Expedition Notes: Haida Gwaii May 23-30 aboard Swell
Photo by Jad Davenport from previous Haida Gwaii trip
After a day and a half of exploration of Haida Gwaii’s northern island, Graham Island, naturalist, Bristol Foster joined the guests aboard the Swell for Maple Leaf Adventures’ first Haida Gwaii trip of 2017.
Day 1 – May 24
We drive south from Masset to the Skidegate museum with its educational and poignant displays on Haida culture. We ferry over to Alliford Bay on Moresby island and take a dusty road to Moresby Camp on the west end of Cumshewa Inlet. En route we encounter a few deer, and a river otter running across the road. We anchor in nearby Louise Narrows for very peaceful night: no sirens or screeches of brakes, just the calls of Marbled Murrelets as they return to their nests.
Day 2 – May 25
We Zodiac over rough seas with a few Pelagic Cormorants, a common loon, Pigeon Guillimots and travel past past Tanu to anchor about 10 minutes away in a sheltered anchorage. We zodiac to Tanu and were welcomed by knowledgeable, personable Haida guides. Hermit thrush sing their mournful beautiful song in the forest which reminds us of the many who died of smallpox here. The moss covered house beams are testament to the vibrant village that once existed here. We move on to sheltered Anna inlet for the night. Clear, beautiful evening. Varied Thrush notes ringing from the tall forest.
Day 3 – May 26
The day dawns clear with a light wind. We travel south to Bigsby inlet, and anchor near the creek’s estuary. Then we take the zodiac slowly up the scenic narrow canyon for ca 300m. Quiet except a kingfisher rattling. Flat seas under a sunny sky as we head for Hotspring Island . Bristol gives an introductory lecture on Haida Gwaii. At Hotspring Island the day is now hot in the sun. We go on a hike to inspect the pools. Two are working and most go in for a soak. We then walk over the trail to east beach looking at all the nurse logs some the seedlings have now become huge trees. We come across a kaleidoscope of coloured algae on the beach. We then head out towards Burnaby Narrows. We stop for a bit of fishing, before finding another perfect anchorage at Skaat harbour.
Day 4 – May 27
Another beautiful day. Six raccoons and 3 deer on the beach. The 4 kayaks are enjoyed before we head off to Burnaby Narrows. We are lucky, it is a very low tide. Jeff snorkels beside us, bringing up large red urchins (uni for a few), helmut shells, six kinds of sea stars, and a moon snail egg case. As the tide rises we head back towards the boat stopping for an excellent view of a black bear. We then travel north and clockwise around Burnaby island to Huston Stewart Channel and Rose inlet. En route Bristol gives a slide talk on the salmon-bear forest. We anchor for the night but go to a nearby beautiful beach where we have wine and cheese in the warm evening sun. Hermit thrushes sing a symphony.
Day 5 – May 28
Spectacular day. Cloudless sunrise. We head off to Flat top Island. Here we pause to hunt for tufted puffins. At first all we can see are cormorants and Glaucous wing gulls. Then a couple of these cute alcids pop into view and we all agree puffins win the beauty contest. We then start to cross over towards Skungwai when seven orca are spotted. We linger to try to get good photo identification pictures. At Ninstints we anchor near the village but then go further in zodiacs to near the cave on the northern shore. It is a beautiful forest walk to the village with everybody anticipating the excitement of such a place. Finally we come to Ninstints and listen to Haida Watchman David who eloquently describes the fascinating history of the village. Clouds move in and turn the contrasting lighting to one that renders the poles silver and grey. Wind is light so Captain Alex takes Swell south, way south, to the southern tip of Haida Gwaii, Cape St James. Bristol is the only one who has been there before. About 20 eagles perch on the rocks and 300 or so Steller sea lions bellow greetings. The tide is ripping. A very dynamic place rarely visited. Around the corner we stop at a beautiful beach in Loscombe Inlet. Potentially a great place for glass balls but we have no luck. We then travel north to a good anchorage in Heater Harbour.
Day 6 – May 29
We travel north for 5 hours. En route Bristol shows the Suzuki Nature of Things program on Windy Bay. We see a breaching Humpback before turning in to Windy Bay estuary. On shore we listen to the watchman describing the new totem pole that was recently raised, the first for Gwaii Hanaas in over 150 years. Then we walked through a mossy wonderland, passing cedars that had some bark removed for clothing hundreds of years ago. Finally we come to an enormous ‘big mother’ sitka spruce that leaves us all spellbound. We then sail north to Cumshewa Inlet and anchor in Louise Narrows.
Day 7 – May 30
A travel day. Zodiac to Moresby Camp. Drive to Sandspit. Fly back home having had a spectacular adventure: whales, ancient poles, gourmet meals including tasty gonads, for some, very memorable watchmen, a close black bear, scores of bald eagles, and new friends that sometimes made our sides ache with so much laughter!