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A few days returning Eric to Canada


Eric (of Japan fame) has finally returned to Canada, and to say thanks, I figured I should remind him what it's like to live in Canada.  I've been to the Port McNeill area once before for a kayaking trip, and I knew it was an area rich in things to do.

Boat At Landing
A friend of mine once did a Grizzly Bear/Whale watching trip up here and she recommended Tide Rip Grizzly Tours for a day trip.  I called them two weeks before I wanted to go to find out they were completely booked up (and hand been for months, and their waiting list had overflowed).  With a lot of luck, I was able to find some free last minute head count (the trip is actually Parks limited by the number of people they can bring to the viewing stands, not the size of the boat) and get Eric and I booked on.  While motoring out to Glendale Estuary (much of the way up Knight Inlet) the naturalist on board commented that we were the first people from Vancouver he had ever had on the boat.  It just made me laugh.


Baby And Mom Walking Toward Log
When we arrived at an old pier (now just eroding pilings), we got out and loading into a van and drove up to the viewing platforms.   Out of the van and up a flight of stair, we were now a story up on a deck with 360 view of the river and the bears below.  As far as we could tell, the bears weren't aware (or just didn't care) that we were there.

Right off the bat, we saw a mother and her cub.  They walked quite closely by and I shot as fast as I could get myself organized.  Little did I know, for the two hours we were there, it would be the only time we saw a cub.


Mom And Baby Walking Up LogMom And Cub Walking Down LogBaby Bear Behind Mom

After the Mother Cub, experience, we watched bears come, bears leave and a lot of fishing.  We probably saw a dozen different individuals in the two hours we were there and the naturalist knew most of them by name.  I was surprised to see the different techniques used for fishing - each bear demonstrated a different style.  So I present:

 
Fishing - a how to guide for bears.

 
First - find a river full of fish.  Find a place where the fish hang out in large numbers.  If there aren't enough fish directly in front of you, use your friends to coral the fish into a smaller area.  Now begin fishing!

  The Reason The Bears Are HereTwo Bears Walking In Shallows

Go for a swim
One bear seemed to be quite adept at swimming, sticking his head under and pulling up a fish.  He was swimming in open water and the first weren't trapped (you could often see a large ring of fish a "safe" distance from him, but he was successful.

Bear SwimmingFish In Mouth

The flop:
If swimming isn't your style, perhaps the flop is better.  Stand in the river and wait for a fish to swim by in from of you.  When a fish is pretty much in front of you, drop down.  Hopefully the fish is now in your mouth.

Picasso FishingPicasso Plunges

Borrow someone else's fish:
Failing the above two options, perhaps you can borrow a fish!  Some of the bears had a decided size advantage of the others and they did sometimes just take the fish from the bears that were catching them.

Bears In Disagreement

Now that you have a fish in your mouth, you have to kill it and eat it.  Bears did (occasionally) loose a fish, but most of them were pretty good.  My favorite technique was a larger bear that would trap the fish against a convenient log using his paw, grab another part with his teeth and pull.  Nearly instant skinned fish.

Pulling Apart Salmon

Three Bears On ALog
While we were in the stands we saw perhaps a dozen bears, but most of the time was dominated by three brothers that fished and hung out together.  Our two hour slot on the viewing stands seemed long enough - more time would have yielded different situations, but we saw nice cross section of behavior.  Four rolls of film later (I brought 20) we had to pack up and return to the van.  For a repeatable wildlife experience, I was very impressed.
Bear Coming Up Hill

Day 2 - Exploring Alert Bay
Eric has an aunt and uncle that live in Alert Bay.  I've visited Alert Bay on a previous Kayaking trip and I new it was worth a day to go poke around.  When we got off the ferry we dropped into the Tourism information office and found out that there was a small cruise ship in town and that the long house was putting on an hour long dance for cruise ship members and anyone else with cash in hand - starting at 11am.   We had a bit of time to use up so we went to visit
'Namgis Burial Grounds.

Base Of Another Totem PoleBase Of Totem Pole
I've been to the
'Namgis Burial Grounds
before and wrote up description of the poles that I won't repeat.  After a few minutes of shooting I realized I was repeating the photographic effort so I needed to adapt.  Not being able to walk up to the poles was limiting (but respectful) so I had to play with the long end of the zoom and composition.

Eagle In FrontEagle On Man Totem

It was getting closer to the time of the dancing so we wandered over to the long house.

Entrance To Long HouseInside Long House
The long house is a magnificent structure.  The middle floor area is dirt and there was a fire burning before we arrived.  There is a large hole in the ceiling where the smoke rises and exists, but the smell of smoke permeated the building.  Totem poles hold up the massive beams that support the ceiling and paintings add color to the head wall. 


The dancers were almost entirely children - a conscious effort by the community to pass on their traditions to their children.  Each dance was a few minuet excerpt out of a much longer ceremonial performance, and most of the dances were introduced and explained. 

Dancing Around The FireDancing With Head DressKids Dancing

Totem Outside U'mista Cultural Centre
Our next destination was the U'mista Cultural Centre.  The center is mostly a museum to display (in context) a collection of potlatch masks that were confiscated when potlatching was made illegal in 1884.  The collection is sadly incomplete - parts of it was sold to various international museums, and the return of the objects is still being negotiated.  I'm not sure of the wisdom of keeping all known examples of a particular art form under one roof, but that's a secondary issue.  The center is a no photography zone.

Totem In Front Of U'Mista CentreTotems In Front Of 'Namgis House

Touring done, we went to visit Eric's family.   They are ocean front with an amazing view (we watched a cruise ship sail past) that you just can't get in Vancouver.  After lunch, we went out for a walking in the gator gardens.

Boardwalk In Gater Gardens
The Gator Gardens are a large swamp.  From what I understand a spring on the hill was damed to form a reservoir for the cannery.  The forest surrounding the spring drowned and decomposing trunks from those cedar trees are still standing.

Bog CranberriesBog Cranberries In Water

I've seen bog cranberries before on Aristazabal Island and again I'm amazed that life finds it's way to the niche that it fills.  I was looking for sundews and blueberries but I couldn't find any.  Eric quite enjoyed eating the cranberries.

Day 3 - Whale Watching
On my last trip to Japan, we were in the southern port area of Kyushu and I saw a note in the guide book about whale watching trips.  Then I remembered that Japan had historically whaled all over the world (presumably because there were no more whales close to home) and that Japan continues whaling for "research" (read - school lunches) purposes.

I booked a trip on Mackay Whale Watching (a weeks notice wasn't a problem) again on the recommendation of a friend.  We weren't disappointed.  The boat is modern, spacious (although it was only 1/2 to 3/4's full) and fast.  We sailed south toward Robson Bight (we mainted a healthy distance from the area, and quickly came upon a number of pods in the area.

Pod Swimming ByLarge Male Leaving

Part of being a responsible tour guide is not getting too close to the animals.  The crew were quite responsible, but occasionally an animal decided it wanted to come closer and the shutters were burning.

Black Dorsal RisingOrca Exhaling
Orca InhalingOrca Descending

While we may have seen whales for a total of two hours, only once or twice will the whales come so exhilaratingly close so you have to be prepared.  We also managed to track down a lone humpback - it was cruising and not terribly exciting, and a hauling out point for seals and sea lions. 

Seals Hauled Out On RocksSea Lions In Water

While it was a wet day, it was very much worth the price of admission.  We returned to the camp site and enjoyed our last night of camping with a camp fire of unused wood from other campers who had left.

Camp SiteBeach Side At Camp SiteEric Tending Fire

A lot of fun - I wish every week of my life had so much in it.



Orca Exhaling
Species: Orcinus orca (killer whale, orca)
Tags: BC fauna, marine mammal, safari, whale
Three Bears On ALog
Species: Ursus arctos (Grizzly Bear, Brown Bear)
Tags: BC fauna, safari
Kids Dancing
Tags: costume, dancing
Sea Lions In Water
Species: Eumetopias jubatus (northern sea lion, steller sea lion)
Tags: BC fauna, marine mammal, safari
Totem Outside U'mista Cultural Centre
Tags: art, native art, totem pole
Fish In Mouth
Species: Ursus arctos (Grizzly Bear, Brown Bear)
Tags: BC fauna, safari
Dancing With Head Dress
Tags: costume, dancing
Mom And Cub Walking Down Log
Species: Ursus arctos (Grizzly Bear, Brown Bear)
Tags: BC fauna, safari
Picasso Fishing
Species: Ursus arctos (Grizzly Bear, Brown Bear)
Tags: BC fauna, safari
Picasso Plunges
Species: Ursus arctos (Grizzly Bear, Brown Bear)
Tags: BC fauna, safari
Eric Tending Fire
Person: Eric
Tags: fire, long exposure
Totems In Front Of 'Namgis House
Tags: art, native art, totem pole
Base Of Totem Pole
Tags: totem pole
Bear Swimming
Species: Ursus arctos (Grizzly Bear, Brown Bear)
Tags: BC fauna, safari
Totem In Front Of U'Mista Centre
Location: Go To...
Tags: totem pole
Boat At Landing
Location: Go To...
Tags: boat, safari
Two Bears Walking In Shallows
Species: Ursus arctos (Grizzly Bear, Brown Bear)
Tags: BC fauna, safari
Camp Site
Tags: camping, tent
Bear Coming Up Hill
Species: Ursus arctos (Grizzly Bear, Brown Bear)
Tags: BC fauna, safari
Mom And Baby Walking Up Log
Species: Ursus arctos (Grizzly Bear, Brown Bear)
Tags: baby, BC fauna, safari
Baby Bear Behind Mom
Species: Ursus arctos (Grizzly Bear, Brown Bear)
Tags: baby, BC fauna, safari
Black Dorsal Rising
Species: Orcinus orca (killer whale, orca)
Tags: BC fauna, marine mammal, safari, whale
Inside Long House
Tags: native art, performance
Base Of Another Totem Pole
Tags: art, native art, totem pole
Large Male Leaving
Species: Orcinus orca (killer whale, orca)
Tags: BC fauna, marine mammal, safari, whale
Boardwalk In Gater Gardens
Tags: boardwalk, garden, swamp
Entrance To Long House
Tags: art, native art, totem pole
Baby And Mom Walking Toward Log
Species: Ursus arctos (Grizzly Bear, Brown Bear)
Location: Go To...
Tags: BC fauna, safari
Pod Swimming By
Species: Orcinus orca (killer whale, orca)
Tags: BC fauna, marine mammal, safari, whale
Dancing Around The Fire
Tags: costume, dancing, native art, performance
Bog Cranberries
Species: Vaccinium oxycoccos (Bog Cranberry, Small Cranberry)
Tags: plant
Orca Inhaling
Species: Orcinus orca (killer whale, orca)
Tags: BC fauna, marine mammal, safari, whale
Seals Hauled Out On Rocks
Species: Phoca vitulina (Harbor Seal)
Tags: BC fauna, marine mammal, safari
The Reason The Bears Are Here
Tags: BC fauna, safari
Orca Descending
Species: Orcinus orca (killer whale, orca)
Tags: BC fauna, marine mammal, safari, whale
Eagle In Front
Location: Go To...
Tags: art, totem pole
Pulling Apart Salmon
Species: Ursus arctos (Grizzly Bear, Brown Bear)
Tags: BC fauna, safari
Beach Side At Camp Site
Location: Go To...
Tags: beach
Eagle On Man Totem
Tags: art, native art, totem pole
Bears In Disagreement
Species: Ursus arctos (Grizzly Bear, Brown Bear)
Tags: BC fauna, safari
Bog Cranberries In Water
Species: Vaccinium oxycoccos (Bog Cranberry, Small Cranberry)
Tags: fruit, swamp
Tags: safari(23), BC fauna(22), marine mammal(8), totem pole(8), native art(7), whale(6)
People: Eric(1)
From: John Harvey Photo > John's Overnight Page > North Island

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