Digging it

Really digging it. And no stone left unturned. A little more detail this week to follow up on last week. This one is a bit preachy – that’s a heads up, not an apology…

Digging it

The students I was with were really digging being scientists. From a plankton tow, to measuring sea salinity and water temperatures, to searching for intertidal wildlife, the young ones showed they really, really care about the place they live, even if some of the creatures they were looking for can’t easily be seen with the naked eye.

Sooo cute?! I think so…

Plankton! Phytoplankton! Zooplankton! These little plants and critters are sooo cute (not my words, but I understand the sentiment) and utterly astonishing when viewed under a microscope. We all – quite rightly – get alarmed by the rate at which forests are clear cut, slashed and burned, and generally mistreated in the name of resource extraction, worried that these acts of destruction are steadily ruining the “lungs” of the planet. Last week, students learned from their instructors that forests contribute approximately one third of the Earth’s oxygen. The other two thirds? Yup, you guessed it, from marine plants, and particularly or significantly from phytoplankton. The larger lung of the planet, absorbing carbon and producing oxygen, the all important base of the aquatic food chain, these tiny plants perform a mighty task. Good thing we’re being so kind to the oceans…

On the ocean, in the ocean

Students enjoyed seeing aquatic life through microscopes, in laboratory touch tanks, and even better, out on and in the ocean waters. By exploring, seeing, touching, drawing, identifying and naming a variety of marine life, the students came to care (more) about their local environment, and see how what is local and necessary for them is also local and necessary for everywhere else and everything else.

Think green, go on, dive right in

These young ones, they see the connections, can follow a line from the smallest creatures to the largest, from the bottom of the ocean floor to the high edge of our atmospheric envelope. Lofty stuff, and here’s hoping their caring example is enough to maintain, restore and protect our precious planet. Forget about the childish adults denying a climate crisis and belittling those (young and old) who care to hear the truth of science and dare to suggest solutions. Instead, aim to support the next generation of scientists and activists, the young people inheriting our woeful environmental legacy, and hope for them that they have enough time to act to secure a sustainable future.

Passing through, like we all are…

Plankton! Zooplankton! Phytoplankton! Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Wizard Island

This isn’t a post about elves or unicorns (or hobbits) – phew – but how about some magic? I will, due to being rather tired, be very brief this week, and I promise to write something a bit more detailed next week.

Leaving Bamfield, and we’re off to Wizard Island

I was on Wizard Island – yes, really – earlier this week, learning alongside a small group of students, splashing about in the intertidal zone, slipping on seaweed and scraping hands and knees on barnacles. We were being scientists, uncovering then sharing our discoveries, beaming our explorations live to students at UVic, and generally having a fine old time in the middle of Barkley Sound.

As far as these students were concerned, we were in (on?) the best possible classroom, transported there in a small aluminum boat, past bald eagles, basking seals, foraging bears, and with the prospect of a humpback whale sighting. We were lucky enough to spot three humpbacks spouting on our trip back, and I wish you could have seen the students when this happened! Such excitement, because we were relatively close, and this excitement from young ones quite used to spotting whales from the shore.

Barkley brilliance

All this and their first ever media appearance before 10 o’clock in the morning. Not that I couldn’t keep up – I did, just about – but I am mighty tired in the best possible way after three full days of marine activity. I will sign off this week with a few more photographs from Wizard Island. I don’t know about magic, but I do believe there are magical places…

More to follow. Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

“We’re media stars!”

Early morning whiskey…

…on the rocks and the docks! Seems a bit early in the day.

It’s ok, I’ve not actually taken to having something extra with my cereal to kick start the day. If I did, my day would be very short, and, full disclosure, I don’t really like whiskey. Craft beer on cornflakes just doesn’t work. So I’m told. Anyway, the following is a short shot, sort of a briny pick-me-up – if needed.

I like this whiskey – Whiskey Landing

So what’s with the early morning whiskey? Why, the view from Whiskey Landing, and also from the harbours. There’s always the view to take in, or a boat to admire, heading out or heading in. Fishing here isn’t ruled by the sun coming up or going down, it seems to be a 24/7 activity, most weathers permitting.

Ucluelet Outer Harbour

We’ve had all the weather this week, from misty mornings, to warm and sunny afternoons. For the last couple of days we’ve enjoyed some heavy and overdue rain. The river levels will be up, which is good news for the salmon run.

Early morning light, with a promise of (some) sun later

I’ve not seen many bald eagles the last week or two, and I hear it’s likely they’ve headed out to the salmon streams, with a promise of a good feed. On feeding, we’ve seen plenty of bears and bear scat this week. My most frequent sighting has been of a mama and cub over the bay, foraging for crabs and other tasty morsels along the shore. I keep meaning to take my camera, but what with it being early morning and all that whiskey, I keep forgetting. Maybe next week, and I’ll snap a bear…

On the rocks!

On the rocks? We hadn’t been on an oceanside trail for quite some time, so when we did, Scout was insistent on dragging me onto the rocks. With some nimble footwork (her) and some slipping and cursing (me) we remembered our way to a favourite perch overlooking the ocean. Once there, we opted to stay awhile, topping up our glasses and toasting our good fortune. Not a bad recipe – a little isolation, a peaceful location, a dash of favourable weather, combine to enjoy a well balanced mix. I’ll drink to that!

“What’s he talking about? Getting here was easy!”

Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Not with your cornflakes. Cheers!

We ramble on (somewhat dazed and confused…)

Can it really be September already?! Not too much has changed, weather wise, it being misty in the mornings and then sunny later in the day. Yes, it’s September because I find myself back in school, almost working for a living, and my time isn’t quite all my own…

Early morning silver glow

Not to worry, and it’s not too bad, because Scout and I have taken to our new time shifted routine, and we’re very much enjoying our early morning plod and pee about Ucluelet. I know, it’s easy on the early morning walk when the weather is fine, just wait until it’s dark, PC, and the rains have started. Oh, I should probably say it’s Scout doing the peeing on these walks (it’s not dark enough for me, yet…)

We like how the climbing sun glows through the early morning mist and fog, creating pockets of warm humidity, and we stand there sweating lightly and quietly, with me realizing I’ll have to change my shirt before setting off to work.

Warmer than it looks – we sometimes do a misty mountain hop just here

Apologies for the rather damp post this week. As you can see, my mind will ramble on. Ramble On! This has been the tune playing in my head as we’ve been out and about, and it’s a favourite, apart from the closing lines referring to hobbits or whatever. I’m not anti-hobbit – I read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings several times as a young one, but after the first time always skipped the hobbity songs and stuff.

“What is he rambling on about now? Look, it warms up later!”

Clearly, having to be back at work has left me a little weary, at least if this piece is anything to go by. It’s a communication breakdown! I’ll leave it here, rest awhile, perhaps enjoy a second breakfast, before picking myself up and rambling on into the weekend and next week.

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

A theft!

When I think about it, maybe theft isn’t quite the right word. I otter know, because I was a witness to the alleged crime. With that said, if gang related incidents cause you distress, it’s best you stop reading.

Marina in front of the Eagle’s Nest

Not so long ago, we were sat up on the sun deck at The Eagle’s Nest, enjoying the view across the bay, and enjoying a glass of Tofino Blonde. I think our reason for an early afternoon beer was that it was sunny and early afternoon. We’d been out for a wander around the harbours, had sat and observed a bear foraging along the far shore, and perhaps thought we’d better sit down some more somewhere else.

The Dixie IV observing a bear

Anyway, from the deck you can observe the small craft coming and going, keep an eye on the bald eagles flying to and fro, and witness the total bird commotion caused when a fishing boat, large or small, passes by with a catch. There’s a small processing station just in front of the pub, and it was here the crime took place.

We like to watch the planes

A fisherman was taking care of his haul, and it looked like he’d had a pretty good day, with several fish in a cooler by his feet as well as the one he was dealing with on the table. Gulls were taking a keen interest in his work, and perhaps they distracted the poor chap. While he was looking over at the gulls, a river otter popped up onto the dock, enticed by the catch in the cooler. Bold as you like, the otter grasped a large fish in its jaws and pulled it across the deck towards the water. The fisherman caught sight of the movement at his feet, and hesitated, one hand on the fish at the table, and the other holding his filleting knife. This hesitation – was he concerned the gulls would pounce as he dealt with the otter? – proved costly, and when he took a step towards the otter, it was too late. Splash! A few ripples and then nothing. The fisherman smiled and shrugged, put a lid on the cooler, and went back to filleting his catch. He did stop every now and then to take a look over his shoulder.

Tough guy (in the middle) coming back for more – get a lid on those fish…

I don’t know much about gang life, I’ve heard of the Bloods and the Crips, and seen motorcycle gangs out on the highways, but the Ucluelet River Otters are a whole different kind of notorious, particularly around the docks of Ucluelet. You keep your bait and tackle box closed when these fellows are about, and maybe don’t go down the gangways by yourself.

As we finished our drinks, we saw the otter come back up onto a different floating dock behind the filleting station. Was he going to have another go?! Then another otter popped up, and another, and another. The whole gang was there! They scurried towards the cooler and then back, testing to see if the fisherman had noticed them. Oh, he was wise to their ways, and quickly completed his tasks and made off home, one fish lighter than he’d hoped for. The Ucluelet River Otter Gang loitered for a few more minutes, looking tough and territorial, before slipping back into the water. They were probably cruising round to check out the Inner Harbour…

I like the pint, and I like the view. A good pint of view. Cheers!

We sympathized a little with the fisherman, but mostly we were rooting for and applauding the opportunism and silky skills of the otter. If we’re called to testify, we’ll say we saw nothing. I’m not messing with the River Otter Gang.

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

Boats, bows, rods, reels and traps

Yup, the last long weekend was a busy weekend. About 40 youth and associated mentors heading out and away for a few days of camping, fishing, trail-building, archery and anything else that seemed like a good outdoor idea.

The larger vessel

We set off in two vessels, one a speedy affair with room for nine, and the other a larger, more sedate boat with room for all the gear and space to spread out above and below. Going out, I was in the smaller boat, coming back, I traveled in the larger. Both were fun, with the voyage out being busier. As the larger vessel was cruising slowly and steadily toward our destination, the smaller boat zipped about, looking for favourite (previously successful) spots to fish, and to pick up and drop prawn and crab traps.

Two traps contained many prawns, and these were a mainstay for an almost midnight feast later that day. We ended up eating so late because the zodiac and tin boat transfer from the tiny offshore dock to the beach near base camp took quite a few journeys. All that gear and all that youth – thank goodness for young people when it comes to pitching tents and stowing gear in the rain and near dark.

Very comfortable

The rods and reels proved far less successful over the weekend, with very little success in hooking a fish. A large sea cucumber got a bit of a surprise and was no doubt mightily relieved to be returned to the deep. The prawn and crab traps did not deliver either. Oh well.

“Nothing! You?”
“Nope…”

The rain fell from the moment we left Friday afternoon to just before dawn on Saturday, when the skies cleared and warm sunshine was an almost constant companion through Saturday and Sunday. A fair number of mosquitoes were also near constant companions, but not unbearably so.

Very bearable

The weekend was visibly bear-free, aside from frequent scat sightings, and some splashing in the early hours from across the narrow channel. Nothing to be alarmed about. I alarmed a bald eagle that was perched atop an old stump at the point of the spit – I think it may have been my early morning pee break that startled her, causing her to fly off somewhat sooner than she may have been planning. A magnificent sight (the eagle, not me peeing…)

The dry and near windless days allowed for perfect archery conditions, and it was good to see the young ones honing their technique and improving their accuracy. They were able to display their skills to a group of ten elders who visited for the day on Sunday.

Prior to the arrival of the elders, much effort was put into further improving the trail through the forest from the beach to the camp. And you’ve never seen a tidier base camp than how it looked for that afternoon – when grandmothers and grandfathers visit, it had better look right!

When the elders arrived on the beach, they were welcomed with a song sung by a young warrior. His voice was strong and steady, and his song echoed back from the low mountains surrounding the inlet. A memorable moment from a trip with many fine moments.

We awoke on Monday to low cloud and a threat of rain. After the warmth of the previous two days, it was something of a relief to be able to pack up and shift all the gear back to the beach and on to the boats in cool conditions. And would you believe it, once we cleared the inlet and headed out into wider waters, the clouds fell behind us and we sailed under blue skies. A certain OldPlaidCamper might have dozed off up on deck, lulled to sleep and pleasantly tired after a very good long weekend.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Departure

Messing about…

…in boats! Oh, alright, we don’t have a boat, but ever since the courses last week, I’ve been keeping a beady eye on boats around here – more so than usual…

Too big?

I’m very pleased to report all the participants passed the other two courses, the Marine Emergency Duties on Friday, and the Restricted Operator Certificate (Maritime) for VHF radio, on Saturday. Now all we need is a small vessel to put theory into practice!

Too old?

We’ve been enjoying glorious weather, and Scout has insisted we stop and look at all the boats in the harbours. She’ll take me up and down the docks early in the day, then absolutely insist we go back later with Mrs. PlaidCamper, to show her our favourites. It’s quite a long list.

Lovely colour!

I give Scout a pat on the head for being a good dog on the docks, especially when we see harbour seals and river otters, and Mrs. PC gives a gentle shake of the head whenever we slow down at a particular vessel. The head shaking is a bit more emphatic each time we approach the Tromso. To be honest, I’m always surprised – and delighted – she’s still afloat. I don’t know if the price is falling in line with her water position. There’s a little less freeboard each passing season…

“Lovely colour?! Seriously? She’s no Tromso… Ooh, is that a seal I can smell down here?”

A very brief piece this week, as I scramble to catch up with myself after a week away from regular duties, and then start to get items sorted for an upcoming long weekend away off the grid. Yup, we’ll be heading to our destination in small vessels. Perhaps one of them needs a vastly inexperienced maritime OldPlaidCamper at the helm?

Any of these? Nope.

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!