Coastlines

Almost let this one slide by without hoisting it: from England's North Brink Brewery, built in 1795 the year Captain Vancouver completed his survey of the Pacific Northwest coastline comes Elgood & Son's Captain Vancouver's 250th Anniversary Ale ($4.50 for the 500 millilitre bottle at selected LDB stores). It's mellow and palate-filling a good Chinese-food brew with cherry-fruit aromas and a slight sweet edge. Excellent and versatile, thirst-quenching and hearty, it's a beer to be reckoned with. Keep some in the boat if you're going off to chart any coastlines (remembering to adhere to safe drinking/boating guidelines).
Sitting with friends on the Wakefield Inn's big deck, keeping an eye on passing marine activity, is important work in this part of the world. There's tradition to maintain, after all. The rustic Sunshine Coast neighbourhood pub has been a well-loved landmark in West Sechelt for more than 60 years. Later this fall, though, the Wakefield will make way for-what else?-a townhouse complex. Old-timers are savouring their remaining deck time. They watch boats buzz back and forth to the three low Trail Islands just offshore. When tugs bring log booms into the lee of these barriers for safety, residents know that the barometer must be dropping. And there's plenty of wildlife action to check out at Wakefield Creek, which enters the Strait of Georgia right next to the inn. I was down by the creek last month, taking photographs. Dozens of glaucous-winged gulls stood round, and seven common mergansers rested at the water's edge. A movement beside the stream revealed three tiny sandpipers probing among the stones. Then a flock of red-necked grebes paddled in to feed voraciously at the creek mouth. Finally, two humans and a dog strolled out from a beachfront home and prepared for a swim, scattering the peaceful assembly of birds. The stream was once named after Joseph Bouillon, who first preempted land there in 1889. He was an architect, hired to oversee construction of the twin-towered Our Lady of the Rosary Church that pioneer Catholic bishop Paul Durieu commissioned for a nearby Sechelt First Nation reserve. This imposing beacon was visible to mariners miles away until it burned to the ground in 1906. It was around this time that William Wakefield acquired his land and ran a little farm with pigs, cows, and chickens. (He didn't control his livestock, apparently, and the neighbours filed a litany of complaints about the destruction of their gardens.) Wakefield sold in the mid-1920s; by then his name had become attached to the local geography. The next owner was a well-known figure on the Sunshine Coast: "the Major". T. Douglas Sutherland had been a tea planter in Ceylon and earned a Military Cross in the First World War. He became the B.C. provincial police constable and game warden for the area. He had the Wakefield built as his home in 1928. His office or station (though not, as the building was sometimes misdescribed, a jail) stood directly across the street, in a tiny log cabin. Sutherland hired a fine Sunshine Coast craftsman, Hector McDonald, to construct his Wakefield residence. With its shake roof and enormous two-storey stone chimney and fireplace (today covered in Virginia creeper), the building has a spacious, prosperous air. Vertical logs, darkly varnished, serve as the basic foundation, giving a sense of solidity. In 1938 the home was sold to Charlie Reda and transformed into a roadhouse-style pub. It would be ironic to imagine the strait-laced major in his office, forced to observe alcohol-fuelled celebrations taking place directly across from him in what had once been his own home, but, in truth, the station had been vacated the year before and the police department moved to Sechelt. Besides, Sutherland was in Europe by then, serving once again in the army. He died in 1946. (The little log cabin lasted another 40 years or so and was home to a series of coffeeshops.) In its life as the Wakefield Inn, the lodge went through several proprietors and renovations. None, fortunately, changed the essential atmosphere or shape of the place. Over the years, a number of logging artifacts-axes and saws, mostly-were donated and put on display. Old logging photos were enlarged and attached to the walls. In the 1970s and '80s, under the ownership of brothers Gary and Rick Radymski and their wives, Nancy and Donna, the Wakefield became a veritable social centre. Loggers' sports days were held in the summer in the open field beside the pub. Windsurfing regattas took place off the beach. The Wakefield kitchen ventured out to provide baking and fresh seafood as well as the usual pub fare (all hail the Wakie burger). The lodge evolved into a live-music venue. In 1981, jazz-rock musician Steve Hubert (aka Stevie Sparks) recorded his first album there. Now the Radymskis have sold their property. The taxes are so high today, Donna says, that it no longer makes sense to run the inn as a business. "We have mixed feelings about leaving," she said. "We've been at it for a long time. But it will probably be good for us to do something else for a change." What that will be she doesn't yet know. And what will happen to the pub is up to the purchaser. The land beside the creek must be preserved as park, and perhaps some remnant of the old building can be incorporated into the new development. But the Wakefield Inn will have served its last round. Andrew Scott's latest book is Secret Coastline II: More Journeys and Discoveries Along BC's Shores (Whitecap Books). The writer can be contacted through www.andrew-scott.ca/.
For a change of pace, we headed off with our kayaks in July for some freshwater paddling. Our destination was the area around Powell River, two ferry rides northwest of Vancouver, where more than a dozen lakes-all with well-developed recreational facilities-are easily accessible from coastal Highway 101. In this region, in fact, paddlers can readily combine the best of fresh and saltwater worlds. We drove through Westview first and gathered supplies, then continued north, past Cranberry Lake, on the road to Haywire Bay Regional Park on Powell Lake. Although campsites at this heavily used park are theoretically available on a first-come, first-served basis, many Powell River families lay virtual siege to the best spots in summer, arranging with friends and neighbours to claim the same site at the same time year after year. Names carved on bits of wood and nailed to trees add to the campground's proprietorial air. The place was two-thirds full in midweek and, fearing what it might be like on the weekend, we retreated to nearby Inland Lake Park, which was practically deserted and more to our taste. Inland, formerly known as Loon Lake, is about five kilometres long and sports a path that follows its entire 13-kilometre shoreline. There's one campground at the park entrance and another about three kilometres away on tiny Anthony Island, which you must hike or bike or paddle to and is connected to the mainland by a wooden footbridge. We paddled, and soon arrived at a miniature sand beach shaded by tall western white pines. Tunnels led through thick salal to peaceful tent sites with rustic picnic tables. Paradise. Apart from the occasional curious hiker or bicyclist, we had the place to ourselves. Well, not entirely to ourselves. A kingfisher flashed past. Pairs of trademark loons called. Osprey nested close by, and beavers patrolled the shores. The park caretaker had told us about a "friendly" great grey owl that was hanging about the entrance, taking a keen interest in visitor behaviour, but we never saw it. We did, however, see hundreds of common garter snakes, which took to the lake as readily as the land. We'd encounter them hundreds of metres from shore, swimming strongly on the surface or diving underwater in search of aquatic prey. The most amazing wild things, to me, were the tadpoles. They were everywhere. Unfortunately, most of them were bullfrog tadpoles-huge, spooky-looking things, 10 to 15 centimetres long, many already with hind legs. Bullfrogs are a non-native species in B.C., introduced in the 1930s by entrepreneurs hoping to farm them for their meaty legs. Now they're spreading rapidly, displacing (and devouring) native frogs and eating anything they can fit into their large mouths. I hope this species tastes good to the lake's loons and herons. One of many grand things about Inland is the hiking. You can walk right around the lake on a flat, wide trail that in the good old days, when Inland was a BC Forest Service site (and the service was more than a mere facilitator for industrial forestry), met wheelchair standards. In fact, the whole lake was a major draw for those with disabilities, offering special camps, log cabins, and long sections of railed boardwalk. All these features still exist, along with chain-saw carvings by Terry Chapman and a gorgeous pole created by Jackie Timothy of the Sliammon First Nation, though parts of the trail seemed a little too rough to me to be wheelchair-accessible today. A more strenuous trek, which takes about two hours each way, connects Inland, via Lost Lake, to Haywire Bay. A short half-hour side trip from Inland's northwest corner supposedly provides a canoe portage to Powell Lake, though it's rough and steep. Powell is easily the largest body of water in the region. It's really an ocean inlet, like Jervis or Sechelt, now landlocked, and even has a thick subterranean layer of saltwater as proof of its former maritime lifestyle. The best hike, and the most difficult, leaves Inland's eastern side and meanders through a pretty forest where we spotted red columbine blossoming and large clumps of maidenhair fern. The trail then ascends steeply through some spectacular old-growth forest to Confederation Lake, high on Mount Mahony. This route, and the one to Haywire Bay, are part of the 180-kilometre Sunshine Coast Trail, which stretches from the ferry terminal at Saltery Bay to Sarah Point on the tip of the Malaspina Peninsula. Another fine feature of Inland is the swimming, perfect after an exhausting hike. There are islets to explore at the north end of the lake and smooth rock outcrops for sunning. Our original intention for this trip was to move on after one night and explore Lois and Khartoum and some of the other lakes that form part of the Powell Forest Canoe Route. Inland was too enticing, though; we ended up passing all our time there. I suspect we'll find an excuse to return to Powell River's unsung lake district for future investigations. At the speed we travel, this area will last us for years. Andrew Scott's latest book is Secret Coastline II: More Journeys and Discoveries Along BC's Shores (Whitecap Books). The writer can be contacted through www.andrew-scott.ca/.
If you paddle along the western shore of Newcastle Island, which faces the city of Nanaimo across narrow Newcastle Island Passage, you can see fine examples of those sinuous, wave-sculpted sandstone formations, or galleries, that mark many a coastline in these parts. But there's a difference to Newcastle's sandstone: it's better than anyone else's, apparently. Nineteenth-century geologists found it lighter and more pleasing in colour, more weather-resistant, stronger, and with fewer flaws than anything else they'd surveyed. In 1869, the U.S. government was looking for a superior sandstone to use for the San Francisco mint. An impressive, impenetrable building in the "classic revival" style, the mint was to be faced with 30-centimetre-thick blocks of sandstone, its massive portico held high by fluted Doric sandstone columns. Despite objections from American quarriers, the builders settled on Newcastle Island stone, and over the next four years, almost 8,000 tonnes were cut and transported by sailing vessel to San Francisco. The finished structure survived the great 1906 earthquake unscathed and today is a historic landmark. Most of the stone was cut in 5.5-tonne blocks, but the columns were a special job: each rough cylinder was 8.4 metres long, 1.2 metres in diameter, and weighed 33 tonnes. Two cylinders, along with dozens of blocks, were loaded on the Zephyr in February 1872, but the next day the boat sank off Mayne Island in a storm, drowning the captain and a crewman. The stone wasn't salvaged, and replacement columns had to be laboriously quarried and shipped south. More than a century later, in 1976, a floating derrick raised some of the wreck's cargo and returned one cylinder to Newcastle, which had become an early B.C. provincial marine park. It can be seen there today, along with the remains of the quarry. Newcastle is a wonderful place to shake off urban stress for a few hours. You can paddle right round it in about 90 minutes, watching the island's numerous raccoons forage for shellfish at the water's edge. The shallow channel (known as the Gap) between Newcastle and Protection Island pretty much dries at low tide. We had to line our kayaks through ankle-deep water for several hundred metres, gingerly dodging the sand dollars that line the bottom there in great numbers. Most people get to Newcastle on the little passenger ferry that runs April 2 to Thanksgiving weekend from Maffeo Sutton Park. (Adult return fare is $7; for a full schedule and other details, phone 1-800-663-7337 or go to www.tour ism.nanaimo.bc.ca/get_outside .php/. The ferry dock is near the statue of former Nanaimo mayor Frank Ney dressed as a pirate. A bit farther south along the waterfront, another small ferry runs to the residential community on Protection Island, which is also fun to explore and has a floating pub.) It's easy to spend a day roaming Newcastle by foot. A shoreline trail encircles the entire island, and other paths crisscross it, leading to Mallard Lake, various industrial ruins, a lovely campground and a group of old buildings once owned by the Canadian Pacific Railway. A 1998 book by Bill Merilees, Newcastle Island: A Place of Discovery (Heritage), explores the host of historical associations that linger here. The sandstone quarry, for instance, supplied stone for many buildings other than the mint, including the piers of the original Alexandria suspension bridge across the Fraser River, the B.C. Penitentiary, the Esquimalt Graving Dock, and numerous banks, schools, and churches in Vancouver and Victoria. Near the ferry landing, you can also see where dozens of circular pulp stones, used to grind wood into pulp for the paper-making process, were cut from the island's rocky sediments. Even more important than Newcastle sandstone were the thick, easily accessible seams of Newcastle coal. The island was named, in fact, after the coal-rich city of Newcastle Upon Tyne in northern England. Large-scale underground mining took place, intermittently, from the 1860s until 1938. In the old days, it would have been possible to walk five kilometres from Newcastle to downtown Nanaimo via subterranean workings. The coal shafts are sealed today, but foundations of many mine buildings can still be seen. After its industrial phase, the island became a tourist destination. The CPR bought Newcastle in 1930 in order to compete, through its Coastal Steamship subsidiary, with the Union Steamship and Harbour Navigation companies, which were doing a nice business carrying holiday-minded Vancouverites to pleasure havens on Bowen Island and at Selma Park near Sechelt and Belcarra in Indian Arm. The company erected a dance pavilion that remains standing, the last structure of its type left on the B.C. coast. The resort's playing fields, restaurant, bandstand, warden's house, and docks are all intact as well. In 1955, the far-sighted citizens of Nanaimo voted to purchase Newcastle as a park; city fathers also wisely scotched a plan to build a bridge or tunnel to their new acquisition. Six years later, the province took it over. Now both the island environment and the visiting experience are well-preserved, and Newcastle remains a delightful step out of time. Andrew Scott's latest book is Secret Coastline II: More Journeys and Discoveries Along BC's Shores (Whitecap). The writer can be contacted through www.andrew-scott.ca/.
An expedition to Copeland Islands Provincial Marine Park, 150 kilometres northwest of Vancouver, can make a salty season starter for local kayakers. This tiny but spectacular archipelago is an easy 40-minute paddle from the quaint hamlet of Lund, just north of Powell River at the end of Highway 101. Its three major and 14 minor islands can be explored at leisure in a day or so and the whole trip tidily compressed into a three-day escape from the city. If you get there before summer, it's likely you'll have the place mostly to yourselves. We visited at the end of May, when the coast was erupting in heat and sunshine after weeks of wet coolness. An earlier mad windstorm had swept the smog from the sky, leaving crystal views of Vancouver Island and its snowy peaks. Campsites are not numerous in the Copelands, but we found a splendid one at the neck or isthmus between the two ends of the dumbbell-shaped southernmost island. There are a couple of tent platforms here, and space for other tents, plus a pit toilet. Kayakers should approach from the north, where there's a pocket beach. A runway has been cleared of stones to the low-tide mark so that boats can be conveniently carried and launched. (There is no fresh water anywhere in the park.) This is an intimate place for a small group. White-tailed deer wandered through camp, and we were joined at dinner by a Douglas squirrel that brought its fir cone down to the beach to eat. A steady stream of birds-kingfishers, bald eagles, Canada geese-flew overhead through a gap in the Douglas fir and arbutus forest. To the south, Savary Island's long, white beaches gleamed. In the morning we paddled out to Major Islet, a bare and somewhat forbidding rock about one kilometre offshore. Dozens of common murres swam and dove beside us, while black oystercatchers strutted over the reefs like dark-suited aristocrats, probing every crevasse with their long, cartoonish red beaks. We worked our way round the Copelands' western shores, watching prawn and crab fishermen set their traps, and soon came upon another campsite on a bay halfway along the northernmost large island. Here there are several tent spots, plus another toilet; two cleared runways lead up to a fine little beach. (We eventually found a third undeveloped camping area on the south shore of the middle large island, just across a channel from our base. If the park is crowded in summer, a bit of searching will turn up other sites, as well.) At the northern boundary of the Copelands, adventurous paddlers have several opportunities. They can head out into the Strait of Georgia a kilometre or so to Townley Island, then another couple of kilometres to the Powell Islets. From there, it's only half an hour's journey to Mary Point on the southeastern tip of Cortes Island. Or they can continue north to Sarah Point and into Desolation Sound. We veered instead toward Turner Bay on the mainland. Tucked at the head of this bay is the little community of Bliss Landing, named not for the euphoric state of its former residents but after Joe Blissto, a pioneer hand logger. In an earlier era, the landing was a regular stop for coastal steamships and boasted a school, post office, and store. Today it's a private enclave of luxurious summer homes, complete with marina. We paddled back to camp down Thulin Passage, the narrow channel between the Copelands and Malaspina Peninsula, passing dozens of pylons where huge log booms are sometimes tied. An unusually low afternoon tide revealed strange scenes as we poked along. Great pink and purple clumps of marooned sea stars clung to the granite bluffs, while sea anemones drooped grotesquely beneath them. At water's edge, sheets of orange and green seaweed were pinned to the rocks like dirty laundry the ocean didn't really want you to see. Sunny evenings were spent clambering over islands where the last of the spring flowers still blossomed. We contemplated the example of Joe Copeland, a disreputable former Confederate officer in the U.S. Civil War, who gave the islands their name. Apparently, Joe became a stagecoach robber and outlaw, then fled to Canada with the law in hot pursuit. On these islands, he found a perfect hideout and sanctuary, living there for years and surviving as a logger. As we huddled over our campfire and looked out over a vast vista of ocean and sky, it was easy enough to imagine that we were castaways. Andrew Scott's latest book, Secret Coastline II: More Journeys and Discoveries Along BC's Shores, was published by Whitecap in May. The writer can be contacted through www.andrew-scott.ca/.
There are all types of birdwatchers out there, from casual weekenders to ultracompetitive "twitchers", who descend on rare-bird sightings like wasps on a picnic. Personally, I'm a dabbler. I enjoy observing and identifying birds, but I doubt that I'll ever have a life list. The more time I spend looking at birds, though, the more questions I have. Where do they go at night, for instance? Don't their nests get fouled with droppings? How long do they live? What do birds that spend most of their lives on the open ocean drink? You will find answers to these questions in Birds of the Raincoast (Harbour Publishing, $44.95), by Harvey Thommasen and Kevin Hutchings, with contributions from Wayne Campbell and Mark Hume. For those who already own (and use) an identification guide, this book is billed as "the next step": a look at the "habitats, behaviours, migration patterns and survival secrets" of B.C.'s coastal birds. It's a handsome, hardcover volume, with sensational colour photography by Michael Wigle, Campbell, and others, and for the most part, it succeeds in doing what it sets out to do. Birds of the Raincoast is organized into nine chapters, each one an essay on species occupying a certain place or time. Thus, we have chapters on birds of the estuary, river birds, birds of the night, and birds of winter. There are also sections on birds of open fields and farmlands; old-growth coniferous forest; second-growth deciduous forest; town, garden, and glade; and alpine and subalpine. As you might imagine, this is not a perfect arrangement (woodpeckers and ruffed grouse as birds of fields and farmlands?), and there's a certain amount of overlap, but as an organizing device it works well. The discussion of individual species is a bit superficial, which is only to be expected from a 224-page book half-filled with vivid imagery. For my liking, too much space is devoted to detailed descriptions of all the different birds: colour, size, markings, et cetera. This seems of limited use, especially when a bird is illustrated with a stunning colour photo. Describing and distinguishing birds would appear to be the job of an identification guide, which this book is not, but the authors don't seem willing to let go of this traditional role of the bird book. I would rather have had more commentary on the mating, nest-building, young-rearing, hunting, and feeding habits of B.C.'s coastal species. This is where Birds of the Raincoast shines, in its treatment of avian behaviour. The book is especially good at explaining the inspired adaptation of certain birds to particular ecosystems, a process that sometimes ends in an interdependence between bird and plant species. For instance, by gathering and storing far more seeds from whitebark pine cones than it could ever consume, the Clark's nutcracker ensures that the trees spread and survive. Fruit-eating cedar waxwings and band-tailed pigeons play similarly symbiotic roles, as do plant pollinators such as rufous hummingbirds. Bird species or families with especially fascinating natural histories are dealt with at greater length. One example is the brown-headed cowbird, which has greatly expanded its range in recent years. The parasitic cowbird lays its eggs, cuckoo-style, in the nests of other birds-a bizarre survival strategy that appears all too successful, as the cowbird chicks are usually larger and stronger than the nest's rightful inhabitants, whose parents don't seem aware that they have strangers in their midst. T?here's also a good analysis of the role that woodpeckers play in creating nest and food-storage cavities for other creatures, and the importance of maintaining old-growth snags in areas targeted for logging. The authors like to add odd little historical tidbits to the text-birding quotes from classical poets and explanations of bird-name origins-and these, although awkward at first, tend to grow on the reader. Intriguing "Campbell facts" (contributed by Wayne Campbell, B.C.'s best-known ornithologist) are boxed off throughout the text. Did you know, for instance, that the prominent red spot on a seagull's yellow beak is where its chick pecks to stimulate the parent to regurgitate food? Or that ocean-faring birds have large salt glands between their eyes that remove excess salt from their blood and allow them to drink seawater? Birds of the Raincoast is a satisfying read and a worthy recipient of the Bill Duthie Booksellers' Choice Award at last month's B.C. Book Prizes-it's a beautiful, well-rounded introduction to the world of coastal B.C. birds. The book won't assuage the cravings of advanced birders, mind you, and it leaves plenty of opportunity for future books to answer additional questions. What must we do to maintain adequate habitat for birds? Why don't ducks' feet freeze when they're standing on ice? How do birds weather big windstorms? Do they ever have heart attacks and drop dead out of the sky? Ornithological curiosity never sleeps. Andrew Scott's latest book, Secret Coastline II: More Journeys and Discoveries Along BC's Shores (Whitecap Books, $22.95), will launch on June 2, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., at the Sechelt Arts Centre, corner of Trail Avenue and Medusa Street, Sechelt. The writer can be contacted through www.andrew-scott.ca/.
The rise to dominance of the digital camera, now an essential tool for travellers and most other picture takers, comes as little surprise. But who could have imagined that there would also be a parallel surge of interest in one of photography's oldest formats, the venerable pinhole camera? Indeed, Worldwide Pinhole Photography Day, in case you'd forgotten, will take place on Sunday (April 24). The first WPPD, held in 2001, had 291 participants from 24 countries. The 2004 version, by comparison, attracted 1,512 photographers from 43 nations. One of last year's 41 Canadian contributors was Gibsons-based Daniel Bouman. Bouman, who juggles dual careers as a professional photographer and a conservation advocate (he's executive director of the Sunshine Coast Conservation Association), has long been fascinated by the pinhole format. "I first became interested," he says, "after coming across a book called Seeing for Yourself, by Roger Gleason, who used pinhole cameras to teach the basics of photography to high-school students." He was especially intrigued by the book's evocative images, all made by kids with cardboard boxes. As we speak, we're actually standing inside a pinhole camera, Bouman's latest creation, on display until May 1 at the Gibsons Public Art Gallery and part of a photography exhibit called Light. Bouman made a small room at the gallery light-tight, then cut a six-millimetre aperture in the heavy black paper covering the window. The scene outside-a panorama of Gibsons Harbour, Keats Island, and Molly's Reach restaurant, punctuated in the foreground by the bare branches of a large tree-is projected, upside down, onto the walls, ceiling, and a movable screen that Bouman has positioned opposite the aperture. As our eyes adjust to the darkened room, we're soon able to make out details: clouds, a flapping windsock, the government wharf. Where the light is strong, we can discern pale colours. Someone steps out the back door of Molly's Reach and lights up a cigarette; figures walk across the screen down Molly's Lane; an inverted car mysteriously parks itself along one wall. "The pinhole image is naturally dreamy," Bouman says. "It has a soft focus, not high-quality but universal." Later in the week, Bouman will lead a workshop to help people make their own pinhole cameras. These won't be room-sized, of course; almost any container can be converted into a camera. Then, on April 24, those so inclined can use their new devices to take photographs and submit them to the WPPD Web site (www.pinholeday.org/) for future display. Why would you want to do this? "In many ways," Bouman claims, "I think pinholes are liberating. You work with simple concepts and inexpensive materials. You use your own hands and your own imagination. The experience is extremely direct and there's a lot of freedom of technique. So much of photography is shrouded in the language of advertisers and manufacturers." You also connect with history. Pinhole imagery was noted as long as 2,500 years ago by Chinese observers. Aristotle commented on the phenomenon, as did Leonardo da Vinci. The first pinhole photographs were made in Europe in the 1850s; by the 1880s, commercial pinhole cameras-the equivalent of today's "disposable" cameras-were popular. With the advent of cheap, mass-produced Kodaks in the 1930s, however, the technique was forgotten. Artists began to experiment with pinhole images again in the mid-1960s, and some significant pinhole exhibitions and publications occurred in the '80s. Today, multiple resources are available, on-line and off, for pinhole aficionados, and commercial cameras are once again available. Scientists have also used pinholes to photograph X-rays, gamma rays, and high-energy radiation from laser plasma. Inside the walk-in camera, Bouman angles the screen in different directions to show how easily the pinhole image can be altered and distorted. Experimenters have come up with numerous ways to transform pinhole imagery: some use multiple pinholes, others use slits instead of pinholes. Filters can be placed over the hole, or a zone plate (a series of alternating clear and opaque circles) can be introduced to diffract the light and create soft halo effects. You cannot have absolute control, Bouman emphasizes, over every aspect of the image. "You have to step into the flow of things, feel what you're doing, and be prepared to let the unexpected happen." Bouman has exhibited his pinhole-and regular-images widely over the years and has an extensive collection of pinhole cameras. There are certain genres, he believes, that lend themselves especially well to the pinhole aesthetic. One is portraiture, where subjects must remain still for the lengthy exposures, thus creating unusual compositions or "visions", according to Bouman. He finds that remnants of old things make fine pinhole subjects and can result in contemplative images that viewers respond to with feelings of emotion. Ultimately, Bouman sees the pinhole process as a way to "recapture" photography. "It's the value of the hands-on experience," he says, "that's the real attraction, the sense of empowerment one gets from producing these wonderful images with one's own hands." Andrew Scott's latest book, Secret Coastline II: More Journeys and Discoveries Along B.C.'s Shores, will be published in May by Whitecap Books. The writer can be contacted through www.andrew-scott.ca/.
The interior of Inlets Restaurant in Egmont echoes the form of a First Nations longhouse: a vast open space of wood, built post-and-beam style with a peaked roofline. On one side is a bar; on the other, a lounge area with a spirited fire. The floor, retrieved from a Delta school scheduled for demolition, is made of Douglas-fir boards that are 80 years old, polished to a rich orange sheen by decades of children's shoes. First Nations masks and carvings adorn the walls. It's a warm, inspirational space, airy but intimate. And then there's the view. The restaurant sits on a bluff, one end enclosed by glass; we look out over a panorama of ocean and mountain that fills the entire wall of windows. We can see over the Sutton Islets in Skookumchuck Narrows to Egmont Point and into Jervis Inlet beyond. Egmont, at the northern tip of the Sechelt Peninsula, 85 kilometres northwest of Vancouver, is a jumping-off point for any number of outdoor adventures. Because Inlets is part of the West Coast Wilderness Lodge, where we're staying for a couple of days, we can see exactly where we'll be kayaking tomorrow. West Coast Wilderness Lodge is the work and world of Patti and Paul Hansen. Paul, originally from Copenhagen, is an outdoors-education specialist who has run camps for children with disabilities and designed wilderness programs for schools. Patti, from Vancouver, is a nurse. With the help of many friends and family members, they built the resort in 1997, milling the lumber from trees on the property and using a variety of reclaimed and recycled materials. The lodge opened in 1998; "there's a story behind nearly every part of it," Paul says. Besides the main lodge, with its restaurant, reception, recreation areas, meeting rooms, enormous deck, and hot tub, there are five satellite guest bungalows, each with four rooms or suites. Forested trails connect the cabins and lead to the sea, where a dozen or more kayaks are stored beside a floating dock. Canoes are also kept at Phantom Lake, a turquoise tarn in the heart of the alpine, where guests can be flown in for an unforgettable day in remote wilderness. In summer, the majority of the resort's clients come from the U.S., with a significant minority from Europe, but in the off-season the lodge tries to cater more to the local and Vancouver markets. We're here in February, beginning our 2005 outdoor season in style. In the morning, after a grand buffet breakfast, my partner, Katherine, and I grab a pair of kayaks and paddle over to the Sutton Islets. Paul or one of his guides would normally lead us, but because we're fairly experienced (and Paul is busy hanging new doors for his kitchen), we head off by ourselves. The Suttons are fun to paddle around and make an ideal short outing from Egmont: one islet is undeveloped; the other has been converted into a million-dollar private hideaway with intricate stonework terraces and an arched stone gazebo (to shelter you, no doubt, while you're waiting beside the helicopter landing pad). We watch a family of eagles make short work of a fish carcass, then we recross Skookumchuck Narrows and explore the marinas and houses on the Egmont shoreline. Next on the agenda for most visitors is a 10-kilometre return hike to the Sechelt Rapids, one of B.C.'s most dramatic tidal phenomena, where currents of up to 16 knots create huge standing waves that are popular both with expert white-water kayakers and with high-and-dry bystanders. For big spenders, the Hansens can arrange helicopter tours of Freil Falls or floatplane trips to Princess Louisa Inlet and Whistler. For the rest of us, a range of inexpensive kayaking, canoeing, and hiking tours are available nearby, as are rock-climbing, archery, and mountain biking. "We're not hoteliers," Paul explains. "Our aim is to provide a comfortable safety net for a variety of outdoor activities so that guests can try new things and have a good time." To me, the West Coast Wilderness Lodge is the perfect place to escape the city and hunker down for an indulgent shoulder-season weekend. Laze around, get outside a bit, and enjoy a meal or two at Inlets, where the menu emphasizes seafood, game, and B.C. wines. Try these on for size: Egmont octopus, saffron-poached crab claws with sea asparagus, wild-mushroom ragout, B.C. spot prawns with tequila-lime beurre blanc, couscous-stuffed roasted onions, Pemberton tomato tartare, warm fennel-apple salad, Cowichan Bay duck breast. Not all at once, of course. Oh, what the hell-do as you please. To help with your mission, the lodge offers a spring weekend getaway, priced at $85 per person, that includes one night's accommodation, plus breakfast and dinner. See the West Coast Wilderness Lodge Web site (www.wcwl .com/) for dozens of other deals. For more information, phone them (1-877-988-3838) or e-mail wilderness@wcwl.com. - Andrew Scott's latest book, Secret Coastline II: More Journeys & Discoveries Along BC's Shores, will be published in May by Whitecap Books. The writer can be contacted through www.andrew-scott.ca/.
About 15 years ago, scientists from the Geological Survey of Canada were astonished to discover vast reefs, formed by colonies of hexactinellid glass sponges, growing deep in the Queen Charlotte Basin off the north B.C. coast. Individual glass sponges are nothing unusual, but these great creations, found as deep as 250 metres and up to seven kilometres long and 20 metres high, were an extraordinary sight. Sponge reefs were common on Earth millions of years ago but were only known from fossil records. For paleontologists, the find was akin to running across a herd of apatosauruses in an unexplored corner of the Amazon. Manfred Krautter of the University of Stuttgart, an expert on Europe's extensive fossil sponge reefs, called it "one of the most exciting and important scientific discoveries in the world". Environmental alarm bells started ringing at the same time, because the B.C. reefs, made of delicate accretions of silicon and up to 9,000 years old, are extremely fragile. In fact, half the reefs identified since the late 1980s may already have been damaged by bottom trawlers. In this fishery-a national disgrace, if there ever was one-heavy nets are dragged across the ocean floor, indiscriminately killing all types of species and causing untold damage to marine habitat. In the summer of 2002, fishing closures were announced for the four main northern reef complexes. The Living Oceans and Canadian Parks and Wilderness societies, however, want to see stronger safeguards in place. These nonprofit organizations-based in Sointula, B.C. and Ottawa, respectively-have been lobbying the federal government to designate the sponge reefs as permanent marine protected areas, or MPAs. Both have plenty of information about the reefs on their Web sites (at www.living oceans.org/ and www.cpawsbc.org/). Now sponge reefs have been discovered in the Strait of Georgia. Recent surveys using multibeam bathymetry, a new digital technology that collects broad "swaths" of underwater data and is revolutionizing ocean exploration, have identified two reef complexes on McCall Bank, just off the Sunshine Coast, and one on Fraser Ridge, near the mouth of the Fraser. (Canada, incidentally, is a leader in multibeam technology, which allows the creation of precise, three-dimensional models of the sea floor.) The Strait of Georgia reefs are not as big as the northern colonies, which cover hundreds of square kilometres. The southern formations are found in slightly shallower waters (90 to 210 metres deep), grow to a mere 14 metres in height, and cover only four square kilometres (individual reefs average two to 10 hectares in area). The Strait of Georgia reefs are also a different shape than their northern siblings. Scientists from Sidney's Pacific Geoscience Centre describe them as streamlined "wave-form" mounds, while many of the northern reefs are considered more "sheet-like" in formation. Sadly, one of the southern reef complexes appears to have suffered massive damage, probably from trawl fishing. The sponge reefs were explored from Canadian Coast Guard vessels, using both remote-operated and manned submersibles, sidescan sonar, seismic profilers, and the new multibeam technology. The resulting images reveal an eerie, ethereal submarine world. Individual glass sponges, which can grow to several metres in size and live up to 200 years, have a delicate beauty. Mostly white or yellow (though the Fraser Ridge sponges are brightly coloured), they form unusual funnel, cup, and tubular shapes with strange fingerlike protrusions. Only three species actually build the reefs; four other species, some shaped like bizarre upright boots, are found on the reefs or close by. (For more details, links, and great imagery, including underwater video, visit Manfred Krautter's Web site at www.porifera.org/ and the Sponge Reef Project at www.pgc.nrcan.gc.ca/marine/sponge/.) Sponges are one of the ocean's most successful life forms. More than 5,000 species are found around the planet, with about 300 in B.C. (The province's waters also harbour major concentrations of coral and forests of sea pens.) Some sponges are made of silica, some of calcium. The phylum's golden age appears to have been the Jurassic period, 150 to 200 million years ago, when hexactinellid glass sponges built the largest biotic structure ever formed on Earth, a 7,000-kilometre-long reef that stretched from what is now Europe to the east coast of North America-more than three times as long as Australia's coral Great Barrier Reef. Coral reefs provide vital habitat for thousands of marine species, and scientists suspect that sponge reefs may do the same. We know so little about the ocean floor, and yet we're only too ready to tear it to pieces for a few food fish or else drill and blast it in our desperate search for oil. Only 15 years ago, before we'd developed our new high-tech underwater "eyes", we had no idea these reefs even existed. We still know nothing about their ecological significance. Permanent protection for B.C.'s unique sponge reefs seems a no-brainer. They have already been nominated for UNESCO World Heritage status. All trawl fishing on or near the reefs must be banned immediately. And how can we even consider exploring for oil and gas in this mysterious realm, where astonishing discoveries of global importance are only now, in the 21st century, beginning to emerge? - Andrew Scott can be contacted through www.andrew-scott.ca/.
Below Egmont, on the northwest shore of Sechelt Inlet--reachable only by boat, floatplane, or a long and difficult hike--an echo remains of an older era: the tiny hamlet of Doriston. Its dozen or so homes were built for year-round use, but most are occupied today only in the fair-weather months. In summer I sometimes paddle my kayak past this compact community and admire the orchards, the well-maintained gardens, the workmanlike sheds and boat ramps. In winter, though, Doriston presents a lonelier face. Late each December, three of us pass through powerful Skookumchuck Rapids in a small open boat and patrol the northern portion of the inlet for the Pender Harbour Christmas bird count, enumerating grebes, sea ducks, bald eagles, and whatever else we can find. At this time of year, Doriston is still inhabited, though only just: woodpiles bulge and plumes of smoke rise from one or two chimneys. A dog comes out to bark, and a friendly figure sometimes waves. On these chilly annual journeys, we catch a glimpse of Doriston as it must have been in the old days: isolated, self-sufficient, and seafaring, a typical B.C. coastal community of the early 1900s. Doriston got its start at the turn of the century with a sawmill built by Bert Whitaker, an entrepreneur who owned a number of stores and hotels in Sechelt. The first permanent resident was a man named Austin Shaw. Other settlers moved in, and they logged and fished and farmed. A school opened as early as 1912. There was a post office, named Shaw Cove, by 1915, and telegraph service by about 1920. Sam Lloyd arrived before the First World War, and when Shaw went off to join the army, Lloyd became postmaster and managed to rename the community after his daughter, Doris. As part of his duties, Lloyd rowed to Sechelt and back once a week, a distance of 55 kilometres, to fetch the mail. The post office was closed by 1923, but the school lingered on until 1939. Enrollment normally varied between eight and 12 children. The teachers were dedicated souls; Hilda Cuttle, for instance, served at Doriston from 1930 to 1938, teaching all grades, from one to 12, giving music and woodworking lessons, overseeing sports and outdoor activities, and organizing parties and picnics. She "never used the strap", a former student remembers in Barbara Ann Lambert's delightful Chalkdust & Outhouses: West Coast Schools, 1893-1950. The school population, tragically, diminished in the late 1930s when three young girls drowned in the Skookumchuck. The Gjerdin children--Gunnar, Martin, and Harriet--attended the Doriston school. The family arrived in the inlet in 1924 from Sweden via the U.S. Oskar Gjerdin, with the help of his wife, Albertina, carved a "stump ranch" from the wilds, built and repaired boats, grew a huge garden, raised sheep, and, according to the Peninsula Times, "cured his own tobacco for over 40 years". The Gilmour family, represented in recent years by two octogenarian brothers, Don and George, also had a long history at Doriston and built a home there with a marvellous chimney constructed of bricks purloined from the abandoned brickworks at Storm Bay, across the inlet. Martin and Gunnar Gjerdin spent most of their lives at Doriston. They built their own fishing vessels, the Echo and the Orivo. They dredged out a boat harbour in front of their property and constructed a breakwater for protection. In winter, they logged. For electricity, they put in a Pelton water wheel. Their gardens were legendary, and so was their hospitality. Everyone on the inlet knew the Gjerdins. Gunnar, in particular, as the oldest inhabitant, became known as the "mayor" of Doriston. He was an openhearted soul, quick to drop his tools and greet or entertain visitors. He loved parties, and the Gjerdin home was the site of an annual event known as Doriston Days, as well as other, more impromptu celebrations. Social functions were always marked by an abundance of fresh local foods. Fortunate indeed were the souls who sampled Gunnar's ginger oysters, rolled in cornstarch with salt and pepper, then fried in butter and olive oil with a generous sprinkle of lemon juice and Crabbe's ginger wine. Gunnar was 90 when he died, in December 2003, having outlived his younger brother and his wife, Cherry. In January of last year, a final party was held in his memory, at Egmont Community Hall on the northern end of the Sechelt Peninsula. The place was packed. Friends sang songs in his honour, read poems, reminisced. Many tales were related of Gunnar's garden and his frequent gifts of giant vegetables. One speaker described how she'd teased Gunnar by bringing along an oversized zucchini to Doriston Days. "This is one of my smaller cucumbers," she told him. A short while later Gunnar reappeared, pushing a wheelbarrow filled with an enormous cabbage. "This is one of my smaller Brussels sprouts," he retorted. The final eulogist at the memorial asked the audience to join her for the Doriston anthem, composed by none other than Gunnar Gjerdin. The entire hall rose and, to the tune of "O Tannenbaum," belted out, "Oh, Doriston, oh, Doriston, ta-ta-da-da, oh, Doriston." It was Gunnar's last laugh.