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8-5-09 Wed. Grays Harbour & SGang Gwaay August 12, 2009

Posted by captnmike in The Queen Charlottes 2009.
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Then back to Rose Harbor (an old whaling station).  On our way to Gray’s Harbour two whales were jumping and tail slapping.  We headed over towards where they were.  We cut the engine.  One did about 20 tail slaps in a row very quickly.  They did a couple of breaches, some more tail slaps.  Then they circled the boat about100 yards off.  They weren’t doing much so we started to leave.  Then they went back into their tail slapping, fin slapping and several more breaches.  Finally we motored up again and headed to Gray’s Harbour, a whale came up off to the right, then in front of us off to the left in the midst of a bunch of birds, then another whale came up so three whales in the area.  We are headed to Anthony Island where SGany Gwaay, a Haida Village Site is located.  Grays Harbour is one of the places to anchor.  We keep getting interrupted by whales.  This is a first for Marshall seeing breaching, fin and tail slaps.

At SGang Gwaay, Girl was our guide for a tour of the island.  There are several memorial totems about 20 plus that are in pretty good shape.  The longhouses are all fallen down with a couple of homes you can see the beam structure for two beam or six beam structure.  Some house totems are in place but not in good condition.  Girl is into halibut fishing.  Since she is first nation she can lay down a long line with hooks and such of 2000 feet or they have a 900 line too.  They have an 80 pounder and two smaller one to cut up and freeze.  The watchmen’s names are Girl, James and Jaada.

We got back to Rose Harbour and went to shore.  Talked with Gotz (Getz) on directions to a Haida canoe that is partially finished in the woods.  It’s a 10 minute hike up to the old ocean water level which is a distinct rise in the gentle lay of the land.  This is very close to Gotz’s water line trail which we follow for the most part.  We see it right away.  Both ends are shaped on bottom and top and along the whole top, it’s right next to the stump it came from a western red cedar, the inside of it has been started to be hollowed out on each end.  It’s about 35 feet long and 36 inches wide.  After it comes out of the woods they would steam it to bend the sides to make it wider.  There are several instances of canoes like this around the islands here.  Most of them are due to the devastation of small pox.  On SGang Gwaay the population was 500 to 600 they estimate and only about 5 elder males are left.  Since Haida is a matriarchal society there will soon be no lineage left.  Small pox was much more devastating on females.

Gotz gave us a tour a bit and answered questions, he’s been here 23 years.  We saw how he heats up hot water for a shower with a wood fire.  At our landing where the dinghy Avon came to shore is a bunch of rusty threaded round metal objects split in half.  They look like giant round nuts, 5 inches in diameter that would go on a bolt.  They are from the whales that came in here for the old whale station of 1910 to 1943.  The round objects would be left in the whale when they were shot with the canon harpoon.  They averaged about 200 whales a year.

Susan a neighbor offers up dinners we signed up for tonight for a 7:30pm start.  There is also a small group of tourists from Moresby Explorers, four of them, 3 gals and a guy, plus a guide.  Dinner starts with fresh from her garden salad with dressing, veggie sushi of different types, fresh ginger, wasabi, and soy sauce.  Dinner was as much as you wanted.  We then moved on to Dungeness crab of eight inchers and bigger, caught by Gotz.  I picked up a nice big half of one out of a bowl and asked Susan if she had any hot ones as I saw her cooling some off in the sink so you could at least work with them.  The one I had was rather cold, and I thought oh well, I don’t want to be impolite and return it back to the bowl.  The guide then noticed I had taken it from the bowl of raw crab that Susan hadn’t cooked yet.  He took it from my plate and said you might one to try one these hot ones.  Then I noted the red color of cooked crab versus the purple of raw crab.  Next was a Soba noodle dish with fresh garden vegetables and cashews.  We then moved on to the main course of lingcod caught that day by the guide.  The ling was battered in dry flour for a few minutes in chunks 2 to 3 inches, then a sweet Indoneasian soy sauce, then fresh onions cooked, with sugar peas.  A side of cauliflower that had been stir fried just a touch with some pumpkin seeds.  I took a walk thru her garden that all these vegetables came from.  One it was good sized, 80 x 100 feet, (2) a lot of it was coming ripe at the same time even though she had stepped the planting.  (3)  The size of the vegetables was large in many cases.  Cauliflower about 1 ½ human head size, broccoli about twice the size of a human head.  Lots of chard, onions, carrots, raspberries, and some corn but it was not even close to ready, flowers and other vegetables.  She uses fish carcasses and seaweed that have rotted out and decomposed along with compost from trimings and such at meals.  We congregated in the living room and looked over whaling books and pictures.  Dessert was a chocolate chip square bar with huckleberry sauce and fresh raspberries, with fresh mint tea to drink also.  Judy and I had beer in a wine glass that I had brought.  All this was cooked on a home wood stove with a hot water heat exchanger for the kitchen.  We paid our bill of $35 each and left at 10:30 as we had to wrap up the dinghy and put it on deck and get up at 4 am to leave at 5am.

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