I love the vibrant First Nations culture in British Columbia and right here at home.
“For thousands of years indigenous people occupied the shoreline of eastern Vancouver Island in a place referred to as, “the land of plenty”. This Land of Plenty stretched from what is known today as Kelsey Bay south to Hornby and Denman Island and included the watershed and estuary of the Puntledge River. The people called K’ómoks today referred to themselves as Sathloot, Sasitla, Ieeksun, Puntledge, Cha’chae, and Tat’poos. They occupied sites in Kelsey Bay, Quinsum, Campbell River, Quadra Island, Kye Bay, and along the Puntledge estuary. As a cultural collective they called themselves, “Sathloot”, according to the late Mary Clifton.
Oral history and archaeology describe a rich and bountiful relationship between the K’ómoks and Land of Plenty. Salmon, seal, octopus, herring, cod, deer, ducks, shellfish and a plethora of berries filled the tummies of the young and old alike. The technologies that were applied in harvest, preparation and cultivation of local resources were appropriate to the environment, resource and spiritual beliefs. Fish weirs, duck nets, berry picking techniques and clothing design met the needs of the K’ómoks and for generations provided variety, utility and sense of cultural uniqueness. Mask dances and rhythmic songs filled the winter nights and season. Property was distributed to guests in potlatches and elaborate naming ceremonies honoured the youth, leaders and elders of the communities.”
What an honor. I’ve been asked / hired to photograph the Pacific Paddling Symposium in Victoria, BC – May 29th – 31st, 2020! Arguably this is one of the biggest paddling events in North America!
My 2020 calendar, featuring Orca, Humpback and Pacific White Sided Dolphin is available now and you can order it here.
I am proud to be supporting Pacific Wild again this year with 100% of proceeds from calendar sales going towards supporting the important work this organization is doing. A big thank you to Colette Henghan and the team at Pacific Wild for our continued collaboration.
On September 24th, close to Lewis Channel, northeast of Campbell River I experienced something incredible, something unforgettable and something that I simply can’t put words to. The experience will resonate with me for the rest of my life. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was standing near the bow of the boat, with guide Nick Templeman from Campbell River Whale & Bear Excursions and his trusted companion, Yukon – #chiefwhalespotter.
The T090’s and T002C’s all surfaced directly in front of us and they stayed there watching. This biological phenomenon is known as “logging.” They stayed in position for what felt like an eternity but surely it lasted for at least 2 minutes. Time just seemed to stop. T002C1, the big male, commonly referred to as Rocky then swam directly in front of me with the rest of the pod in tow.
Afterwards, Nick explained to me that in all of his time on the water guiding, more than 25 years that he has never seen or heard of anything like this before.
Watch videos here:https://mryerblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/1.mov
Orca have no natural predators. They’ll hunt Great White Sharks and are capable of systematically taking down a Blue Whale, the largest animal that has ever lived on our planet! A lone Sea Lion is certainly no match!
I observed this first hand in a once in a lifetime experience on September 24th, close to Lewis Channel, northeast of Campbell River. Calls came in over the VHF radio to our guide, Nick Templeman from Campbell River Whale & Bear Excursions regarding a “Sea Lion kill.”
Upon arrival, it was obvious that the Sea Lion was incapacitated but still alive and it remained alive for hours and was still alive when we had to leave. The natural forces of nature were in full effect. Were the Orca teaching calves how to hunt? Was the animal diseased and of no edible interest? We’ll never know.
The pictures certainly justify the title of this post! I continue to be amazed at the powerful but yet graceful acrobatic abilities of the Pacific White Sided Dolphin. A true joy and spectacle to see and photograph.
During this particular encounter, a school of about 50 seemed at first to be rather lethargic. But we waited and that changed!
My friend, Steve Best and two of his friends explored Gwaii Haanas by kayak between June 25th and July 5th, 2019. Check out Steve’s video here.
It’s been a few weeks now since I’ve returned from exploring Kyuquot Sound, Bunsby Islands, Cuttle Islands, Acous Peninsula and South Brooks Peninsula. What an amazing place!
I wasn’t sure how to collect my thoughts and my experience but a few things stand out to me now.
There seemed to be a vast sense of emptiness, it was so quiet and calm. I know this is typical in a very remote wilderness environment but this was different. It was as if no one had ever been there before, like it wasn’t even real and truly didn’t even exist. I’m not sure what it means, or why I think this, maybe it doesn’t mean anything at all and this is just my own sense of contemplation. Maybe I need it to be this way. As I think back, it seems like it was a transition to a clean slate, removal of clutter, a new beginning of sorts.
There’s powerful and mysterious forces at work, especially on the Brooks, things we will never understand. Whatever the reasoning, I’m grateful for places like this that actually do exist and that can cleanse the mind and soul.
The Cuttle Islands are strategically located about half way between the Bunsby Islands and South Brooks Peninsula. Typically this is a relatively calm area, ideal for paddlers to seek refuge between crossings. Please note that this area is within an ecological reserve. More information can be found here. The various requirements for ecological reserves seem to be informally relaxed creating a conundrum for people visiting the area. Permission is required though by local First Nations to visit and valuable information is available about culturally sensitive areas by locals in the village of Kyuquot. I have even heard snippets after I visited about how some do not want people to land in this area. This needs further verification and if so, should be respected.
The area is truly stunning and one of the most inspiring areas I have ever encountered. Ask for permission before visiting, tread lightly and if granted permission, keep your stay short in duration.
On the morning of September 2nd, our paddling group set out for the Southside of Brooks Peninsula from North Cuttle Island. There was 5 of us, including me. The conditions in Checleset Bay were incredibly calm and we made quick work of it but also took our time to enjoy the serene surroundings. Upon arriving at Paradise beach, a camp belonging to other paddlers was noticed. None of us wanted neighbours. Our group huddled out on the water and the consensus was to instead camp on a nearby pocket beach, just Southeast of Surfers beach. Having previously camped on Paradise beach, I was excited about the idea of a new location.
Mistake #1 – Do not decide to land in proximity to a place called Surfers beach.
I was slightly ahead of our group. Considering that the decision was made, I saw no real reason why I shouldn’t just land. The crashing surf on the beach appeared reasonable. I braced and rode a wave going in, executing the maneuver perfectly and felt rather proud of myself for doing so. The crashing surf did seem a little bit more noteworthy once I stood on the beach and pulled my kayak up on the dry sand. But, I did it so I figured the others could too.
Mistake #2 – Failing to reassess and gain group consensus before proceeding.
The fact of the matter was, the other four paddlers did not feel it would be a good place to land and certainly not a good place to launch from. They beckoned for me to come back out on the water and regroup. So, with 4 others watching, feeling a bit rushed and disappointed with myself for making mistake #2 it was nonetheless my chance to show my stuff and get off the beach. I thought this would be relatively simple and given my success with the landing, perhaps I was a little bit overconfident.
Mistake #3 – Failing to take the time to assess conditions properly.
I placed my kayak on the waters edge, a little bit too far in and too close to the breaking water in attempt to position it so that I could get in and paddle away. Along came a big crashing wave on the steep beach pushing my kayak sideways and filling it with ocean water. So much for that!
Mistake #4 – Improper positioning of kayak.
I was sure all of this was great entertainment for my fellow paddlers and I knew this was going to require a bit more mental effort. So, I licked my wounds and got to work. Instead of using my bailer, I sat on top of my boat and used my water bottle to slowly empty my cockpit 750ml at a time. I used this opportunity to study the breaking water on the beach and develop a strategy in my mind.
Once I felt enough water was out of my cockpit, I repositioned the kayak a couple more times until I gained enough floatation to paddle out, not wasting any time to get ahead of the shallow crashing surf. We used the bailer to get the rest of the water out of my cockpit and proceeded back over to Paradise beach and called it a day. Having neighbours on a camping beach I decided wasn’t such a bad thing after all. Many thanks to both Steve Best and Dan Douglas for their support during this ordeal.
(Photo by Jen Douglas)