Updates from the Field: Straight from the ship in 2011!

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— G R E A T   B E A R    R A I N F O R E S T —

Sep 15, 2011 – Hartley Bay and environs: Just back to the ship after an awesome experience with a mother black bear and cubs interacting with each other and a Spirit Bear. On our way to the hot springs for an evening soak.

Spent a lot of time with the mum and her very small cubs as she taught them to catch salmon. Then, when a Spirit Bear strolled out of the forest and up the river, the mother showed her vigilence and determination. As she huffed at the Spirit Bear, she also indicated her cubs should get up a tree quickly.  The cubs spun around and ran for a tree… one on the far side of the river and the other on our side, running right below us, and through a few tripods!

Mum continued to huff at the Spirit Bear, who eventually wandered away upstream, leaving the fishing spot for the bear family again. The bears climbed down from the trees and rejoined each other in the river, putting their noses together and sniffing in greeting.

Prior to all of this we spent time in mainland fjords with beautiful estuarine meadows. Saw some more bears there, and spent time becoming intimate with their rainforest world, including a fantastic bear “mark” or “stomp” trail near a rub tree.

– from a report by Capt. Kevin Smith aboard Maple Leaf in the Great Bear Rainforest

Read more about taking this Great Bear Rainforest trip.

Sep 13, 2011 – Fjordland: Hello from Maple Leaf Falls (waterfall). It’s warm and calm in Mathieson Channel this morning. Salmon jumping everywhere.  So far 2 black bears spotted on shore.  This morning, Salmon River lived up to its name — absolutely full of pinks and chum and everyone else (aka many species of animals) in the rainforest had come out to the river to celebrate the return of the salmon.

– Report by Capt. Kevin Smith on the Maple Leaf

Sep 10, 2011 – At anchor. We’re enjoying a sunny evening with wine and cheese, after a great day in Fjordland, and previous days adventures with hot springs, bubblenetting humpback whales and more.

– From reports by Capt. Greg Shea on the Maple Leaf

Read more about taking this Great Bear Rainforest trip.

Sep 7, 2011 – Among the Great Bear Rainforest’s fjords: Just got back from grizzly bear viewing in one of our favourite places and spent time with a male with a white patch that we know and we saw on our spring trips. Good show. Also, great crabbing. Prior to that had a great visit to Klemtu with an excellent visit/tour to the big house.

Sep 6, 2011 – Coming in from the outer coast: Big seas around Ivory Island today but a great time had by all.

Sep 4 & 5, 2011 – Broughton Archipelago and Cape Caution: Amazing day. Great transient killer whales sighting (T 143s). Tons of humpback whales, and even a little humpback poo collected and brought aboard for show & tell. Great hike on white sand beach.

We’re on our way. Already spotted our first humpback whales. [Later] Great day with humpbacks, and the A34 and A12/36 northern resident killer whales as well as other wildlife. A great start to the trip.

– From reports by Capt. Greg Shea on the Maple Leaf

Read more about taking this Great Bear Rainforest trip.

— N O R T H E R N   V A N C O U V E R   I S L A N D   &
S O U T H E R N   G R E A T   B E A R   R A I N F O R E S T —

Sep 1 – 2011 – Broughton Archipelago: Yesterday after a visit to Telegraph Cove and the whale interpretive centre (aka the bones project), we spent time with a large amount of resident killer whales as they travelled Johnstone Strait to Blackney Pass. A clan and I clan whales were intermingling on this beautiful evening.

Since then we’ve spent time with some of the Is, with spyhopping, tail slapping, with sea lions, a rainforest hike to “grandmother cedar” and a visit with the fantastic people at OrcaLab whale research station.

– from reports by Capt. Kevin Smith on the SV Maple Leaf

Aug 31, 2011 – Broughton Archipelago: It’s a convergence of transient killer whales (orcas) in Johnstone Strait today!

Several groups of these mammal-eating killer whales are travelling through the area, entering from different points and meeting in the middle.

(For the whale geeks out there, here in the office where the report is being posted, we believe that Maple Leaf was watching the meeting of the T46Bs with new baby and the T37s and T34s.) Some of the northern residents are around, too, so we may have a visit with them later in the day.

That was the first half of today. Prior to that we’ve been back in the spectacular inner channels and visiting one particularly rich estuary.

A hike up a salmon spawning stream (aka a bear snacking stream where the grizzlies come to eat salmon) through the rainforest to a waterfall.  At the base of the waterfall we found a pool filled with many species of spawning salmon. Vitality and richness in the rainforest.

We visited the residents of remote, off-the-grid community of Echo Bay, stopped at Village Island where we have permission to visit the village site and its standing house posts and its poles.

And we watched not just cetaceans swimming (and breaching) but also a swimming black bear and other black bears on shore. All of these animals are connected by the richness of the sea that sustains them. A beautiful start to the trip.

Now, as we’re anchored in a cove for lunch, a host of Dall’s porpoises speeds past.

More to come…

From reports by Capt. Kevin Smith aboard the SV Maple Leaf

Read more about taking this “Whales and Totems” whale watching cruise with so much more.

Aug 26, 2011 – northern Vancouver Island: After a great final trip of the season in Haida Gwaii / Queen Charlotte Islands, we’ve moved the ship to northern Vancouver Island and the southern part of the Great Bear Rainforest. It’s the season of the salmon runs …the season of abundance on the coast.

After a wonderful wildlife filled 157 Nm voyage under favorable conditions from Haida Gwaii to Vancouver Island we are now at safely anchored for the evening. On this transit across Hecate Strait and Queen Charlotte Sound, we encountered killer whales, many mola mola (sunfish), sharks finning at the surface, humpback whales, albatrosses, fulmars, shearwaters, puffins and other birds.

– report from Capt. Kevin Smith, aboard the Maple Leaf.

— H A I D A   G W A I I   / Q U E E N   C H A R L O T T E S 2o11 Return —

A few more updates from the ship, via satellite. She is now operating Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands) tours again this month.

Every trip is unique; there are some core experiences shared by all trips. And then each trip has its own special moments, events, laughs and sightings.

Aug 14 – Haida Gwaii: Hi, We’re sailing through humpback whale soup (also known as the ocean on the east coast of south Moresby Island).  How are you in the office today? Just received a report of more whales (Fins! this time), so will sign off now. [Then later…] Had a nice viewing of a black bear who walked the entire length of the beach at our Burnaby Narrows anchorage in the late evening light, and continues to work it, turning over rocks as it goes.

Aug 13 – Haida Gwaii: A good visit at SGang Gwaay (Ninstints) today and anchored in Rose Inlet.

Aug 12 – Haida Gwaii: A busy day for us on the Maple Leaf. A visit with sea lions. Navigating narrow and tricky (but scenic) Huston Stewart pass. Circumnavigated the Gordon Group of islands by small boats. Now to Bowles Pt and its double-beach and an anchorage out of the wind.

Aug 10 – Haida Gwaii: Visited Windy Bay earlier [a famous site in the ceasing of logging of south Moresby Island and the creation of the protected area], and we’re now heading into Anna Harbour. An extra highlight today: we saw a huge Mola Mola [aka a sunfish].

– Reports from Capt. Kevin Smith, aboard the Maple Leaf on the Haida Gwaii/Queen Charlotte Islands tour.

Read more about taking this trip.

Aug 3 – Haida Gwaii

Hi, from the gang in Haida Gwaii. We’ve been wowed by clear skies and calm seas here for the last few days. Yesterday headed into a glassy Hecate Strait where we found ourselves surrounded by magnificent Fin whales. We lingered among mothers with calves lazily cruising by their sides, treating us to great looks at their long backs, as they surfaced. Off this morning to see what the low tide in Burnaby Narrows reveals!

– Report from naturalist Alison Watt, aboard the Maple Leaf

— G R E A T  B E A R   R A I N F O R E S T 2011 —

June 23-July 1 – Great Bear Rainforest:

We untied from the Bella Bella dock and left civilization. As the sun angled around patches of cloud, we found ourselves in the middle of a shining world: the bow’s wake foamed and curled on a glossy sea, and the needles of cedar, hemlock and spruce glinted green on the islands we passed.

Deeper we cruised into the fjords that cut the coast mountains. We found a “nursery area” for pacific whitesided dolphins – about 15-20 mothers and tiny young dolphins, some the size of large salmon. We entered our destination, a bay flanked by snowcapped peaks, and we explored the meadow of wildflowers and some elements of the rainforest, including examples of how and where bears use it for travel, rubbing and communication. After dinner we took photographs of the silver moonlight that threw the dark mountains into relief against the lighter sky.

So began our 9-day odyssey in the Great Bear Rainforest at midsummer. We saw and experienced it all: grizzly bears – waterfalls – spectacular mountain vistas – whales and dolphins – secluded hotsprings – rainforest trails – wild west coast beaches – tiny coastal communities – sailing the channels on the schooner Maple Leaf.

And there were some unusual visitors as well, introduced by those old fates, the Right Place and the Right Time. As we entered a river, Kevin said, “What’s that?” We looked: it was a Sitka black tailed deer with 4 points on its horns that hurtled across the meadow 100 metres distant, running straight toward the river leading out to the fjord (and us).

We stopped the zodiacs and immediately focussed our binoculars behind the deer. Yes, there it was … the wolf. Photographers scrambled for their packed-away cameras as the two animals, in a life-or-death chase, pounded toward us.

The deer needed to get to deep water before the wolf caught up. Down the shoreline they ran. The deer rain into the river. The wolf stayed on the shore longer to gain ground. They ran past us, about 30 feet away from us, about 12 feet between them. Click-click-click-click went the cameras.

The deer made it. The bottom drops away quickly in these mainland inlets, from 2 feet of water to 20, then 200 and then 2000. The deer, a faster swimmer than the wolf, stroked out into the fjord, and right past the Maple Leaf as she lay at anchor. We knew it wouldn’t stop until it had reached the shore at least 500 meters down the inlet and across on the other side. The wolf probably knew it, but climbed out onto a rock beside us and intently watched its progress. If the deer came back to the near shore, that wolf was going to go for it again. They were both beautiful animals, and finally we had a chance to photograph the elusive rainforest wolf. Its clay-brown eyes were startlingly bright. Its coat dark (likely a sign of young age), with peachy patches.

Later several times, we heard a pack howling back up the valley. And the wolf returned to the meadow we walked in, about a hundred feet upstream. It melted into the forest and remerged a little further away, several times.

It kept an eye on us but kept its distance. Each time we spotted it, it leapt away to the next finger of trees. Sometimes it stood just on the edge, other times, just out of sight, leaving us searching with our eyes to catch its likeness, powerful in our minds but just beyond reach. Like the things we half remember from dreams.

– Report from Maureen Gordon, deckhand on the Great Bear Rainforest tour.

Read more about taking a Great Bear Rainforest tour.

—   H A I D A   G W A I I   2 0 1 1   —

June 1 – Haida Gwaii:

“An early low tide found us floating over masses of huge red sea urchins and sea cucumbers. Later we visited Limestone Island to learn about research with seabirds.

The fog rolled in as we visited the old village of Skedans where we could hear just the sounds of waves and eagles calling overhead.

We had wine and cheese while wearing various hat creations we had fashioned to celebrate our mate Tavish’s birthday and our last evening together.

A slide show of our trip, dinner, and a birthday cake made to look like a pirate’s treasure chest were followed by passing a feather to hear each person’s experience. Another wonderful Maple Leaf Adventure!”

– Report from naturalist Sherry Kirkvold, aboard the Maple Leaf

Read more about taking a Haida Gwaii trip.

May 31 – Haida Gwaii:

“As we drifted through Burnaby Narrows, we gazed upon the colourful constellations of sea stars below us, just some of the many sea creatures we looked at up close.

Then with all the sails raised, we relived the glory days of sailing vessels travelling with just the wind to carry us along.

A hotspring soak proved to be the perfect end to another beautiful sunny day.”

– Report from naturalist Sherry Kirkvold, aboard the Maple Leaf

May 30 – Haida Gwaii:

Have you ever had a natural high? As our day dawned sunny and calm, we decided to climb the Cape! [ed: Cape St. James, at the southern tip of Haida Gwaii, the meeting place of 3 great bodies of water: the Pacific Ocean, Queen Charlotte Sound and Hecate Strait.]

All guests and crew enjoyed beautiful views of the wild west coast from our eagle-eye vantage point.

But there was more – we spent time with both California and northern sea lions at the Cape listening to them bark and roar respectively. Later we saw new pups at a rookery that has begun to re-establish itself. When the wind was just right we got a good dose of ‘eau de sea lion!’

And just as we finished dinner, a bear on the beach was an extra dessert.”

– Report from naturalist Sherry Kirkvold, aboard the Maple Leaf

May 29 – Haida Gwaii:

“We began our day immersed in Haida culture in the very remote old village of SGang Gwaay. Walking among the standing poles, with their eyes looking out to sea, touches each person in a different way.

We followed this with a grand west coast exploration to a place none of us had visited before – Gilbert Bay – possibly the most beautiful beach in all of Gwaii Haanas. [ed note: a challenger to Woodruff Bay, also in Gwaii Haanas and a favourite of Capt. Kevin Smith!]

And to cap off the glorious sunny day, Captain James took us around the southernmost tip of Cape St. James!”

– Report from naturalist Sherry Kirkvold, aboard the Maple Leaf

May 28 – Haida Gwaii:

“Have you ever been blessed by whale breath? Today as we drifted with our engine off in a sea filled with krill, we were surrounded by whales splashing, feeding and breathing. One whale passed closely along the side of the ship with a rainbow shining in its spray, showering us gently. We were thrilled.

And that was only a moment in a beautiful sunny day that saw us catch a large halibut, visit some sea lions and have a campfire on the beach.”

– Report from naturalist Sherry Kirkvold, aboard the Maple Leaf
Read more about the Haida Gwaii trips.


May 21 – Haida Gwaii:

A trip to the “end of the world” is planned–Cape Saint James, the southernmost tip of Haida Gwaii, and the windiest place in Canada, maybe the world. Today, it hardly lived up to that reputation: it was totally calm.

We cruised south and arrived at the cape’s rocks, to the roar and stench of the Steller sealion breeding rookeries.

A lone male sat high up on the pinnacle of the last rock, next to a bald eagle. A Peale’s falcon sat on the next pinnacle. The females haven’t started calving yet and the mating hasn’t begun, so there is a relative lull before the storm, like the weather.

We have a glorious stretch, and we beachcomb on Woodruff Beach, finding an unidentified skull and lots of sealion bones washed up white on the golden sands. (This is a curved beach of light sand next to Cape St James, and looks out from Haida Gwaii toward the north end of Vancouver Island, 300 km to the southeast.)

In the woods near the old Skae village site we also found a perfectly preserved eagle skeleton. Guest Michael turned 60 today and ate lots of chocolate, plus got a snooze on the sand. So paradise has been achieved.

Read more about the Haida Gwaii trips.

May 20 – Haida Gwaii:

Pouring rain at Sgang Gwaii (SGaan Gwaay, S’gan Gwaa’ay, Ninstints, Anthony Island and Red Cod Town). The best way to experience the old village.

We overnighted at Rose Inlet and cruised down Houston Stewart watching for alcids. We ticked off ancient & marbled murrelets, Cassin’s & rhino auklets, tufted puffins, common murre and of course the ubiquitous pigeon guillemot.

As we arrived at the outside of Sgang Gwaii, the tufted puffins popped up close enough for young Maddie at 13 to photograph as a memento for her mum.

It was low tide, so we did a beach landing at South Beach, met by Garret, Kennie and James, the three Haida watchmen, who had definite similarities to the three watchmen on their ancestors’ poles.

We visited the poles at the UN World Heritage Site, had a cosy fire to warm up at the watchman cabin, and then, later, a walk across Bowles Point (from the inside waters to a curved black-sand beach on the outside) made the afternoon.

May 19 – Haida Gwaii:

Two days to go before Rapture, according to the Evangelical Society, so we are spending our last days on earth as if there is no tomorrow. Woke up to a beautiful morning in Burnaby Narrows and decided that we must have gone to heaven already.

There were shimmering opalescent nudibranch angels flying through the water. The seastars were quivering in the morning light, blue, red, pink and purple.

We sat on huge fluffy clouds of moss and watched for a bear angel to arise out of a skeleton we found and join us in paradise. (Inside joke: It turned out to be James in his Sasquatch outfit.)

Then we realised that we were all deluded–we were still on earth – the poor sinners had left us all behind on Haida Gwaii. We were very upset as you can imagine so we raised our sails and sailed away — down Darwin Sound, watching humpback whales, Steller’s sealions and other creatures.

– report from the ship by naturalist Briony Penn

May 18 – Haida Gwaii:

“Maple Leaf is heading down the east coast of Moresby island in Haida Gwaii under blue skies and a light breeze passing hundreds and hundreds of ancient murrelets taking advantage of the calm seas and sunshine.

The ancient murrelets, which nest on the smaller islets off the east coast, have taken a beating this year from severe storms as well as increasing predation from raccoons and rats. A record breaking storm flattened Reef Island, much of Limestone and parts of Kunga. Trees well over 350 years old were snapped like twigs and lie scrambled over the nesting burrows. The Laskeek Bay researchers have reestablished camp and are monitoring the first chicks hatching this year but all in all it was a hard home coming for murrelets and researchers.”

– report from naturalist Briony Penn, aboard the Maple Leaf

Read more about the Haida Gwaii trips.

Naturalist Trudy Chatwin Reflects on the May 7-15 Haida Gwaii Adventure Cruise:

“Highlights of Haida Gwaii . . . Where to start? It was all so wonderful and wild.

Perhaps the witnessing of the cycle of life in Gwaii Haanas “Place of Wonder”.  Spring’s renewal after winter storms. Ancient Murrelets popping off the water, waiting to fly into the forest islands after dark.

Pacific Loons on their way northward.   East Limestone Island with the natural disturbance of a winter storm that swept across part of the island and sheared off giant spruce (only 140 years old).

This allowed us to see other old growth forests at Windy Bay and Bay Harbour in a different way; a complex mosaic of different aged trees with openings of light where other trees have fallen.

The humpback whales flick-feeding all around us.

A riot of Rusty Saxifrage in Jedway Bay that escaped deer browsing by virtue of being on a steep-sided pinnacle. Lunch on deck in the little bay of islets, north of Skungwaii as Pigeon Guillemots swam around the boat and a watchful nesting eagle fended off intruding crows.

Sunset in Skedans Bay with the slosh of sea on pebbles.  Fine wine and cheese by the fire crackling. Laughter and great conversation.

Connections with the Haida Watchmen, the old ways, and nature.”

May 13 – Haida Gwaii:

We just had a great intertidal experience with urchins, decorator crabs, kelp crabs, and Ochre stars feeding on the biggest mussels that anyone has ever seen.

2 Oyster catchers were feeding amongst the mussels with the sun inluminating their bright red bills.  They were so intent on the low tide feast that they never even noticed every camera clicking.

Then we watched the sun set with some Maple Leaf Bock on a secret beach in front of the glowing coals of a beach fire.  The setting sun made Maple Leafs hull glow infront of the distant mountain ranges.”

– report from Capt. James Warburton aboard the Maple Leaf

May 10 – Haida Gwaii:

It’s whale soup out here! We’ve ventured out of Juan Perez and around to Rose Harbour, planning to arrive at noon.

However, the humpback whales have spoiled our lunch plans – in a very good way!  We’ve spent the past 3 hours weaving in and out of too many humpback whales to count.  Moms and calves, fin waving, tail lobbing, breaching, lunging. Warm sun on our faces we’ve just about seen it all.”

– report from Capt. James Warburton aboard the Maple Leaf

Read more about the Haida Gwaii trips.

May 8/9 – Haida Gwaii:

The Maple Leaf and her guests have begun our Haida Gwaii trips! Kicked off the first trip with Old Masset and the Kaay Llnagaay Centre, then viewing the special Haida Gwaii black bears in Cumshewa Inlet, cruising Laskeek Bay to Limestone Island’s seabird colony, and visiting the Haida villages site of T’aanuu. Heading south, deeper into Gwaii Haanas. More updates to come.

– report from Capt. James Warburton aboard the Maple Leaf

Read more about the Haida Gwaii trips.

About the Updates

We’ve begun our 2011 satellite updates from the trips and we’ll share what we receive here. [NB the photos are chosen from previous trips’ pictures since we can’t send photos by our satellite connection]

Our trips operate in remote areas without regular cell phone connectivity. But our captains or other crew send us updates when they can, so you can follow the adventures of the Maple Leaf yourself!


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