Gwaii Haanas – Expedition Log: Day 9

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 9: July 11

We’re up early to reposition the Passing Cloud to Section Cove between Huxley and Burnaby Islands, where Peter the floatplane pilot will be picking us up this morning. We savor every last bite of our final breakfast onboard, to prolong the inevitable departure. There is a silence in the air as the reality of having to leave this place starts to set in.

I think back to what seems like years ago that we had our visit with Sean in the museum. Many pieces of the bigger picture have now fallen into context, connecting stitches in this cultural landscape that surrounds us. These are not just artifacts on a shelf but pieces of this living story of a resilient nation still thriving today.

We immortalize ourselves in the guestbook to leave a little piece of us behind with the ship. Our floatplane arrives with a mix of excitement for the flight and sadness for our departure. We say our farewells and “see-you-soons”, hoping that our paths will cross again.

We board the zodiac and Russ zips us over to meet the floatplane that has landed a hundred meters away. Moments later the plane is off and flying above this magical place we’ve been weaving in and out of for the past 8 days. We see rigid west coast cliffs, and inland lakes, and river systems flowing in and out like veins to the body of this land.

Colour variance demarcates the depth of water, which drops off dramatically at the edge of the continental shelf – that 1200-meter depth line that we sailed only a few days ago, where we saw humpback whales, bird bait balls, and even a salmon shark. On the east side, we can see where the relatively shallow Hecate Strait was once a grassy plain, and it all starts to make a little more sense.

Peter regales us with his own stories and facts and points out some historical places that are inaccessible by boat.

Landing back in Daajing Giids (Queen Charlotte), our shoulders are lighter, our smiles are brighter, and things remain calm and slow.  It’s like we hold this secret that only each one of us knows about.  We may each have interpreted our time here differently, but all of us share that same secret of our wonderful time onboard the Passing Cloud.

Our time spent here has changed us and we will each bring a part of it home with us, knowingly or not. Still processing all of the things we saw and learned throughout the week, I know it will take time to digest and little pieces will slowly emerge over time, seeping into future considerations – I can only hope. We cannot un-know these facts nor can we un-see these places, they will be forever imprinted in memory and will affect the decisions we make in each of our lives.

I am reminded of Russ’ message from our day at SGang Gwaay, to tread lightly, and to let the places you explore to  change you, not the other way around.