Posts Tagged expedition
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.
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.
Spring in the Rainforest – By April Bencze
It is difficult to understand a place you have never been before. Pacific Wild introduced me to the ecosystems thriving in the Great Bear Rainforest on British Columbia’s wild coast long before I came here. They have unveiled the behaviours and interactions of wildlife using non-invasive, high-quality camera systems streaming live from remote locations, bringing you a piece of the Rainforest, wherever you may be in the world. Before I ever set foot here, Pacific Wild brought me face to face with wolves, bears and marine life with still images that captivated, inspired and introduced me to the many faces of this place.
I first met the wolves of this coast through Ian McAllister’s photography and conservation efforts. Then I met the bears, followed by the inhabitants of the underwater world. Ian’s images and those from the remote cameras brought me into the heart of a place I had never been, uncovering the lives of creatures I would not have known existed, like the spirit bear. I felt connected and driven to protect the Great Bear Rainforest, and all those who call it home. As a diver and wildlife photographer, I knew my future would be tied to British Columbia’s central coast, due to the strength with which it affected me. So here I am, at Pacific Wild headquarters operating the remote cameras from the Float Lab.
I was born and raised in Campbell River, on the east coast of Vancouver Island in Southern British Columbia. I spent a year scuba diving in Australia and Indonesia, before returning to my home waters to dive my days away. Photography slipped itself into my life through an urge to share the underwater world with the people around me. It quickly became much more and I find myself in the pursuit of a life dedicated to conservation of the natural world through photography. There is a responsibility to the subject after the shutter is pressed and an image is created. It is an obligation to share their story, and unfortunately many of the lives I am photographing are threatened.
This is what brings me to the Great Bear Rainforest, to do what I can to help protect the wildlife from the many threats they are facing. Pacific Wild has been an inspiration and I am thrilled to be volunteering my time to aid in their conservation efforts. Three weeks ago, I loaded up my touring bicycle with my camping equipment, camera gear and a cooler of food. Six days of riding from Campbell River brought me to Port Hardy, where I jumped on a short flight to Bella Bella.
I am blown away by the diverse habitats and life seen in my short time exploring this coast. I have traveled to many corners of the world, yet nothing can compare to the natural beauty I have witnessed in my time here. After the past few weeks of listening to whale song on the hydrophones and observing the wildlife in the Great Bear Rainforest, I am beginning to understand just how devastating supertankers in these waters would be. It would be destructive for the people, the land, the wild and marine life of the most untouched place I have ever seen. I’m incredibly thankful to the First Nations people and conservation groups who are working, and will continue to work, tirelessly to stand up for our coast.
Yesterday, Ian and I left Pacific Wild headquarters to do some camera maintenance. We headed out by boat during calm seas. As we passed numerous small, rocky islands, it was apparent that it was June in the Great Bear Rainforest. Harbour seals with newborn pups dotted the shorelines, sea otters bobbed in the kelp, and Oystercatchers trilled from their nests. New life was buzzing all around us as we cleaned the camera housings and completed some electrical maintenance.
The remote camera systems are proving to be a powerful tool in telling the story of this coast. Right now, one of the cameras is trained on a Steller sea lion rookery on the outer coast. It is capturing the birthing and nursing of this year’s pups on the live feed and distributing it to the world. I am in awe recording the intimate daily behaviors of the sea lions, in a way I have never been able to when out photographing them in the field. Please watch a compilation of sea lion and bird footage I pieced together in the weeks I have been here. The stories of the numerous species of wildlife continue to unfold before my eyes with these cameras. I hope you are watching the live cameras and meeting the local wildlife who call this coast home as well!
Help support our Digital Technitian Geoff Campbell and his friend Mikhayla’s “Ride for the Wild” Indiegogo campaign. Geoff and Mikhayla are undertaking a A2,500km bike expedition down the Pacific Coast to raise money to fight pipeline development & increased tanker traffic in British Columbia.
By Claire Hume, Pacific Wild Intern
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.
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.
Congratulations to the wonderful Kim Slater who ran then length of the pipeline and visited communities across Northern BC to discuss our energy future. A marathon a day for 47 days is an incredible achievement! Thank you Kim for your dedication, support and enthusiasm! Read more from Kim below.
Kim Slater is almost at the halfway point of her 1170 km journey across BC that began at the BC Alberta border on July 8, 2012. Along the way, she has been connecting with individuals and communities about clean energy and alternatives to the Northern Gateway pipeline, with 2 notable gatherings in Williams Lake and Prince George.
Some of the ideas for a clean energy future that have emerged from these gatherings include: investing in renewables like solar, wind, geothermal, algae, tidal and micro-hydro; building community capacity for food and energy production; natural and green building, investing in bike and electric car infrastructure; and using energy more responsibly.” According to dialogue participants some of the barriers to making the transition to a clean energy future include a lack of political will, corporate power, an individualistic society and a lack of financial support from government and banking institutions.
“The dialogue participants have expressed a common interest in building resilient communities and finding creative ways of investing in local self-sustaining economies, food systems and renewable energy as well as reducing needless waste and over consumption;” observed Kim. “The sessions have been really optimistic.” Organizations such as Transition Town, which has a chapter in Williams Lake, offer many great examples for growing localism and self-sufficient communities; excellent alternatives to increasing our dependency on fossil fuels and growing the oil and gas industry that relies heavily on government subsidies, foreign ownership and fluctuating commodity prices.
Several more gatherings are planned, with details of the next two as follows: • Smithers: August 7, 7 pm (Old Church Venue) • Hazelton: August 9, 7 pm (Storytellers Venue)
On July 8, Kim Slater began her journey across the province to engage Northern communities in dialogue on renewable energy and alternatives to expanding the tar sands. She is sharing these informal conversations on the campaign website and blog, You Tube, Facebook and Twitter accounts.
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.
There seem to be more and more of you everywhere I turn–people taking action to protect future generations and all that is sacred- our health & well being, communities & democracy, and our life-sustaining Earth. In a time of much uncertainty and in some ways darkness, this surge of positive intention and enlightened action is truly heartening. I am inspired and so grateful for your words, images and actions.
I’d like to share some news and also provide a quick update regarding Band Together BC and my run to further dialogue on renewable energy options and tar sands alternatives.
First the news…On Sunday I ran my first marathon and discovered that it’s possible to run 42.2 km and still walk afterwards (well, hobble). I finished in good time, a little soggy and blistery, but otherwise in good shape. Just 28 more to go…
Thanks to many generous donations, Band Together has reached $10, 514, which means just $4,486 is needed to reach the fundraising goal of $15,000. There’s just 6 days left to get there and every little bit helps, so if you haven’t made a donation and you’d like to, please head on over to the super convenient fundraising platform, Indiegogo.
The funds are needed to cover the bare essentials of my run (e.g. support vehicle, waste veggie conversion, food); my team and I are volunteering our time. AND the funds will be re-donated at the end of the campaign when the vehicle is sold. Spreading the word is just as important, so feel free to share the link in social media land.
Schedule and Gatherings
I leave July 8th and the schedule is still a work in progress. I am still seeking on the ground support in terms of arranging dialogue sessions. If you are interested in hosting one (which you can do even if I’m not running through your community) give me a shout and we’ll sort something out! Media coverage is also important to share the ideas that come out of these sessions with the world, so please let me know if you have connections in that way.
Great partnerships are developing.
On my journey, I will be sharing Tides Canada excellent report called: A New Energy Vision for Canada. Tides is seeking endorsement for a national energy strategy in their Statement of Support. Find out more here: http://tidescanada.org/energy/newenergy/
Thank you for your support!
Please continue to share your ideas and suggestions towards the creation of a national energy strategy that considers tar sands alternatives.