Written By : Laura Davies
Having grown up in Scotland I am no stranger to the overwhelming beauty and tranquility of nature, there is always that moment (for me at least) where you just stand; take in the view that is in front of you and just smile, really smile. That is exactly how it is on Gil Island. Every day I wake, have breakfast and start work at 8. When “shift” starts I am out on the deck of the lab with the vast expanse of silent, pristine fjords to occupy my eyes, forever changing, always captivating and if it weren’t for the occasional small fishing boat or a chance sighting of a plane’s vapor trail you could, and do, often forget that there is a whole other world outside.
Three weeks later, after settling into life on Gil, I was transported to “The Wall”; Cetacea Lab’s out-camp, which is a tiny island situated off the Northern tip of Rennison Island. It is not a place for the faint hearted. The ascent up to the cabin in itself is a tad scary, the cabin is basic and can be a little chilly when the northwest wind blows.
Forget that you know what a shower is and that you have any concept of what a modern day toilet is - if you can accept this I promise you that you will not be disappointed. Although, the reason you go to the Wall is predominantly to collect data on orca, fin whales and the bubble net feeding events of the humpback whale, which, don’t get me wrong, is a spectacle to both see and to hear, I found the other treats the island had to offer were just as intriguing….
Having grown up on the coast one of my favorite past times was to go investigating the rock pools – the wall and the adjacent island that can be reached during low tide were quick to rekindle my childhood curiosity.
However, it was not quite as evident a curiosity as my island companion; Elyse, whom could have profited from having a pair of child restraint straps permanently attached to her. I’ll give her her dues though – her enthusiasm did result in me seeing my first and probably the cutest Nudibranch I will ever see. Overt your eyes from the rock pools and you’ll find the quarrelsome Bald Eagles and their less than quiet offspring. The sea otter;
which turned out to be not “a really old sea lion” (Hofs, 2016) gave us a fantastic display of how to look effortlessly sauvé floating in sub freezing temperatures whilst eating dinner off your own stomach.
the harbor seal, Pablo, and ultimately the awe inspiring Orca. Such magnificent and humbling creatures, all .I am truly lucky, not only to have spent time with them, but to have observed them in their natural, unspoiled environment – exactly how it should be.
I am also lucky and thankful to have been sent out to the wall with my aforementioned companion, Elyse. Living in close quarters with someone in such circumstances are difficult, however she made it not only easy, but hilariously brilliant; even when the weather fell below the standards of someone who lives in Scotland. But mostly I am grateful to both Janie and Hermann. Thank you for allowing me to come share your island(s) with you but mostly – thank you for fighting to keep it a paradise, a place that made me smile, really smile.