Canadian Thanksgiving

A brief post this week as we head into a very welcome long weekend.

Lighthouse after sunset

So much to be thankful for! Living in western Canada is something we appreciate every single day. A remarkable location, an exciting diversity of people, and it rarely rains or snows out this way. Two out of three isn’t bad, and actually, the rain and snow make the landscapes what they are.

Whiskey Landing fire water

We always enjoy celebrating this holiday. I think I’ve mentioned it before, but that won’t stop me writing it again – we first arrived in Canada just before the Thanksgiving weekend, and were completely unfamiliar with this holiday. We ventured out from our Calgary hotel into the downtown, and couldn’t understand why it was so quiet everywhere. A city of one million, but it didn’t seem anything like it. Where was everybody? At home with friends and family, giving thanks for being in Canada? Perhaps.

“Didn’t you say that last Thanksgiving?!”

Back at the hotel, our room was upgraded, because the person who showed us to the room had thought we couldn’t possibly spend any amount of time in such a small space. Small? It was bigger than some apartments we’ve lived in! A wonderful introduction to Canadian hospitality, we were made to feel welcome over and over.

Ucluelet – derived from Nuu-Chah-Nulth for “safe harbour”

Canada has a poor history when it comes to indigenous peoples, but it is working to acknowledge past wrongs and create a better future for all – old and new Canadians alike. There’s a long, long road to travel, but we’re very happy to share at least a part of that journey. So much to be thankful for!

Pretty bright ahead

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

Five eagles and a fresh salmon

A big thank you to Wayne over at Welcome To Tofino Photography for the post title and theme this week. I thought it’s time for a more frivolous than usual piece, particularly as the entire news cycle of late appears devoid of any frivolity – rightly so, but still…

A little while back, Wayne suggested I rate the beers I occasionally (!) mention or include. His idea was to use a rating scale going from one eagle (poor) to five eagles in flight with a fresh salmon (excellent) – I’m not sure if each of the five eagles has to have a salmon, or if it is one salmon underneath a five eagle fly by?

One eagle (in a good way)

In case you’re concerned about the state of my liver, you needn’t be. Although there are quite a number of beer photos posted on here, the reality is I rarely drink more than a bottle or two each week. Honest! Unlike in my youth, I aim for quality over quantity when it comes to a beer. If I have a second, it’s a racing certainty I’ll be asleep not long after.

Location matters – beer tastes good here

I’ll indulge in a little autobeerography here. The most (I can remember) I’ve ever consumed in a single sitting was over a long evening in Dublin, drinking Guinness with my brother. Did I exceed my usual two beers? Yup! In our defence, and according to the old school advertising, Guinness is good for you. I mean, it’s practically a foodstuff isn’t it? More of a meal than a drink. Actually, I was the one drinking Guinness that evening, and my brother was drinking anything but. He doesn’t like Guinness?! I know! Impossible. Bar tenders up and down Grafton Street were bemused… I can confirm his hangover was much much worse than mine. That’s because Guinness is good for you.

Mostly true? (image courtesy Smithsonian.com)

Getting back to Wayne’s ratings, I’d have to say a properly poured pint of Guinness in Dublin – they are built rather than poured – would be close to five eagles and a salmon. Which is as much about the location and the company as it is about the beer. And that’s sometimes the thing about a decent pint – who you’re with and where you are can matter as much as what’s in the glass.

Now, having written that about company and location, nothing but nothing can save Slalom Lager. A different brother and I tried to drink a pint or two of said beverage in a lovely pub somewhere in North Wales a fair few years back. We really really tried our best, but no number of pints could fix that slimy taste. One eagle would be an eagle too far. I’ve hardly had a pint of any lager since.

“Enough of this frivolity!”

Enough of this frivolity. I’ll leave it here this week, with a photograph and recommendation for the following beer: (I’d give it five eagles for sure, but does it get the salmon as well? I don’t know. Maybe some follow up research is needed?)

Recommended!

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

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!