Thursday, 24 July 2014 17:16

Power and Joy

Written by Janie

Power and Joy

Written By Darcy Dobell

Over the years I have had the pleasure of stopping in periodically at Whale Point on Gil Island for brief visits with Janie and Hermann. This  June marked my first opportunity for an extended stay. It was a privilege to contribute, even in a small way, to the exceptional work carried out by the North Coast Cetacean Society, and an experience enriched by near-daily intimate encounters with Humpbacks and Orcas.

Some of the highlights included being escorted down Whale Channel by a focused but still playful gathering of some twenty transient Orcas; glancing up from snorkeling just in time to see the enormous mouth of a lunge-feeding Humpback surge through the water nearby; and being treated to several performances of acrobatics by the very small (relatively speaking) Humpback calf nicknamed “Champ,” whose flukes bear the scars from an Orca attack that clearly came close to ending this young calf’s life, but certainly did nothing to dampen its spirits.

The most poignant moments, though, were those that followed the announcement of Canada’s approval of the proposed Enbridge oil pipeline and tanker route. From Cetacealab’s Caamano Sound outpost, little more than a coffeepot and a telescope cantilevered over some of the most crucial whale habitat on the coast of North America, I listened to the news ripple over the VHF radio (still the primary means of communication along the outer reaches of the North Coast). Word travelled in the understated and economical language of mariners: Roger that. Ok thanks. Did you copy? Copied, yep.


We always knew it would come to this. Yet it is still disappointing, even shocking, to hear an official approval. The short-sightedness of a poorly-planned project that would undo one of our continent’s last great wild places, and one of the world’s rarest, richest, and most spectacular ecosystems – along with the diverse economies and cultures that depend on it – is no less appalling for its predictability.




While the immediate news is discouraging, however, the longer-term outlook is anything but. This pipeline was always going to be approved, but it will never be built. In the wake of the announcement there is very palpable anger and a few tears, but nothing that remotely approaches resignation or despair. To say that oil tankers will never cross Caamano Sound is not to suggest that everyone can relax, but rather to acknowledge the certainty that nobody will.


The clipped exchange over the VHF belies a deep, fierce, and unrelentingly positive determination uniting communities, cultures, sectors, and generations up and down the coast and across the province. The overriding impression is one of steadfast power fuelled by a profoundly joyful connection to place. The image I’m taking with me is this: Champ leaping clear of the water in breach after breach, landing again and again in exuberant full-body splash, a triumph of resilience and life in this extraordinary place.


Last modified on Friday, 25 July 2014 05:50


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