Log #61g Gwaii Haanas Part 1

August 18, 2016 in Logs by Series, Series 61, The Logs

Log #61g Gwaii Haanas Part 1

Vancouver Rowing Club, Coal Harbour, Vancouver, B.C.

Aug. 18, 2016

 

Hi Folks,

We are getting ready to leave Vancouver, but I want to get this log off while we still have access to the internet here at the Vancouver Rowing Club, where we have free reciprocal privileges with our CFSA Esquimalt membership. The club is located in Coal Harbour alongside the famed Stanley Park, and just up the sea wall from HMCS Hunter, the reserve navy base located on Deadmans Island. We strolled the park last night. I noticed an article in the newspaper (via internet) that Vancouver, Toronto and Calgary were 3rd, 4th, and 5th respectively of the most liveable cities in the world according to an Economist report.

This log gets us from Queen Charlotte City and Sandspit marina into the Gwaii Haanas National Park, and details our visit to K’uuna Linagaay (Skedans), the first of several sites to be visited. Below I have pasted a copy of the chartlet indicating this log’s voyage.

All the best,

Aubrey


 

Log #61g Gwaii Haanas Part 1
False Creek,Vancouver, B.C.
Aug. 18, 2016

We enjoyed Queen Charlotte City, with its several totem poles on both public and private lands.
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We also noted the First Nations on Haida Gwaii and other islands oppose  any tanker traffic through their waters. This puts Alberta (which has no seaport) oil at a severe disadvantage as there is also opposition to expanded oil pipelines to Vancouver (Thanks Burnaby), to the U.S. (Thanks Obama), and even east to the refineries of the Maritimes (Thanks Quebec).

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Signs on Haida Gwaii opposing any tanker traffic

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  Sign at Hartley Bay native community opposing a tanker route

We had our permit for three weeks, from July 2 to the 23rd. Leaving Queen Charlotte City we motored out Skidigate Inlet 9.5 NM to refuel and go alongside at Sandspit Marina for the night. We needed full fuel tanks as there are no marinas or fuel docks in Gwaii Haanas, the southern archipelago of Moresby Island, and we planned heading across from the southern tip 122 NM over to Shearwater, the nearest fuel stop on the mainland side.

Leaving early next day, we motored south past Cumshewa Inlet. At the inner end of this inlet is Moresby Camp, a popular adventure tour headquarters for those going on guided tours through Gwaii Haanas on fast powerful catamarans, or slower Bed and Breakfast converted tug boats or on kayaks, individually or group led.
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  Converted tug for touring Gwaii Haanas

Louise Island forms the southern shore of the inlet, and inside Skeddans Point  on the northeastern tip are the remains of Skedans (52 57.90N, 131 36.40W), the first archeological site with a watchman to guard and interpret the site. (See the chartlet at the end of this log) The Haida name for this location is K’uuna Linagaay. The names of many locations on Haida Gwaii, streets and towns, use the Haida names in addition to the English names. Few people can read or pronounce the Haida names, but the signs are bilingual anyways, and the Haida language is taught in schools as a second language (not French).

Skedans is not in the park, but is overseen by a watchman who welcomed us ashore. The format is to call the site’s watchman on VHF before arriving to see if  you can come ashore. This is to restrict the number of people visiting the site at any one time. As people leave, the watchman would then call and invite you ashore. As it was early in the season, we were able to go ashore as soon as we arrived at the five sites we visited.

In the mid-1800s this location had 26 to 30 longhouses for a population of about 500 people. The village was abandoned in the late 1800s as fewer than 20 people survived. By 1890, after the the village was abandoned  22 frontal poles, 18 single mortuary poles, 3 double mortuary poles, 5 memorial poles and 5 mortuary figures were recorded. Today there are only a few carved memorial and mortuary poles standing and the overgrown depressions of several longhouses with some supporting moss-covered timbers remain.

Below is a model of how the village would have looked about 1860 with a couple of double mortuary poles, memorial poles and frontal (house) poles. The mortuary sheds at the backs of the longhouses contain the remains of the family until the bones are mounted in a mortuary bentwood box on a mortuary pole.
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Diagram of the layout of Skedans village   

Many of the poles have lost their carved features, were broken, canted at tragic angles or lying moss-covered on the ground. The indentations in the ground, forest green with moss carpet, and the occasional desiccated roof timber are the only remains of a longhouse.
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Judy with a watchman

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The pole above has shrubs growing from it. Note the deteriorated carving of an eagle’s wing. All the remains here are at least 155 years old.

The picture below shows the depression for a longhouse with a couple of roof support timbers, moss covered, lying across the remains.

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The watchmen were well informed natives who took a pride in guarding their heritage and showing people around in small groups. They do not want people walking over the remains or touching or disturbing any of the artifacts.

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Carving of the eagle clan outside watchman’s longhouse
As the anchorage off Skeddans was exposed, we left late afternoon to anchor in  Thurston Harbour (52 50.454N, 131 44.875W), a well sheltered inlet on Talunkwan Island immediately south of Louise Island. We set off next day, June 30, carefully watched by a couple of racoons on the tidal flat, to head 24 miles in through the smaller islands of the archipelago, a more sheltered passage, to anchor in the very protected inner basin of Kostan Inlet (52 34.815N, 131 42.378W). We dropped a prawn trap at the entrance, just in case we might catch some. Ha!

We stayed there for three nights as the weather was rainy and stormy with the barometer having dropped noticeably. At least we had a good water supply from our water catcher on the  hard bimini.

More about our visits to a hot spring, and other village ruins in my next log.
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First leg from Sandspit to Kostan Inlet