Posts Tagged canada

Mountain Maintenance

July, 2014

by April Bencze

The boat engine roars to life as Diana and I untie from the dock this misty morning. Clay the dog is curled up in the only wind-free spot on the boat as we make the short passage to Bella Bella from Denny Island. Leandrea, a Pacific Wild intern, greets us at the dock on the other side. With tool kits in hand and gumboots on foot, we climb in the truck and head up the mountain to perform some electrical maintenance to keep the hydrophones and remote cameras operating smoothly.

Steadily the truck climbs the inclining path, peeling apart the overgrown branches on either side of the road as we pass by. It is a soggy morning atop the mountain. Although we cannot see it, we know a spectacular view must sit beneath the blankets of thick mist hanging over the surrounding islands and waterways below.

We arrive at the relay station where solar panels face the sky, a wind turbine spins and satellite dishes high atop a mast connect with the cameras and hydrophones dotted around the coast. Diana unlocks the control boxes containing batteries and wiring, and the team gets to work replacing temporary switches and improving the flow of wires.

The mist begins to lift, slowly uncovering the spattering of islands surrounded by the Pacific Ocean. Once finished with the maintenance, Diana and Leandrea pull out the netbook to test the improved system. After flicking the switch back on, lights illuminate and Diana sounds pleasantly surprised as she informs us that everything is working smoothly, on the first try! The bugs who kept close company, borrowing some blood as we worked, must have been a motivating factor to do it right initially. So we label the reconfigured wires in the electrical box, top up the water in the batteries and close up the relay station for the day. Down the mountain we go, stopping for deer on the overgrown roadway. The boat ride back to Pacific Wild headquarters is a dry one as the soggy morning begins to evaporate.

After lunch we attend an Enbridge Opposition strategy meeting put on by the Heiltsuk Nation at the Community Hall in Bella Bella. We brainstorm ideas to halt the pipeline project in its oily tracks. The sense of community and connection with the land and ocean is alive in the hall as we put pen to paper, letting ideas flow to protect British Columbia’s natural coastline from pipeline and tanker threats.

We are now in the floatlab for the rest of the afternoon, Diana and the interns closely monitor the hydrophones as orcas sing into the microphones, and porpoises surface outside the window of the lab. One of the remote cameras is trained on the sea lion haul-out on the outer coast as they enjoy an afternoon nap. It is another great day at Pacific Wild headquarters.

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GreatBearLIVE – View sea birds and marine mammal interactions on this sea lion haul out on the Great Bear’s rugged outer coast. Press play to view the underwater camera in the seal garden – a nearby kelp forest and eelgrass bed. Sign up for Great Bear LIVE Alerts to stay up-to-date on the latest action and watch highlights here.

April

 

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Great Bear Sea Winter Dive Expedition: Part III

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

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The Great Bear Rainforest – Taking the Inside – OUT!

Spring, Summer and Autumn are busy, exciting and often hectic times for ‘happenings’ not only in the field, but also further afield from our base in the Great Bear Rainforest of British Columbia. While my colleagues install hydrophones and field cameras in even more remote locations to monitor cetacean life and capture rare camera footage of wildlife in the wilderness, and work closely with First Nations communities on the No Tankers campaign, I am busy on the outreach side of Pacific Wild.  I firmly believe by using these visual and auditory techniques, we can raise public awareness to pipeline/tanker issues and further threats from industrial logging, LNG, trophy hunting and open net-cage fish farms. This beautiful short video was just released which illustrates the wildlife, underwater ecosystems, and temperate rainforest we are dedicated to protecting.

The spring started off in spectacular fashion at the Solidarity for Salmon event on March 31st in Victoria. Along with 7 other people, including a life-long supporter and great friend of Pacific Wild, Mary Vickers, we proudly pushed M’ia, a 27 foot spawning sockeye salmon puppet, through the streets of Victoria, B.C. to the Legislature buildings. M’ia is a symbol of what films like the insightful yet disturbing Salmon Confidential are opening the general public’s awareness up to.

We got even more ‘hands on’ at the Creatively United Festival in Victoria on April 19-21.  Filling an aquarium with various kinds of kelp and other ocean matter, we dropped in a portable hydrophone to invoke listening to the ‘depths’ off of recordings from the Pacific Wild hydrophone network in the Great Bear Sea. Sharing our tent at the festival was one of my personal heroes, Charlie Russell, the Grizzly Bear Legend. He is a gentleman that I am most in awe of for his life work on bear behaviour and their emotional and physical relationship with humans and human interaction. He is truly a legend. I thank him dearly for watching Pacific Wild remote field camera footage with us and treasure his insight into coastal bear behaviour.

June saw the release of STAND. Without a doubt, the absolute highlight so far of the summer was to be at the screening of STAND in Bella Bella with the young adults from Bella Bella Community School. Featured in the film, these students put such heart, soul, and effort into building their personal paddleboards. Their voices are eloquent and strong in voicing their opinion for an oil-free coast. This award-winning film is a ‘must see’, and is currently being screened across North America.

Throughout the summer, various kids camps have been implementing and incorporating lessons, ideas and learning from The Salmon Bears and The Sea Wolves, books by Ian McAllister and Nicolas Read. It has been a joy to work with children and the instructors in watching remote field camera footage, listening to hydrophones, recreating the GBR in camp forests.  Being involved in youth education and nature outreach programs is a passion of mine. If you, your child’s school, or educational facility would be interested to learn how to incorporate the nature of the Great Bear Rainforest into your classroom, please contact me – colette@pacificwld.org

We would love to see you at upcoming events….

July 31The Fortune Wild premiere at The Imperial (319 Main St. Vancouver). Doors open at 8pm.This event is a fundraiser for Pacific Wild and Haida Gwaii CoAST (Communities Against Super Tankers), featuring live music, an exhibit and silent auction of Ian McAllister’s stunning photography and of course, the first ever public screening of Fortune Wild!

August 23+24 – Join an amazing line-up of musicians, bands, and artists at the first annual Otalith Music Festival in beautiful Ucluelet, B.C. Feauturing Current Swell, The Cave Singers, Jon and Roy, White Buffalo and so much more. Otalith are looking for volunteers!

September – Release of The Great Bear Sea – Exploring the Marine Life of a Pacific Paradise. This new book by Ian McAllister and Nicholas Read explores the intricate relationship between this mysterious underwater ecosystem and the life it supports. Watch an interview with Ian McAllister discussing the book on Global News, July 31, 2013. The book is available to purchase on the website.

September 14 – Salmon Festival – If you find yourself in the Great Bear Rainforest, namely in Bella Bella on this day, join us for this community event – The Wild Gourmet Salmon Cook-Off – Masterchef Style in the great outdoors!

Mark November 21st in your calendars for a Gala night at The Garth Homer Society in Victoria. Featuring a presentation and slideshow by Ian McAllister on underwater photography as well as a gallery opening of themes from the Great Bear Rainforest created by incredibly talented Garth Homer clients.  More details to come on this event.

As you can tell, I love my “Jill-of-all-Trades’ work at Pacific Wild. We are a very close team, and I am motivated by them everyday. Who wouldn’t be? Check out blog posts by staff on their activities in the field. Most recently the sail training internship with SEAS (Supporting Emerging Aboriginal Stewardships) Initiative.

Huge thank you to all the volunteers who help myself, and the Pacific Wild team in making these outreach programs, events and festivals come together. Please contact me at colette@pacificwild.org if you are interested in volunteering, hosting a film event, want to know ways to take action, want to bring the life and nature of the Great Bear Rainforest into your classroom, or just to say hello!

Hope to see you around!

Colette

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Sails, Stewards, and Sunshine

by Diana Chan

Last week Tavish Campbell, Max Bakken, and I were joined by six SEAS (Supporting Emerging Aboriginal Stewards) interns from Bella Bella, Klemtu, and Hartley Bay for our inaugural sail training program.  During our five days aboard SV Habitat, we covered a lot of ground…and ocean.

As we sailed around the rugged outer coast of the Great Bear Rainforest, we combined classroom-style learning with hands-on experience focusing on topics like sail theory, knots, chartwork, anchoring, and tides. Each day we made sure to get ashore to stretch our legs and also do some exploring by foot. We hiked through the forest and found CMTs, tromped along streams and saw the first of the salmon returning, and beach combed until we found coveted glass ball floats. Throw in some aerial photography by kite flying, man overboard rescue drills, and plentiful huckleberry picking and we had ourselves a full week!

The lessons that we taught and the practical skills that the interns learned were only part of the experience.  As we watched them grow more confident on the water, taking on more and more responsibilities in running the vessel, we also watched them teach one another and develop friendships.  Cole and Chantal from Klemtu described their recent experience traveling to Kitamat to probe the Enbridge representative there on the issues.  Linden and Dominic from Hartley Bay and Gene and Greg from Bella Bella exchanged information on the marine acoustics research that they have participated in in their respective communities. The interns shared stories and traditional knowledge of their territories, and an eagerness to learn more.

Someday soon these six young men and women will undoubtedly be leaders in their coastal communities. Perhaps some of them will even work together as they manage their precious resources.  They can look back and remember the first time that they came together, took the helm, and explored the pristine waters of the Great Bear Sea.

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From NYC to the GBR

by Elliot Bok

As the New York City skyline faded in the distance, I closed the airplane window cover over the reddening sunset in favor of a nap on my way to Vancouver. Upon landing, I rode on a couple of increasingly tiny planes, going farther and farther into the Great Bear Rainforest, a wilderness oasis that few people know exist. The plane pulled into the tiny Bella Bella airport, and Diana and Max, two people on the team I would be working with for my time in the Great Bear, greeted me.

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They got me settled in and quickly set me up looking over spectrograms for whale and dolphin sounds. Those hazy, blue graphs along with a range of other tasks became my life here. The work was satisfying, and I enjoyed the frequent spurts of wildlife action – from eagles to orca whales – that come with living here.

The local community was also a source of fascination for me. The small town experience was brand new, and it held much more appeal than I ever would have imagined. Despite the intrigue that I found during my first week of life in the Great Bear Rainforest, however, it was not until our trip to the outer coast that I began to understand the value of my adventure.

A boat ride of a few hours brought Ian McAllister and me to a small island on the edge of the Pacific with only one other sailboat resting in one of the beautiful lagoons. We dropped anchor and prepared for our mission the next day when the rest of the crew would join us to plant a hydrophone deep in the water and build infrastructure for wind mills, solar panels and a host of other equipment.

Later that day, I had the opportunity to take a canoe around the many beaches that glittered in the afternoon sunshine. The water was remarkably clear, and the pristine beauty of my surroundings truly struck me. I have always given the required “wow” at a beautiful sunset, but this island was the first time that I ever felt truly taken aback by scenery. I landed on the beach and walked through some woods to the other side. I reached a beach and, dipping my feet in the water, brushed a couple tiny pebbles off a big rock so that I might sit. It took a few minutes before I realized that these were not pebbles, but baby snails.

Suddenly, my surroundings seemed to come to life; fish swam through the water around my feet, and I finally noticed the crabs that I’m sure had always been running about the beach. Eventually, it became time for me to return to the boat, and, following my footprints back to the area in the woods I had come through, I realized that I had stepped over almost a dozen clear trails of wolf tracks. I returned to my canoe, and, after venturing among the tall reeds for another half hour, I made my way back to Ian. Those few hours gave me a new perspective to all of our work. My life trajectory may not have changed all that much because of this afternoon, but I am sure that on the plane ride home I will not close my window to the sunset.

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Setting Up the Herring Cam

By Claire Hume, Pacific Wild Intern

Photo by Max Bakken

Photo by Max Bakken

En route to set up the remote camera for the herring spawn, I quickly forgot about my cold fingers and toes when Max spotted a dolphin porpoising nearby. I struggled to count the fins as they briefly broke the surface. “Seven!” I shouted, there were at least seven. Starting my count again I adjusted that estimate to twenty-five. Then fifty. And, upon realizing the pod of dolphins had us surrounded, my excitement reached an all time manic high and I abandoned the count altogether. Max, who had remained calm and collected, later informed me there were at least a hundred and fifty white-sided dolphins in the group, probably more.

As the dolphins cut gracefully through our waves, there was one who was much smaller than all the rest, who flung himself clear out of the water in a spectacular jump. I could practically hear him saying “weeeeeeeee!” as he flew through the air. Eventually the dolphins headed on their way, off to search for herring I suppose, and we carried on ours – off to install a camera that would monitor the behaviour of animals feeding on the herring spawn.

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Photo by Max Bakken

After scouting for the perfect camera spot on various beaches and points, we found one that we thought might work. The criteria, though simple, were proving quite difficult to fulfill. The camera needed to be mounted in a stable location, such as up a tree, that gave an unobstructed view of the beach and intertidal zone while receiving transmission signal that would allow us to send the video back to Pacific Wild headquarters via our mountaintop relay site. Max clambered up countless trees, reporting spectacular views from each, but none of them were receiving strong enough signals from our radio tower to justify its use.

Eventually we found a spot that seemed to work and Max and Diana unloaded the boat – a feat in itself as we were anchored on a patch of steep and seaweed-covered rocks. The rest of the afternoon was spent installing the camera and wiring it to send its footage in the right direction. We’re hoping the camera will allow us to watch wolves, bears, whales, and birds as they feast on herring and their eggs. We are streaming this footage live into the local school to help give youth a view into their surrounding environment. If all goes well, everyone will be able to watch the herring spawn excitement from miles away! For now, it’s a waiting game to see if the herring will decide to spawn in this location – which was teeming with life last year – again this season.

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IMPACT

This is an excerpt from friends of Pacific Wild, Mike Reid and Sarah Stoner’s blog. To view the full blog, and read a letter a day to Mr. Harper, visit http://www.dearmrharper.com

Saturday, July 7th

Dear Mr. Harper,

So you’re probably used to people talking about the devastating impacts that an oil spill will have on the coast. What it will do to the intertidal zone, the estuaries, and the mosaic of life that depend on these systems.

People talk about impacts that an oil spill will have on the salmon, and the whales and communities that depend on these species for sustenance and culture.

Experts and the media talk about environmental harms associated with an oil spill and then scale up those impacts to individuals, harvesters and communities.

These are all very real impacts, Mr. Harper, and things you need to consider.

However, Mr. Harper, what about the impacts associated with the Joint Review Panel environmental assessment?

So many people deal with the impacts associated with an incident, the incident being an oil spill. However, I challenge you to shift your thinking on this Mr. Harper. Let’s look at the project being announced as the incident. Let’s look at the effects associated with the tripe bureaucratic dribble that spews from your office and peppers headlines across Canada.

Your words and your actions have impacted people on this coast more than you know Mr. Harper. I challenge you to imagine the stress associated with someone trying push a project through your backyard. A project that will strip you (and your kin) of everything you have been taught to be, and believe.

Your project is already impacting people up and down this coast. People who feel as though their voices don’t matter.

Show them that their voice matters. Show them that you’re listening. Show them that you give a shit.

For the coast,

Sarah and Mike

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