Aug 25 2012 — Across Fitz Hugh Sound to Hecate Island

The weather was beautiful in the morning — sunny and calm with only a few fog banks down south. I had really wanted to cross over to Hakai and head up that way; the route up Fitz Hugh past Namu didn’t look as interesting. Luckily, the weather made the decision for me.

The dogs had been with me all night, except for the times when they went nuts and ran off into the bushes. For some reason I got used to them barking and slept through most of it; probably because they were doing it to protect me. I offered them some peanut butter covered mango for breakfast but only the older guy accepted it.

I avoided the keeper since I don’t think he even wanted me to say goodbye. The younger of the dogs sat at the top of the road watching me pack up while the older one was zonked out. I sadly waved goodbye and set off, once again, into the unknown.

I had 9 km to cross since Koeye is located at about the widest part of Fitz Hugh Sound. There were a few boats around so I’d be OK. A couple hours should be more than enough time to cross before the afternoon winds picked up. Or so I thought…

A phalarope of some sort. I passed lots of seabirds; you notice a lot more life out on the water when it’s calm. I came upon one little guy sleeping while floating. He had tucked his beak into his feathers and was snoozing away. Just as I got my camera out he woke up and took off. This one above was less wary of me, having seen me coming.

Interesting cloud patterns on the water that day.

The water changed from deep clear blue to more like green pea soup as I passed through algae blooms. Believe it or not, but this is the stuff that powers our economies. Oil comes from plankton that settled out onto the floor of ancient seas hundreds of millions of years ago. Remember that when some economist or oil industry apologist tries to convince you that we should accept environmental degradation for the greater purpose of powering economic growth based on fossil fuel extraction. Anyone who tells you that ecology is subservient to economics is either lying or totally delusional. They’ve got it completely backwards. And when you see images of the industrial landscapes across Alberta with all the upgraders and refineries processing the oil sands, and you’re told that, “it’s the price of progress”, No! Don’t believe it! Progress does not come from burning up irreplaceable energy reserves at a rate 200,000 times greater than deposition rates! Remember that no matter how hard they try to hype that technology up, those industries aren’t “producing” petroleum, or anything else for that matter; all they’re doing is harvesting and burning that green stuff you see in the above photo. Without this oceanic equivalent of … pond scum, the Alberta oil companies are nothing! The Alberta economy is quite literally subservient to pond scum (not that there’s anything wrong with pond scum). We are still completely dependent on ecology for our survival.

As I neared to within a couple kilometers of the opposite shore (Nalau Island) I heard a humpback somewhere in the vicinity of Hakai Channel. I made my way over. And it seems the humpbacks made their way over to me…

It was a pod of about five or so and they got pretty close to me, within a whale’s length. For about half an hour I hung around with them as they ambled about in the channel. I was a little worried when they got too close but everything was fine. I didn’t take photos since the light wasn’t the greatest and I had photos from the previous day, plus they weren’t feeding. I pulled out my video camera and unfortunately I zoomed in for most of the footage which was a bad idea since it got so shaky. But I got a few half decent segments.

Then they moved away up north.

They started feeding as a group…

It was hard to get any decent shots with them a few kilometers away now but they still certainly made their presence known. I’d be paddling along and then I’d hear a huge crash, like blasting going off. I’d look back to see five humpbacks slamming into the water and making a commotion. But by the time I got my camera ready it was always too late. The noise echoed all around the Sound. Everyone could hear it.

Then one of them let out a grunt. Holy cow, I’ve read that you can hear a humpback underwater half way around the world and I can believe it. He was a couple kilometers away but it sounded like he was right beside me. I nearly jumped out of the boat. Interestingly, it is thought that noise pollution in the oceans may be interfering with blue whales‘ ability to find each other over long distances and hampering their recovery.

BC had a whaling station up until 1968, located near Port Hardy. They cleaned out most of the humpbacks from BC but thankfully they are now returning.

The luxury yacht that was enjoying the show along with me.

I wanted to go check out the Hakai Beach Institute down on Calvert Island, so I crossed over Hakai Channel. I was in the influence of the open ocean now and there were big swells with huge wavelengths. They were crashing hard on the rocks but I was able to get in really close safely. I took some interesting video showing the size of the waves.

After taking lunch in a semi-protected kelp bed I continued south down the channel. This is Hecate Island in all its glory.

My shoulder was getting really sore so I was taking it easy. I slowly followed the shoreline down, keeping an eye out for campsites. There didn’t seem to be a whole lot of opportunities.

I looked on my GPS and thought there might be a good spot around the next corner. But when I rounded it I was presented with a busy fishing lodge. Oh well, I continued on a tiny bit further and found a nice bay with a great little cobble beach.

I had been thinking about how I could carry more water with me, as I would be going through Hakai which consists of many little islands without much water available. After the scary situation in the Broughtons two years ago I wanted to make sure I had spare capacity. Well, like magic, I found this brand new, never-opened water bottle on the beach… among the only garbage to be found. It probably fell off a fishing boat at the lodge. It wasn’t very big, but an odd occurrence. Kind of weird, and this happened back at Shelter Bay too. When I wished for a jug of fresh water, it just washed up on the beach the next morning!

A pair of noisy sandhill cranes flew overhead in the direction you’re looking. And I caught glimpses of some sort of little weasel racing along the edge of the vegetation. I pondered that even though when I arrive at new places I can get a bit lonely before I get to know them, and that no matter how sterilized and impersonal a map may make a place seem, it is inevitably someone’s or some animal’s home. Every place is unique and special. Was this my home too?

I took advantage of the evening sun and managed to dry out most of my gear. It’s amazing how two hours of sunshine can make such a difference.

This is a good camping spot as the tide didn’t flood the whole beach, leaving enough space for my tent. In a storm surge it might flood though. And there is a creek nearby.

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