Haida Gwaii

Haida Gwaii Tour – Post by Naturalist Hayley Shephard

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For the third time in my entire life I found myself once again priviledged and honoured to be surrounded by the powerful and sacred arms of Haida Gwaii.  Onboard the 92 foot wooden Schooner ‘Maple Leaf’ myself, the Captain, his crew and our 8 guests explored the southern island of South Morseby for 7 days.

We were blessed with glorious sunshine every single day which is rather unsusual for these Misty Isles.  Humback Whales accompanied us during most of our transitting days. Their various limbs stuck high above the ocean surface as they skimmed, fed and foraged, allowing us to linger in their company for hours on end.

Ancient Murrelets in groups over a hundred individuals flew by us often, at times landing clumsily with their webbed feet sticking out the rear, like a breaking parachute.  Eagles soared and the Ravens unique dialect filled the air with mischievious life.
We were made welcome to land at SGang Gwaay by the Haida Watchmen. Our souls stirred as we stood below the totem poles that represented those that once lived and thrived in this area where luscious forests and the abundance of the sea provided shelter, food and sustanence for the people of this land.
We were well fed by our talented chef who provided fresh baked goods, delicious 3 course dinners and ongoing supply of delightful dishes you couldn’t find in the finest city restaurants. Local Canadian wine was served and a craft beer brewed especially for the Maple Leaf was enjoyed on our particularly warm days.

We bird watched and bear watched, we studied and enjoyed the intertidal life particularly in one of the most nutrient rich places on the planet – Burnaby Narrows.
We drifted in our zodiacs at the lowest tide, our eyes fixed on the sea stars, moon snails, anenomes and urchins. The array of colors, odd sea-life behaviour kept us spell bound and curious bringing out our inner child.
We beach-fire gazed and beachcombed – two successful guests found a Japanese glass ball each. Our captain also found a new member of the crew – Taan the Teddy who was covered in sand and seaweed, now rescued and loved once again by guests and crew.
I was reminded how incredibly lush the forest is, where your hand could simply be lost as it burrows into the carpeted moss that blankets the entire forest floor. I recall how every living thing whether sunflower star or barnacle, bird or slug, tree or whale – is so huge, seeming well-fed and flourishing healthily. The times I have visited these ancient isles I remember experiencing a feeling of peace and tranquility. I also experience a strong sense of relief knowing that the right people are guarding this treasure and protecting it from wrongful hands. These islands that are situated 40-100km offshore have an abundance endemic species that you can not find anywhere else on the planet. Maintaining this balance and allowing this natural paradise to thrive and simply let be is the focus of those who are assisting in the managing of Haida Gwaii.
As we sailed the tall ship Maple Leaf on our final day, in a perfect 17 knot breeze, the guests taking turns at the helm, I noticed that everyone was wear
ing a generous smile. It seemed not only from the reflection of having a successful holiday but an appreciation of having witnessed nature at its most purest. The rich and potent explosion of life in Haida Gwaii generoulsy drifted by us, frequently breached before us and nestled beneath our gentle footprints as we explored this coastal paradise.

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