Checking off one of
my Bucket List goals.
Previous: Beach Clean Up
We are at the southern end of the Haida Gwaii archipelago.
The watchmen sites like to have one set of visitors at a time, no
more than 12 in a party. We fill the site when we visit, but
the site is also blocked if a family of four on their sailboat
shows up. The crew on our boat tries to coordinate with the
other tour companies, but there are limits to what can be done and
the day sometimes has to be delayed based on when we can get time.
We had a short ride and kayak around the rocks near where
we were anchored. This morning I decided to go in the Zodiak
and Nara is your guest waterproof camera operator.
After the Kayak, we went for a little sail around the rocks
looking at sea birds (including puffins!) before we headed over
to the watchman site at SGang Gwaay.
Most of the watchman sites are on a beach, but those beaches
might be appropriate for a canoe, but the SGang Gwaay site is
quite tight so only the smallest run boat would fit. There
is a large beach around the corner and a boardwalk though the
forest. While we walked through the forest, we found a
group of archeologists digging up a site next to the board
walk. The elevation of Haida Gwaii has changed
substantially over the last few thousand years due to glacial
rebound and sea level change so what we see now as ocean bottom
or the top of a hill may once have been a village site.
This archeological site was believed to be a village thousands
of years ago and they are hoping to find tree based artifacts
like woven cedar bark items so they can carbon date the layers.
The boardwalk loops around the backside
of the old village site. This site was abandoned perhaps
125 when most of the population was killed in a smallpox
outbreak and the site has been slowly returning to nature ever
Being an island in the pacific, large storms come through
here. Because the long houses were abandoned in a rush,
there are artifacts everywhere (there are thousands of trade
glass beads for instance) espeically in the old house
pits. Even though it's only been 100 years, there are
trees that have grown in the house sites were recently blown
over by storms, their roots holding artifacts in the dirt.
With permission from the elders, the dirt in the tree roots have
been cataloged and sorted, looking for historically relevant
items. These tree falls were a special case - they don't
do archeology in open house sites.
The poles you do see standing here are mortuary poles - shorter
poles that had boxes at the top with the remains of important
people inside. These poles are all over 100 years old and
they are slowly degrading as the wood is exposed to the
This site isn't just poles - there were many homes here that are
returning to nature.
This is a sombre place.
Nara did a heritage fair project on BC's
history of whaling. Rose Harbour is one of the important
sites in the history of whaling - whales from much of the open
ocean south of Haida Gwaii were brought here for butchering to
make export products. This site hasn't been used for
whaling for 60+ years, but there are lots of artifacts still
When you first arrive here you see two giant rusting boilers on
the beach. It's not clear to me if these boilers once
boiled down whale oil or these use to provide power to machines
on site, but they haven't worked for a very long time.
Just up from the beach is a giant kiln
like building that may have once powered these boilers.
The whaling station was basically a giant ramp into the ocean
where a whale would be pulled up and cut up. The ramp was
made of wood with pilings into the ocean and it's long
gone. There is a winch here that might have once pulled
whale bodies up, but it's hard to know for sure.
There are smaller artifacts around. We spotted long
rusted harpoon heads on the beach and the front of a boiler
hidden from the rain:
We were on a mission, perhaps 150 meters from the beach is a
100+ year old canoe rotting in the forest. This is a cedar
canoe that has been roughed out, but not finished. We
don't know the story why, but even after 100 years, it's clearly
After this full day, the plan was to anchor near Burnaby Narrows
so that tomorrow morning we could take advantage of the low
tide. We had a few hours of sailing North. Being a
nice afternoon, most of us were up on deck watching for wildlife
and sure enough we spotted a small pod of Orca. We kept up
with the whales as they moved across the ocean.
Trying to identify these whales after the fact is quite a bit of
a challenge. I took several hundred photos in the space of
20 minutes so the first step is to identify the best photos
showing the saddle patches and eye patches. From here, I
went through the catalog looking at the standard identification
images and the first whale I found was T146D (sometimes called
Leah). This whale is actually pretty special - born in
2008, she beached in July 2021 on Prince of Wales Island in
Generally when looking up whales in the guide book, if you can
identify one whale, you look at their family members and those
are who you see nearby. The rest of the whales in this pod
didn't match T146's siblings, so I looked further. T146D's
mom has a sister T028B. With a little more searching, it
turns out the rest of this pod is T028B (sometimes called
Lydonia) and her two children T028B1(born in 2015) and T028B2
(born in 2018). That is the family we saw swim by.
We continued sailing for the rest of
the afternoon until we arrived at Bag Harbour - just south of
Bag Harbour is on the South side of Burnaby Narrows - very close
to Island Bay where we slept a few nights earlier. When we
arrive in Bag Harbour, we were pleased so see another pod of
Rissos Dolphin's were also calling the harbour home.
Next: Hot Spring Island
Tags: marine mammal(2), whale(2), sea urchin(2), deer(1), derelict(1), boardwalk(1)
People: Claira(2), Nara(1)
From: John Harvey Photo > John's Overnight Page > Haida Gwaii > SGang Gwaay
Last Modified Monday, October 2nd, 2023 at 21:53:03 Edit
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