The archipelago of Haida Gwaii’s meaning, “Islands of the People” is composed of approximately 150 islands grouped along the outer edge of the continental shelf off British Columbia’s northwest coast. These are the most isolated and distant islands anywhere in Canada. Hecate Strait is the wide, relatively shallow body of water averaging only 17 fathoms (~100 feet) separating it from the mainland. Strong winds and tidal flows can change the conditions with very little warning and today’s crossing is estimated to take eight hours. Chris has been watching the weather forecast closely, and today is judged to be better than tomorrow so we depart.
Within the first hour we spotted a humpback, but it was a fleeting sighting followed 20 minutes later by a pair of Dall’s porpoise skipping across the water with their characteristic “rooster-tail” of water blowing over their backs. At 11:00 a.m. we were treated to a breaching humpback whale! To our delight it breached two or three times before disappearing. Throughout the journey various birds were sighted including loon, northern fulmars and a flock of plovers gliding and tipping as a single unit side to side. A few boats were even lucky enough to see puffins, although it was fleeting so we were unsure if they were tufted or horned.
We turned into Bearskin Bay at Queen Charlotte City and passed by the Haida Heritage Centre located in Skidegate where we will go tomorrow for our orientation before entering Gwaii Haanas National Park. Arriving ahead of our ETA tired and pleased to be docked in calm water on a quiet boat, we settled in and watched charter fishing boats arrive with their catch. One boat had 17 bright albacore tuna and three very pleased charter guests. Most guests walked into the small town to get the lay of the land and by evening we were settled in and treated to a beautiful rainbow in the late afternoon sky.