Gwaii Haanas – Expedition Log: Day 3, Part 2

A 9-day expedition log through Haida Gwaii’s Islands of Beauty

Gwaii Haanas July 3-11, 2018
Crew: Captain Russell Markel, Deckhand Oriana Smy, Expedition Chef Erin Vickers, and Onboard Specialist:Graham “Jaahljuu” Richard

Disclaimer: Each day aboard the Passing Cloud is very full: full bellies, smiles, heads/hearts, and memory cards. An indeterminate amount of time and space is required to digest each and every moment, some which may present themselves as memories in later times. Please read with caution. Nostalgia and wanderlust may ensue.

Day 3: July 5 – Part 2

With such full days of exploration, it’s important to recharge your batteries – cameras too! After lunch onboard the Passing Cloud we go ashore to Hlk’yah GawGa (Windy Bay) by zodiac up the river with the rising tide. At high tide, it’s hard to imagine a winding river channel feeding into the bay now that the intertidal landscape is underwater. At this time of year, we’re seeing a variance of tides with a difference of high-highs and low-lows around 18 feet. At the most extreme tides – such as both the spring and winter solstice – we can experience a water level change of 24 feet. This dramatic change can create a very different shoreline twice daily, uncovering an underwater world for our curious minds to explore.

We go ashore and visit the 42-foot-tall Legacy Pole, raised in 2013 in commemoration of the 20-year anniversary of Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve. We’re greeted by Watchmen, Ken Hans, who provides us with a wonderful introduction by elucidating the way of Haida storytelling. You can learn through storytelling, and the Haida way of learning is to repeat the story passed down to you from your elders. For Ken and many other young Haida, to learn these stories you must repeat them over and over until it’s repeated exactly right, without exaggeration or extrapolation. It must be engrained and recited perfectly or else the story cannot live on.

Ken takes us to the watchmen cabin to share his recent sketches and other larger art pieces. Most of which are in the traditional Haida red and black, the same colours his distant ancestors would have used, although the technology has come a long way since charcoal, berries, ochre, and bark were used to depict such colours. Another Watchmen, Tyler, is posted up on the deck carving a commissioned piece.  What an incredible place for artists to be immersed in their culture and their craft. Traits that often resonate with the Haida are patience and dedication; dedication to their craft, be that carving, painting, sketching or otherwise, and the patience to know that the skill takes time. Just like storytelling, it has to tell the correct tale. As we exit the cabin, 3 particularly large ravens squabble overhead, telling a story of their own.

We board the zodiac again to ford the river by a pulley rope system over to an ancient forest – one that was fought very hard to protect, over 25 years ago. This place marks the Anthlii Gwaii protests, ultimately forming Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve, National Marine Conservation Reserve, and Haida Heritage Site. We pay our respects and gave thanks to the people who stood strong and tall just like this giant 1,000-year-old Sitka spruce.

Back aboard the Passing Cloud we make our way to Murchison Inlet for a beautiful sunset. Chef Erin has prepared dinner with a culinary story of the kelp forest: Miso soup with seaweeds nereocystis and macrocystis, harvested earlier in the season, followed by lingcod, and a sea anemone-inspired dessert. An incredible first full day onboard from sun-up to sundown, with so much that lies ahead for us to see and discover.