In 2013-2014, I worked as a relief lighthouse keeper for a year on the coast of British Columbia. I traveled by boat and helicopter into these stations and stayed for a length of time. Each station is different. There was always one principal keeper and I would be there to do the duties of the assistant keeper. We each had our own house. As romantic as it sounds, we did not live in the light;) This blog chronicles some of my adventures and the history of these remote locations.
One gigantic reason to keep the keepers living in the lighthouses is that, from time to time, they pull drowning people out of the water. They give aid to injured hikers. They save lives. Humans. Animals. They are the eyes and ears of the ocean. First responders. They safeguard our waters. And, they are there when you need them 24-7. Don't believe me? Watch this recent news clip:
Cast up by an angry sea, lying haphazardly on the beach, is a rusty propane tank, detritus of the 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan on March 11, 2011. Approximately 1.5 million tons of debris are still floating in the Pacific Ocean. This tank is a testament to the nearly 16,000 lives lost in the event. A rusty reminder that the Earth is alive and we two-leggeds are not in control.
Beyond the undulating pebble beach, protected by a pine windbreak, lies the graveyard trail. Cemeteries captivate me. I dragged my daughter all over Ireland, stopping to marvel at names and dates on stones, colossal Victorian crypts, the flowers (tended and not), the weather-beaten toys. This is a human need, this marking and remembering. Even our Neanderthal kin buried their dead with precious bits of life some 250,000 years ago. We need to know where our loved ones lie. We ask that their remains come home. We ask that we be buried together. This is a peaceful place, swept by the sea breeze, …
I spoke with a couple of local women today who say that this plant is fantastic for healing wounds. It grows in shady woods, low to the ground, and has a stalk of delicate white flowers. I come from Ontario and thought we called it coltsfoot there, as it looks like a hoof. Does anyone know the name for it? I'd like to know more about it.
This has been quite a strange week. It may have had something to do with the Full Moon in Scorpio, which appeared mid-week, bringing a new set of extremes: low low tides, extraordinary social activity, and sleeplessness. Last Saturday, kicked it off. I’ve fallen into a routine here at Nootka over the past seven weeks, but last Saturday everything I usually do, I did just a little differently. This, I expect, contributed to my misadventure. To begin with, the 7:30am weather had me stymied. I stared around at the dense fog that enveloped us like a horseshoe, and up, at the clear blue sky above, and thought, where are the clouds? Eventually, with time pressing, I settled on X- (partially obscured) and a remark that I could actually see 15 miles to the south. After the fog cleared, though I didn’t feel like going for a walk, I went anyway. I’ve been hiking and rock-climbing in my clunky rubber bogs for the past seven weeks, but decided to wear my grey running shoes. I don’t wear them much.…
The steep cracked cement steps are caked with moss. A mottled brass plaque inside the wooden doors reads: This church, dedicated to Pope St Pius X, erected 1956 to the Glory of God and in memory of Padre Magin Catala, OFM, first missionary to Friendly Cove, 1793 and in memory of the historic meeting of Capt. George Vancouver, RN and Commander Bodega Y Quadra of the Spanish Navy in Friendly Cove, 1792, and the Nootka Convention Treaty, was sponsored by His Excellency, Bishop James M. Hill of Victoria, directed by the Rev. F. Miller OMI Parish Priest, assisted by Rev. T. Lobsinger OMI with the approval and assistance of Chief Ambrose Maquinna and his band at Friendly Cove. So many to acknowledge, and yet the actual people, who have lived here since time immemorial, and on whose territory the church stands, barely make it to the last line. In the vestibule are stained glass windows sent by Spain, framed yellowing photographs, and a model of a longhouse. The hall itself, I am pleased to say…
With perfect weather yesterday, I decided to challenge myself, and go exploring. With my fearless companion, I headed out across the rocks at low tide. Here, Lucy strikes a pose, while waiting for me to hoist her down the rock.
We saw brilliant starfish nestled in amongst the kelp-strewn stones.
After crossing the rocky cove, we had to scale a rock wall. This might look easy, but I had to find solid handholds and toeholds, and be careful not to fall or twist an ankle or knee, or slip on a dodgy rock. I always carry a handheld radio, but I don't ever want to have to use it to call for help.
Spring flowers are popping up everywhere. Nestled in cracks, or riddling a grassy area, they shoot up and bloom wherever they can. This "Indian Paintbrush" found a rock depression right at the edge of the cliff.
I'm not sure what this plant is, but it's a lovely wine shade. I think it's a type of lily. If you know what it's called, please leave a comment.
The weathered church that stands today in Friendly Cove was erected in 1956, for the purposes of “educating” the people of Yuquot. In the vestibule, old plaques and photographs are displayed, memories and keys to the significance of this place. One article in particular captured my attention. It tells a familiar story; one of loss, and betrayal, and exploitation. In 1904, the entire Nootka Whalers’ Washing House, a 5x6 metre building, plus its contents was “purchased” from two elders and spirited away under cover of night. It was whaling season, and most of the community was off at work. A shady deal, no doubt, that the whalers would have objected to had they known. George Hunt, working under the famous anthropologist, Franz Boas, orchestrated the deal, which reportedly gained two men $500.00 but lost a community something sacred and precious. It ended up in the American Museum in New York, and has stayed there, in the basement, for the past century. This is an image of the contents:
“Some say, the earth was feverish and did shake” (Macbeth II.3) It was a rough night. Aye. Last night, I was lying in my comfy bed reading when the bed began to move as if several people were holding it, and shaking it. My first reaction was to get out of the bed and stare at it. (I can hear you laughing, Tara.) But, my immediate thought was of paranormal activity. I kid you not. The last couple of days I’ve been thinking about the people who lived and died in this cove. Maquinna’s people decapitated twenty-five sailors and placed their heads on sticks around the cove, in retaliation for prior injury done to his people. What happened to their bodies? Do their bones lie crusted with algae and kelp beneath the waves, or did they burn with the ship? And then, there are countless Mowachaht/Muchalaht people, who died here over the millennia due to various reasons, and suffered through diseases like smallpox. And the sailors and fishermen whose boats have capsized and sunk beneath the waves. A…
Emily Carr is a woman I admire. Passionate and true to herself, she rejected Victorian decorum to explore the world. This was something that young women just did not do at the turn of the century. She travelled to San Francisco, London, and Paris to learn her craft. Heavens! She even dared to ride horseback like a man. Fearless, determined, and open-minded, Emily is so much more than her art. Travelling by boat and canoe, often with only a guide and her wee dog, she explored the West Coast, sketching and painting Haida, Salish, and Nuu-chah-nulth villages. Like a west wind, whispering and screaming with paint, she drew our gaze to vanishing peoples and cultures. An independent women, Emily supported herself as best she could by teaching art, and running a boarding house; though these chores must have stifled her creative process. Still, through it all she survived, and she painted. And, when she could no longer travel or camp or even move around much, she began to write. In 1929, Emily C…
Two Days of Brilliant Sunshine Spur Activity in Friendly Cove. (Another Billy Pretty Headline). I was excited this weekend to be able to record CLR, meaning clear sky, in the weather book. We even managed calm and rippled a few times too.
Early Saturday morning, the crew of The Bartlett appeared to refill our diesel tanks. It’s always exciting to have visitors.
It’s still cool here, even in the sun, but we stood outside, watching and chatting, as the tanks were filled. Later, we were invited to join the crew for an excellent shipboard BBQ. In the afternoon, Lucy and I walked the beach. You just can't pass up a sunny afternoon. By bedtime, 7pm, I was exhausted after a day spent outside.
Sunday, the weather held. Mark went out to check his prawn traps and discovered that he’d caught another octopus. This one will transform into halibut--apparently, halibut love to eat octopus. Another link in the chain.
It was low tide, so Lucy and I decided to attempt a rock climb across the slick bracke…