MAPLE LEAF ADVENTURE

on their beautiful schooner sailing vessel The Maple Leaf, truly a gem among sail boats [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maple_Leaf_%28schooner%29 ].
In a south direction through the Johnston Strait. The entire north eastern area with its many little islands is within the Broughton Archipelago [ http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/broughton/ ], a rich fishing marine park visited by many large whales, such as the Humpback Whale, and the Orca (or Killer whale), as well as dolphins, sea lions, and of course there are also the bears, waiting for the salmon runs. And many species of sea birds, mostly Bonaparte Gulls .  (Broughton Archipelago Park, B.C.’s largest marine park, consists of a collection of dozens of undeveloped islands and islets situated at the mouth of Knight Inlet on the west side of Queen Charlotte Strait near the north end of Vancouver Island).

October is usually the time of year when it does get cooler and there is more rain, especially up north on Vancouver Island [ http://www.hellobc.com/vancouver-island/popular-areas/north-island.aspx ]. Our adventure cruise started at Port McNeill, a small northern fishing community on Vancouver Island’s north eastern shore, Queen Charlotte Strait. [ http://portmcneillbc.com/ ] . Two ways to get there without driving: using the Greyhound Bus Service from Victoria, which makes multiple stop on the way and may take up to 12 hours to Port McNeill. Flying up there is the answer. Couple of hours (for me Victoria to Vancouver, Vancouver to Port Hardy). I was lucky meeting a lady whose sister lives in Port McNeill, offering me a ride to there.  October 11th, 2 PM embarking from the Port McNeill Marina. Most of the time around that time of year lots of rain. Teaches me to bring 100% water proof clothing next time. October 12 our Marine Biologist Jackie Hildering [ http://themarinedetective.com/ ] joined us on board (from Telegraph Cove) enlightening us with many educational presentations, mainly around the impressive comeback of the Humpback Whale, and the importance of respecting all species in this precious marine environment. Large boats and small kayaks are not conducive to offering the respect that these animals deserve.
Telegraph Cove has an impressive little museum with large exhibits of skeletons of sea mammals and one huge skeleton of a fin whale, the second-largest species of whale, with a maximum length of about 75 feet. All these are baleen whales who collect food – for the most part tiny krill and fish – through their huge baleen plates inside their mouths, hard plastic instead of teeth, through which food is filtered. Whereas toothed whales use their teeth for feeding, this would include the killer whale (orca), also the dolphin, among the 65 species of toothed whales.

This tour has been very educational, but also with commercial undertones. In fact the entire commercial side of what is known as adventure cruises, whale watching tours in boats, kayaks or specially outfitted zodiacs is overrated, often destructive to the precious marine life. The Pacific Whale Watch Association specifies a required distance of 100 yards (not closer, standing still) near an animal – this is too close. [ http://pacificwhalewatchassociation.org/guidelines ]; US is 200 yards.
What is 200 or 100 yards in the presence of humans, noise, taking photos, disturbing mothers and baby animals likewise. There is too much pressure on those whales. Yet, it seems that the Humpback has made an encouraging comeback.

Altogether there were six days, five nights of sailing south from our starting point. Sailing south along the Johnston Strait, more rain, more wind, gale winds even. Around many small islands, making stops on some with our zodiacs. Fantastic large number of dolphins that followed out sail boat for hours. Several Orca in the distance, and the usual sea lion colonies on the rocks. Interesting outings onto surrounding islands to observe the salmon runs. There are many species of salmon. Also, disturbing sightings of many commercial fish farms, managed by Norwegians, and the pollution to our wild salmon populations as a result. No bears. (NOTE. Viewing bears better further up north.)
Disembarking at the Cameron Island Marina, Nanaimo, Eastern Vancouver Island. From there I took the Greyhound Bus back to Victoria.
Interesting eye opener this entire adventure in terms of what I learned about animals and people. My primary objective has been to learn more of the marine wild life and – if lucky enough – to actually get a glimpse. Couple of video’s follow.

 

 

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