On the sec­ond day of our Hai­da Gwaii ex­cur­sion, our long morn­ing Zo­di­ac stage start­ed just out­side the park (the green zone on this map), head­ed through in­te­ri­or chan­nels and then out in­to the He­cate Strait around the bot­tom right of Mores­by Is­land, where we saw the seals and whales pic­tured pre­vi­ous­ly here, then turn­ing west along the bot­tom of Mores­by through the Hous­ton Ste­wart Chan­nel and end­ing up at the place you can see marked “Ninstints” near the bot­tom cen­ter of the map. It has sev­er­al oth­er names but to the lo­cals it’s SG̱ang Gwaay Llana­gaay; they drop the third word so it sounds like Sgang­way. The place is among the most amaz­ing I’ve vis­it­ed.

Car­tog­ra­phers call this “Anthony Island”; here’s a zoomed-in map. This is not on the scary but some­what shel­tered mainland-facing coast, it’s the last land on the Western fringe be­fore you’re on the broad open Paci­fic, next stop Ja­pan. Mar­i­lyn beached the Zo­di­ac in the lit­tle islet-sheltered bay wedged in­to the north cor­ner fac­ing north­west; here’s a pic­ture look­ing back out that bay.

Little bay on Anthony Island, Gwaii Haanas

Fu­ji X-T2, XF35m­mF1.4R, 1/420 sec at f/8, ISO 200

We start­ed with lunch; it’d been a long ride. What a pic­nic spot! Then we strolled across the is­land to the Watchmen’s cot­tage, the place marked on the map linked above as a UNESCO World Her­itage site.

Walking across SG̱ang Gwaay in Gwaii Haanas

Fu­ji X-T2, XF35m­mF1.4R, 1/60 sec at f/8, ISO 200

That walk was to­tal­ly out of Tolkien; words can­not be­gin to de­scribe the sav­age beau­ty of those big weath­ered trees and the mossy for­est floor be­tween them, the qual­i­ty of light and of air.

The Watch­men were not on their best for­m; one of them had had to be he­li­coptered out the night be­fore, prob­a­bly gall­stones. But stil­l, wel­com­ing. The watch house faces east, away from the Paci­fic, and is on a bay near­ly 100% shel­tered by an islet whose trees have been minia­tur­ized by the winds and ex­po­sure, nat­u­ral bon­sai.

Natural Bonsai at SG̱ang Gwaay in Gwaii Haanas

Fu­ji X-T2, XF35m­mF1.4R, 1/480 sec at f/8, ISO 200

Then we vis­it­ed the old vil­lage site; the path down there is an­oth­er walk through fan­ta­sy.

Path to the SG̱ang Gwaay village site in Gwaii Haaans

Pix­el 2, 1/60 sec at f/1.8, ISO 173

Many of the totem poles are still stand­ing, deeply weath­ered of course. I’m bet­ting they’ll be up­right maybe an­oth­er decade, maybe less; so if you want to see them, get on it.

Totem pole at the SG̱ang Gwaay village site in Gwaii Haaans

Pix­el 2, 1/600 sec at f/1.8, ISO 51

Standing totems at the SG̱ang Gwaay village site in Gwaii Haaans

Fu­ji X-T2, XF35m­mF1.4R, 1/350 sec at f/5.6, ISO 200

“Ninstints” · Back in the day, grin­gos like my an­ces­tors tend­ed to name each vil­lage they vis­it­ed af­ter its chief. And there­in lies a tale. I’m go­ing to give it to you as I got it from Mar­i­lyn and then from James, of James and James, guides for an­oth­er tour­ing par­ty we met at an­oth­er site; Haidas both of them. It seems rough­ly con­gru­ent with what Wikipedia and its sources say:

Koy­ah was the chief at SG̱ang Gwaay; he was a fa­mous war lead­er and trader. He was trad­ing with an English ship cap­tain when one of his fol­low­ers stole items from the ship. The cap­tain was en­raged, seized Koy­ah, abused him, and even­tu­al­ly re­leased him from the ship with his hair cut of­f. After that, he had no sta­tus in the vil­lage  —  the wom­en re­ject­ed him  —  and they brought in Nin­stints to be the chief.

But Koy­ah was en­raged at his loss of sta­tus and want­ed to win it back. He went back to war, raid­ing here and there, over and over again, and fi­nal­ly, an old man, man­aged to sink one Amer­i­can and one Bri­tish ship. After that, his sta­tus was con­sid­ered re­stored.

For de­tail­s, see Wikipedia and the Dic­tionary of Cana­di­an Biog­ra­phy.

I’m not go­ing to ex­pand on Hai­da cul­ture, ex­cept that it fea­tured trad­ing, war, slav­ery, and es­pe­cial­ly Pot­latch­es, a thing that it’s worth read­ing about. One won­ders how much of a fight they might have of­fered against the Bri­tish had not small­pox wiped 90% of them out, emp­ty­ing the vil­lages; no­body but the Watch­men are there now.

Below, the re­mains of one of the big hous­es at the vil­lage site.

At the SG̱ang Gwaay village site, Gwaii Haanas

Pix­el 2, 1/1250 sec at f/1.8, ISO 50

After, we left the vil­lage site and scram­bled around the north part of the is­land to a point where there was a view west, out to­ward the open Paci­fic.

View west from Anthony Island, Gwaii Haanas

Pix­el 2, 1/7800 sec at f/1.8, ISO 63

We had to climb up on a big rock out­crop­ping for the view, and it was an­oth­er dose of mag­ic, mar­itime in fla­vor this time. In a crack, un­der wa­ter, were shells smashed on the rocks by gulls prepar­ing their din­ner.

Seashells in a pool in Gwaii Haaanas

Fu­ji X-T2, XF35m­mF1.4R, 1/220 sec at f/3.6, ISO 200

Of course Mar­i­lyn knew the name of the snail species, but I’ve for­got­ten it. I’ll nev­er for­get stand­ing on that rock, the never-logged for­est be­hind, the Pa­cif­ic in fron­t; a very pure place.

Our time on the is­land was too short; my thanks once again to the Hai­da Na­tion in gen­er­al for co-management of the park, and to the watch­men at SG̱ang Gwaay for hav­ing us.

Rose Har­bour · After, the boat ride back to our night’s lodg­ing was a short double-back to Rose Har­bour. [Side-note: That’s just the sec­ond Wikipedia en­try that I’ve cre­at­ed.]

It’s the on­ly en­clave of privately-owned land in the vast park, orig­i­nal­ly set up as a whal­ing sta­tion around 1910, then va­cat­ed in the For­ties. Now, it’s the one place in Gwaii Haanas where vis­i­tors can sleep in a bed un­der a roof, eat food that some­one else cooked, and have a hot show­er, its wa­ter heat­ed by a wood fire.

As we passed ear­li­er in the day, we went by a lit­tle old alu­mini­um skiff go­ing the oth­er way; Mar­i­lyn said “That’s the girl­s, head­ing out af­ter supper.” Later at the com­mu­nal ta­ble we ate those ling cod with veg­eta­bles out of the Rose Har­bour gar­den­s. It was spicy and fresh and to­tal­ly ex­cel­len­t, as were the pan­cakes the next morn­ing. Here’s the guest-house.

Guest-house at Rose Harbour, Haida Gwaii

Pix­el 2, 1/11800 sec at f/1.8, ISO 103

The rooms were tiny but com­fy, the stairs up to them like lad­der­s; I’m sure that’s how it is in El­ven res­i­dences. There was no elec­tric­i­ty. There were im­mense whale-bones on the beach. The wood-heated show­er was de­light­ful. The out­door loos were not the best.

Rose Harbour’s most vis­i­ble in­hab­i­tant (and our host), Tas­si­lo Götz Hanis­ch, a vol­u­ble white-maned pa­tri­arch, is a mu­si­cian. He and the oth­er res­i­dents of Rose Har­bour have a strained re­la­tion­ship with Parks Canada, who’d like them gone and the park, from their point of view, made whole. Götz says mil­lions have been of­fered. He in­formed me at con­sid­er­able length about the ma­lig­nant but in­ept turpi­tude of his ad­ver­saries.

I didn’t get to hear their side. I guess, at one lev­el, I can see the ar­gu­men­t. But I have to say that I think it’s a good thing that Gwaii Haanas has a place that of­fers a bed and a meal to trav­el­ers nei­ther ath­let­ic and ac­com­plished enough to kayak, nor rich enough to have a cruis­ing yacht. And the hos­pi­tal­i­ty (ex­cept­ing the loos) is damn fine.

Here’s a sun­set from Rose Har­bour.

Sunset at Rose Harbour, Haida Gwaii

Fu­ji X-T2, XF35m­mF1.4R, 1/210 sec at f/3.6, ISO 200


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: John Cowan (Jul 27 2018, at 15:20)

Seems like they should sell the land to PC in exchange for a permanent concession, like the ones in U.S. parks such as Yellowstone and Yosemite.


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July 25, 2018
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