Tuesday, 31 December 2013


Moon Raven Pole at Saxman Totem Park
Ketchikan is truly the totem capital of the world, and if you want to see the most standing totems in one location, a visit to Saxman Village’s Totem Park is in order. 

The 25 totems here are authentic replicas of the original poles that were left standing in abandoned villages as the villagers moved into more populated cities.

The art of totem pole carving was a luxury that experienced its heyday in the mid-1700s to the late 1800s. 

The fur trade had provided the Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian peoples with a renewed source of wealth – and time to focus on the artistry of the totem. 

These poles were symbols of cultural and economic wealth that told glorious, comprehensive stories about the First Nations people and legends of the land.

In the late 1800s, Tlingits from the old villages of Cape Fox and Tongass searched out the Saxman site as a place where they could build a school and a church. 

The site (just one square mile) was incorporated in 1929 and has a population of just over 400 today, mostly Native Alaskans. Thousands of people visit Saxman each year to witness the artistic craftsmanship and stand in the presence of history—both deeply moving and proud.

Sunday, 29 December 2013


One of the now rare species of oysters in the Pacific Northwest is the Olympia oyster, Ostrea lurida, (Carpenter, 1864).  

While rare today, these are British Columbia’s only native oyster. Had you been dining on their brethren in the 1800s or earlier, it would have been this species you were consuming. Middens from Port Hardy to California are built from Ostrea lurida.

These wonderful invertebrates bare their souls with every bite. Have they lived in cold water, deep beneath the sea away from the suns rays and heat? Are they the rough and tumbled beach denizens whose thick shells have formed to withstand the pounding of the sea? 

Is the oyster in your mouth thin and slimy having just done the nasty spurred by the warming waters of Spring? Is this oyster a local or was it shipped to your current local and if asked would greet you with "Kon'nichiwa?" Not if the beauty on your plate is indeed Ostrea lurida

We have been cultivating, indeed maximizing the influx of invasive species to the cold waters of the Salish Sea. But in the wild waters off the coast of British Columbia is the last natural abundant habitat of the tasty Ostrea lurida in the pristine waters of  Nootka Sound. The area is home to the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations who have consumed this species boiled or steamed for thousands of years. Here these ancient oysters not only survive but thrive — building reefs and providing habitat for crab, anemones and small marine animals. 

Oysters are in the family Ostreidae — the true oysters. Their lineage evolved in the Early Triassic — 251 - 247 million years ago. 

In the Kwak̓wala language of the Kwakiutl or Kwakwaka'wakw, speakers of Kwak'wala, of the Pacific Northwest, an oyster is known as t̕łox̱t̕łox̱. I am curious to learn if any of the Nuu-chah-nulth have a different word for an oyster. If you happen to know, I would be grateful to learn.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Tuesday, 17 December 2013


Yellow Lily line pathways and float in the cold, clear lake water as we explore Isaac Lake, the largest of the Bowron Lake Circuit. Somewhere I read a suggestion to bring a bathing suit to the park, but at the moment, I cannot imagine lowering anything more than my paddle into these icy waters.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Monday, 28 October 2013

Sunday, 20 October 2013


The meerkat or suricate is a small mongoose found in southern Africa. It is characterised by a broad head, large eyes, a pointed snout, long legs, a thin tapering tail, and a brindled coat pattern. 

The head-and-body length is around 24–35 cm, and the weight is typically between 0.62 and 0.97 kg. 

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Sunday, 14 July 2013



Mary Ebbetts and her sisters
The tiny First Nations village of Tsaxis, or Fort Rupert, lies at the remote northern end of Vancouver Island. It was in its idyllic natural harbour that two outsiders happened to meet, Anislaga (or Mary Ebbets) and Robert Hunt. 

The daughter of a powerful Tlingit chief from Alaska, Anislaga was travelling with her father on a trading trip to Victoria. 

Robert was the Hudson’s Bay representative and was to establish a fort to establish the British presence in this important part of the colony. They married and started a family that, in the subsequent 150 years, produced over 1200 ancestors.

Exactly who was Anislaga? What treasures did she bring with her when she settled in Kwakwakwala territory and where are they now? How was it that she was accepted by the people of a foreign tribe, steeped in their own traditions and sense of place?  How did the fort influence the region and how did she come to be the one running it? 

Through interviews of family members, historians and anthropologists, this 20-minute film will answer these questions. Items from personal collections will be revealed, such as stunning engraved bracelets and the powerful coppers that are synonymous with status in potlatches. Museums will open their doors to show intricate blankets she painstakingly wove in the secretive art of Chilkat weaving, an art reserved only for those of nobility. 

A quest will be launched to locate possessions that have gone missing.  Various members of the family will tell their connection to their ancestor with stories recounted to them by their elders. Traditional ceremonies will be conducted to honour her place in the Big House. The beauty of the region that enchanted Robert and Anislaga will be shown in its splendour.

In the process of defining this powerful woman, the Hunt family members will talk about what it means to reconnect with their traditional roots as Kwakwaka’wakw people, their complicated lineage from this mixed race union, the power of their ancestors who traded as equals with the British, their place in society as some of this country’s most respected artists and their sense of place as strong and proud members of the Canadian mosaic.

In July 5-7, 2013, a celebration will take place in Fort Rupert. It will gather the members of the Hunt family and commemorate Anislaga. Of the hundred or so family members that are artists, many will contribute to projects such as carving a great totem pole to become a grave marker for the matriarch. An exhibit will display items from her treasure box. Archival photographs from 100 years ago will be displayed on location. Dances will be performed, some from her ancestral home in Alaska. A feast and family events will be held to allow people to renew connections or perhaps meet each other for the first time. This special event will be documented in order to be shared far beyond the walls of the Big House of this small but fascinating village.

Anislaga and Robert Hunt’s story set in the heart of Kwakwaka’wakw territory, is in many ways a quintessential Canadian story. It is the union of two immigrants who integrated with the people and place they settled in, creating a legacy of commerce, art and culture.  Anislaga’s life was rich in history, intrigue and power, as she carefully shaped the generations to come. One and a half centuries later, her descendents pay homage to her.


Corrine Hunt, Producer

Corrine is a designer and engraver, combining a contemporary esthetic with her ancestral cultures of the Komoyue and Tlingit First Nations of the Pacific Northwest.  Notably, she co-designed the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic medals in Vancouver. Her work includes designing coins for the Canadian Mint, a major exhibit of coastal art in Dresden, Germany, installations in hotels, corporate offices and homes the world over, and of course, her jewelry. She has a deep commitment to aboriginal issues, and is dedicated to promoting peace and a sense of spirituality through sharing and engaging with people of every background. She was born in Alert Bay, near her ancestral home of Fort Rupert, but is as comfortable in her village as she is in Berlin.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Monday, 8 July 2013


Elasmosaurs swam the seas for over 130 million years, feeding on the plentiful fish and shellfish. They used grit and gastroliths in their large stomachs to break down their seafood diet.

Gastroliths – round, polished stomach stones – have been found amid their bones. These stones would have been swallowed to help grind down their catch and lower their natural buoyancy. In their selection of these pebbles, elasmosaurs displayed, at times, a remarkable geological discernment.

The Puntledge elasmosaur from Courtenay, British Columbia, for example, had a yen for basalt. When the fossilized skeleton was excavated, the stones in its abdominal cavity were all basalt, an indication that this particular elasmosaur had somehow learned to discriminate between basalt stones and all others.

Basalt, as any geologist will tell you, is harder (and therefore longer lasting as a grinding material) than many other rocks. Yet over time, even basalt will erode, particularly when subjected to the digestive juices of such an enormous creature. From the elasmosaur’s long neck and bulky body, paleontologists have concluded that that their fishing technique was probably a sudden snake-like strike with the head, sweeping the meal into their cage-like mouth long before the tell-tail body loomed in sight through the depths.

Swimming beneath a school of fish, they would have been hidden by their dappled camouflage, allowing them to swing their toothy mouths up into the schools and capture hapless fish to be swallowed whole. Less stealth was probably required to hunt ammonites – free-swimming shellfish that jetted along like armoured squid. During the Jurassic, ammonites, distant relatives of the chambered nautilus, populated the seas.

The ammonites’ heavy protection would have meant that their backward-looking view of the world was no problem when dealing with most predators, but the marine reptiles of the day were a fatal exception to the rule. Ammonite fossils with clear teeth marks have been found, putting both elasmosaurs and mosasaurs at the scene of the crime and solving murder mysteries millions of years old.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Friday, 28 June 2013

Sunday, 26 May 2013


Steve Suntok made a big discovery off the coast of Vancouver Island near Sooke in 2013. Suntok's daughter, Leah, displays the 25-million-year-old bird fossil, (only the second of its kind ever discovered in the area) at the Royal BC Museum Friday. The family is donating the find to the RBCM's palaeontology collection. 

Then again in 2020, new fossil fish 

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Thursday, 9 May 2013


Eagles, bears and breathtakingly beautiful scenery await those who travel north of Vancouver, British Columbia to the town of Squamish.

I had the great pleasure of meeting one of those travelers last evening while enjoying a stunning sunset dinner at the Boathouse on Kitsilano Beach -- Barbara Samways, a delightfully interesting woman and wonderful conversationist out exploring the West Coast via tour and rail.

British by descent, Barbara has traveled the world. living in what was once Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, and finally settling down in the isolated beauty that is Perth. We talked of the world's great beauties and a shared love of travel with friends and family. Canada is new to her and a geologic playground that I love to call home.

While we lack the turquoise waters and kaleidoscope of colorful fish that warmer waters offer, I wax poetic about our deep blue Pacific, mountain peaks, rich geologic and interesting early history -- all of the things that captivate me and I hope she'll enjoy. I'm looking forward to meeting up with her after her three-week sojourn to hear what sights from our young country delighted her, viewed from a fresh set of eyes.

Situated at the head of Howe Sound and surrounded by mountains, Squamish is cradled in natural beauty as only a West Coast community can be. Growing in fame as the Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada, visitors will discover the abundance of attractions, activities and opportunities to explore in this wilderness community.

Before Europeans came to the Squamish Valley, the area was inhabited by the Squohomish tribes. These Indians lived in North Vancouver and came to the Squamish Valley to hunt and fish. The first contact the Indians had with the white man was in 1792, when Captain George Vancouver came to Squamish to trade near the residential area of Brackendale.

During the 1850s gold miners came in search of gold and an easier gold route to the Interior. Settlers began arriving in the area in 1889, with the majority of them being farmers relocating to the Squamish Valley. The first school was built in 1893 and the first hotel opened in 1902, on the old dock in Squamish.

Squamish means Mother of the Wind in Coast Salish, which is testimony to the winds that rise from the north before noon and blow steadily until dusk, making Squamish a top wind surfing destination, and host to the annual PRO-AM sailboard races.

The Stawamus Chief, the second largest freestanding piece of granite in the world, has made Squamish one of the top rock climbing destinations in North America. This magestic peak is said to have been one of the last areas of dry ground during a time of tremendous flooding in the Squamish area.

Many cultures have a flood myth in their oral history and the Coast Salish people of Squamish are no exception. They tell of a time when all the world save the highest peaks were submerged and only one of their nation survived. Warned in a vision, a warrior of the Squamish nation escaped to safety atop Mount Chuckigh (Mount Garibaldi) as the waters rose.

After the flood, a magestic eagle came to him with a gift of salmon to tell him that the world below was again hospitable and ready for his return. He climbed down the mountain and returned to find his village covered by a layer of silt.

All his people had perished, but the gods gave him another gift, a second survivor of the flood, a beautiful woman who became his wife. For their gift of generosity they had shown, the couple took the eagle as their chief totem and have honored it through generations of Coast Salish people.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Monday, 29 April 2013

Tuesday, 2 April 2013


The Bowron Canoe Circuit is a 149,207 hectare geologic wonderland, where a fortuitous combination of plate tectonics and glacial erosion have carved an unusual 116 kilometre near-continuous rectangular circuit of lakes, streams and rivers bound on all sides by snowcapped mountains. From all descriptions, something like heaven.

The east and south sides of the route are bound by the imposing white peaks of the Cariboo Mountains, the northern boundary of the Interior wet belt, rising up across the Rocky Mountain Trench, and the Isaac Formation, the oldest of seven formations that make up the Cariboo Group (Struik, 1988). Some 270 million years ago, had one wanted to buy waterfront property in what is now British Columbia, you’d be looking somewhere between Prince George and the Alberta border. The rest of the province had yet to arrive but would be made up of over twenty major terranes from around the Pacific.

The rock that would eventually become the Cariboo Mountains and form the lakes and valleys of Bowron was far out in the Pacific Ocean, down near the equator.

With tectonic shifting, these rocks drifted north-eastward, riding their continental plate, until they collided with and joined the Cordillera in what is now British Columbia. Continued pressure and volcanic activity helped create the tremendous slopes of the Cariboo Range we see today with repeated bouts of glaciation during the Pleistocene carving their final shape.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Thursday, 28 February 2013


Monday, 11 February 2013

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Monday, 28 January 2013


A traditional Chinese extract from the bark of the magnolia tree, an ancient genus that goes back some 95-million years, gives you fresh breath by killing off the nasty oral microbes that cause halitosis.

My favorite individual tree is the magnolia growing on the grounds at Balboa Park. It is a magnificent example of the family Magnoliaceae and takes up nearly a whole city block. Older magnolia have this elegant quality of long draping branches, perfect for avoiding a predator while enjoying an afternoon's snooze.

Given that our ancestors decended from the trees, pre Lucy now it seems, and that we've seen bits of magnolia bark in firepits from 10,000 to 80,000 years ago, we may have enjoyed Magnoliaceae as a comfortable perch, hearth and perhaps even some additional oral benefits -- magnolia toothpaste anyone?

Tuesday, 1 January 2013