John Harvey
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SG̱ang Gwaay

Go to Slide Show Smaller Images 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. 
 
Blood Star With Purple Sea UrchinsSea Staghorn On Rock

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.
 
Tufted Puffins SwimmingTufted Puffin On Rocks

Common Murre Flying ByCommon Murre On Water


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.
 
Curving Boardwalk Through ForestArcheology FrameOne Flowered Wintergreen

Poles Viewed From Beach
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 since.

Left Side Of BeachCollapsed House With Corner Poles

Sifting Frames

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 elements.
 
Eagle Wings Pole In FrontFeet Sticking Out Of MouthKids At Line Of Poles
 
  Two Posts From SideLine Of PolesMouth With Many Teeth

Small Face On Pole

This site isn't just poles - there were many homes here that are returning to nature.

Wandering From Corner PostSix Pole House With Standing Corner Post
 
Single Pole


This is a sombre place.

Rose Harbour

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 here.


Rose Harbour

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.

Two Boilers On BeachBoiler Fire Door RustedBoiler Shell Rotted Through


Blower Cover
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.

Old Boiler Used For StorageOld Winch Being Grown Over
 
 There are smaller artifacts around.  We spotted long rusted harpoon heads on the beach and the front of a boiler hidden from the rain:

Rotten Harpoon HeadConsolidated Whaling Corp Limited Sign


Claira Found Chair

 




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 visible.

Heartleaf TwaybladeAbondoned Cedar Canoe In Forest

 
Baby Deer And MomDeer Eating Grass

  Locally Built Housing


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 Alaska.

T146D Saddle Patch And Eye PatchT146D With Two Other Orca

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.
 
T028B1 From Eye PatchT028B2 From Eye Patch
 
 
T028B Sadle Patch And Eye SpotT028B1, T028B, T028B2 - Family Portrait
 
 
Light Coming Through Clouds
We continued sailing for the rest of the afternoon until we arrived at Bag Harbour - just south of Burnaby Narrows. 


Risso Dolphin Dorsal Fin

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


Common Murre Flying By
Species: Uria aalge (Common Murre)
Location: Go To...
Single Pole
Archeology Frame
Altitude: 28m (91 feet)
Location: Go To...
Poles Viewed From Beach
Altitude: 7m (22 feet)
Location: Go To...
Blower Cover
T146D With Two Other Orca
Species: Orcinus orca (killer whale, orca)
Rose Harbour
Altitude: 1m (3 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tufted Puffin On Rocks
Species: Fratercula cirrhata (Tufted Puffin)
Altitude: 1m (3 feet)
Location: Go To...
Mouth With Many Teeth
T028B1, T028B, T028B2 - Family Portrait
Species: Orcinus orca (killer whale, orca)
Tags: marine mammal, whale
T028B Sadle Patch And Eye Spot
Species: Orcinus orca (killer whale, orca)
Boiler Shell Rotted Through
Altitude: 11m (36 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tufted Puffins Swimming
Species: Fratercula cirrhata (Tufted Puffin)
Altitude: 1m (3 feet)
Location: Go To...
Eagle Wings Pole In Front
Line Of Poles
Boiler Fire Door Rusted
Altitude: 11m (36 feet)
Location: Go To...
Deer Eating Grass
Species: Odocoileus hemionus ssp. sitkensis (Sitka Black-tailed Deer)
Altitude: 17m (55 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: deer
Rotten Harpoon Head
Altitude: 1m (3 feet)
Location: Go To...
Sea Staghorn On Rock
Two Posts From Side
Old Boiler Used For Storage
Location: Go To...
T028B2 From Eye Patch
Species: Orcinus orca (killer whale, orca)
T146D Saddle Patch And Eye Patch
Species: Orcinus orca (killer whale, orca)
Risso Dolphin Dorsal Fin
Species: Grampus griseus (Risso's Dolphin)
Altitude: 25m (82 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: dolphin, marine mammal, whale
One Flowered Wintergreen
Species: Moneses uniflora (One-flowered Wintergreen)
Altitude: 6m (19 feet)
Location: Go To...
Collapsed House With Corner Poles
Baby Deer And Mom
Altitude: 17m (55 feet)
Location: Go To...
Curving Boardwalk Through Forest
Altitude: 6m (19 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: boardwalk
Left Side Of Beach
Claira Found Chair
Person: Claira
Location: Go To...
Six Pole House With Standing Corner Post
Abondoned Cedar Canoe In Forest
Location: Go To...
Tags: derelict
Heartleaf Twayblade
Species: Neottia cordata (Heartleaf Twayblade)
Altitude: 34m (111 feet)
Location: Go To...
Locally Built Housing
Altitude: 13m (42 feet)
Location: Go To...
Two Boilers On Beach
Altitude: 11m (36 feet)
Location: Go To...
Blood Star With Purple Sea Urchins
Species: Henricia leviuscula (Blood Star), Strongylocentrotus purpuratus (Purple Sea Urchin)
Tags: sea urchin, underwater
T028B1 From Eye Patch
Species: Orcinus orca (killer whale, orca)
Common Murre On Water
Species: Uria aalge (Common Murre)
Altitude: 4m (13 feet)
Location: Go To...
Kids At Line Of Poles
Person: Claira, Nara
Feet Sticking Out Of Mouth
Wandering From Corner Post
Light Coming Through Clouds
Altitude: 3m (9 feet)
Location: Go To...
Small Face On Pole
Consolidated Whaling Corp Limited Sign
Location: Go To...
Sifting Frames
Old Winch Being Grown Over
Altitude: 3m (9 feet)
Location: Go To...
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

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Last Modified Monday, October 2nd, 2023 at 21:53:03 Edit
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