
Hope the whale is live in Vancouver all week long to help your voice get heard, amplify your message and share content and messaging against the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline Project.
As the Enbridge Joint Review Panel sits to hear oral statements from the public in Vancouver this week, Hope the whale will sit in Nelson Park and project messages of hope and a vision of a health future.
Hope is a 25 foot interactive, multimedia whale sculpture. Hope is part of a digital/real world ecology of interactions between blogs, tweets, news coverage, Facebook posts, pictures, video and messages written out in sharpies.
Here at Pacific Wild, we are inspired by the number of people that are taking it upon themselves to make their voices heard. We see an array of art projects, videos, photographs, films and events–each of which are unique and impactful in their own way.
Check out the song and video Pipeline Blues, written by Barry Truter with photography by Urs Boxler.
If you have a song, pictures, story, animation or any creative way/event that is ‘Making Your Voice Heard’ for a No Tanker/No Pipeline Coast, please send it along to us <firstname.lastname@example.org> and we’ll post it to our Facebook page!
The following posts have been compiled by youth from the lower mainland and Hartley Bay who joined forces to voyage by canoe form Hartley Bay to Kiel and back. Read of their adventure below
In Hartley Bay
We traveled for two long days with “Emma” our veggie oil bus. Each day took us about 12 hours, from Vancouver to Prince George and from Prince George to Prince Rupert. In PG we stayed with a wonderful family, thinking that we would camp in their backyard, they actually took us into their home as a result of a rain storm that had passed not too long before we arrived. The next day we traveled through dry valleys towards the west until we met the lush forests and mountain peaks of the coast. Camping in Prince Rupert was fun and we got to feel like we were finally getting ready for the wild… sort of. A cold mist woke us up early in the morning as we experienced a different climate than what we had been experiencing in the lower mainland.
Arriving Hartley Bay was a beautiful experience for all of us. We had a warm welcome from the community and we ate delicious freshly-caught salmon in different forms: baked and boiled. On our second night we got to try gyoos (herring spawn on kelp) which we found was very noisy when we chewed.
Getting out on the canoe for the first day was really exciting! Finally, we were on the water, doing what we’d been talking about doing for so long. Carrying the canoe down to the water was also an adventure, our muscles were already sore and we hadn’t even started paddling! We got it done safely though, and once on the water we were going fast. For some of the Hartley Bay students it was their first time on the canoe and it was great to see the smiles all around.
~Creating community and sharing together, two cultures learning about each other and acting for something that they both deeply cherish~
We Paddled to Kiel
On June 7th we did our big push, an 8 hour day on the waters of the Great Bear Rainforest in Gitga’at territory. We paddled a portion of the proposed tanker route for the Northern Gateway Pipeline project. We went from Hartley Bay, through Wright Sound where the ferry Queen of the North sank in 2006. Then down Lewis Pass to Squally Channel. On our way over to Kiel the group that was paddling had to use all of the energy that they had left to battle some stronger winds and bigger waves… but with some cheering and lots of support from our support vessels, they made it to Kiel.
On our second day in Kiel we paddled to Cetacea Lab, on Gil Island, and we learned about the steady increase of whale populations and how the proposed supertankers could affect them. It was special for me to learn that some of the students from Hartley Bay had known Hermann and Janie (the two whale researchers) their whole lives, but had not yet had the opportunity to visit Cetacea Lab to learn about what they do there. I was happy that the GBR Youth Paddle could contribute to making that experience happen for them.
Kiel is a magical place, after we left Cetacea Lab, one of our support boat operators caught the largest salmon of the season! That night he shared it with the whole camp. One of the best salmon dinners I’ve ever had, a freshly-caught salmon 38 pounder!
Giving and Gratitude
While we were up in Kiel, we spent all of our days with amazing friends who were keen to accept us into their community and share their lives with us through games, food, and stories. I was grateful for the kindness I received from the Gitga’at First Nations, which reminded me of how simple things in life are meaningful… There were our nights by the bon fire, the sound of the waves sweeping the shores of Kiel, and the casual greetings from Cameron Hill’s students that made me feel like we had all been friends for a long time… The abundance of nature in Hartley Bay surrounded by rivers and mountains, the orcas and porpoises that greeted us on our canoe journey made us feel connected to where we all came from- mother Earth. I think that these two reasons are what makes Hartley Bay so special and ultimately brings people together.
My time in Hartley Bay has taught me that maintaining a sustainable livelihood with nature comes from within. With an intimate relationship with people in Kiel and Hartley, the whole community is one big family. The respect and openness that the Gitga’at people have for their families, friends and natural surrounding is the essence that is worth sharing. This personal connection to the place has inspired me in moving forward to value things intrinsically and to learn more about how to combat the threatening and short-sighted path of the crude oil industry.
On the beach of Kiel the night’s darkness has set in and the only light comes from the fire, the starry sky and the phosphorescence in the ocean. The silence is only broken by wolves in the distance and us relaxing and enjoying each other’s company after a full day of paddling from Hartley Bay to Kiel. We started the journey just as we finished it; both the paddle leaving Hartley Bay and coming into Kiel were strong as everyone paddled with a sense of determination and purpose. This day of paddling brought us a little bit of everything: waves, wind, rain, sun, calm waters, whales, and sea lions. It also gave us an appreciation for this rich, pristine, delicate, intricate, and breathtaking coast.
Seeing this area by canoe is a unique experience, especially when shared with the Gitga’at First Nations youth. This is a special group of young people, who are exceptionally kind, motivated, passionate, and eager to share their culture, community, and knowledge of the area with us.
I have always loved the coast of BC and spending time in the Great Bear Rainforest has only made this love stronger. I now more than ever feel inspired and obligated to continue saying no to oil on this coast. Tankers in this area would destroy the coastal environment and ruin the way of life for everyone that calls the Great Bear Rainforest home, be that the spirit bear, humpback whale, or the Gitga’at First Nations.
Stand up for what you and so many other people love. Together we will keep oil off of this coast!
We Journey On
Our departure day from Hartley Bay was very emotional for me. I cried. However, the tears that streamed down my face were from overwhelming happiness. The time that I was able to spend with the Gitga’at people in both Hartley Bay and Kiel was filled with an abundance of richness that is difficult to put into words. As I reflected on the moments that transpired within the week I became friends with many of the youth in the community, I felt my eyes beginning to water. When it came my turn to talk in front of the youth, as well as the group I came with, I began crying. The words I spoke were truly from the heart. I was crying because I didn’t want to leave all the friends I had just made. I was crying because I didn’t want to leave the majestic scenery and environment that had surrounded me the past 11 days. Most importantly, I was crying because I was truly happy. Going to Hartley Bay has opened my eyes to all the amazing people in our world and the important work that they do. People like Cam Hill, people like Helen Clifton, and people like Marven. These are the ones who fight for the things in our world that need to be stood up for, like the environment and community that they care dearly for. Their efforts may not be broadcast outside their community, but they are the ones changing our world for the better. Hearing them speak throughout the week always made me frustrated because they often spoke of the lack of understanding people have for their cultural values. However, it also made me happy because they are optimistic and still hold out hope that the correct decision will be made regarding the supertankers. The richness that has filled me from joining the community for 8 days is an experience I will never forget. The tears I cried that day are ones of joy. They will help me to return to the magical place in the near future, a future that will always be too far away.