Saturday, November 21, 2015

Rotting cement, upside-down tables, and a handful of limpets

From Campbell River to the south, the highway winds along a coastal plain, dotted with farms, towns, resorts, and light industry. To the north and the west, the situation changes. A terrain map shows what my Mom called an upside-down tableland; many tables, all with their legs in the air.

Google maps: terrain, mid-section of northern Vancouver Island. Campbell River is just off the map, to the lower right.

Here, the roads follow river valleys, keeping as far as possible to low ground, out of the grip of ice most of the year. And here, human settlements are small and widely scattered. Sayward is "large", with 400 people. Kelsey Bay holds 120. Woss, there in the centre of the map, is home to 200. In between, beside some of the lakes, there are a few campsites and inns; a house, a cabin or two, and nothing more. Near the northern tip, where BC Ferries has a terminal, Port Hardy boasts a large population of 4000.

"Port Hardy (population: 4,000) is the last bastion of civilization in the remote and wild north end of Vancouver Island." (Yes, they actually said that. Here.)

Along this coastline, even where there is access, human influence is attenuated. Shipping; cruise ships, fishing boats, log booms, and barges pass, leaving their wash and smoke; logging trucks roar by on the highways; and, of course, there are all the general effects of climate change. Apart from those, land and marine animals and plants go about their business mostly unobserved.

Kelsey Bay is one of the spots where we have left a deeper footprint. It used to be the southern terminus of BC Ferries' Inside Passage, before the road was pushed through to Port Hardy. The bay is full of rusting hulks, crumbling cement, abandoned wharves, interspersed with the usual activities of a northern port; a small-craft harbour, a log dump, parking lots full of machinery and trucks.

Old BC Ferries' ramp supports. High tides reach to the top of the exposed metal.

View from the end of the road, towards Mt. H'kusam. With marina, and several rusting hulks.

On the tiny beach, besides the dead sea urchin, I found shreds of a variety of kelps; the big bull kelp, a curly, wide-bladed kelp, and others too torn to identify. Rockweed is well-entrenched, growing firmly on the cement boat launch; I pawed through it, looking for small critters, and found beach hoppers. On the rocks, mostly too big or too wedged in to flip, barnacles and limpets waited for the water to come back.

Empty limpet shell.

An unusual pattern. This one's alive, and holding on tight.

Limpet on a stone.

Row of mask limpets (Tectura persona) on a rock. With two slipper snails, and another, possibly a ribbed limpet. Lottia digitalis. I had to move a rock to get at these.

All along the coastline, around the marina and the rotting remains of abandoned equipment, the tops of a bull kelp forest floated, their holdfasts still attached below.

The tide is low; at high tide, only the floating blades will be seen.

Keeping a few metres shy of the rocky shore. The water's pink, looking south, towards the setting sun.

From the old BC Ferries' dock, looking north. "My" tiny beach is in the shelter of that big rock on the left. Bare rock marks the high tide line. I was actually trying to take a photo of a loon, who, of course, dived just as I pressed the shutter. There's an eagle on one of the trees, though.

I won't be heading farther north from here until spring; I've been warned of an icy hill, just beyond the Sayward Village turnoff from the highway. Meanwhile, I pore over maps and aerial views, planning, planning.


  1. So many new places to go. Life can be tough up there on the north island. For some reason we've been paired with Northern Vancouver Island in the new federal riding rather than our old pairing with the Sunshine Coast. Guess politicians don't have any idea how "distant" Powell River is from the island, especially with the cost of ferries. - Margy

  2. It's a whole new world once you're off the coastal plain, but political boundaries rarely conform to real-life situations.


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