the now extinct, hotspring island, haida gwaii.
no-one could have ever of guessed that we would be amongst the last people to visit such a rare place in the world. -in august of 2012, a group of nine, we drove to prince rupert and ferried the 8 hours into the pacific to a place once called the queen charlotte islands. now haida gwaii (or rather, again).
set off in the pacific, the archipelago is the most remote part of british columbia and said to have skimmed past the last 2000 years of the ice age before the rest of b.c. a place of heightened nature that defines bc’s mantra, super natural.
a passionate group for the outdoors and fuelled by books like the golden spruce by john vaillant, we committed to a two week trip. the plan: road trip and ferry to haida gwaii and kayak through the gwaii haanas, a 138 island national park.
one of the oldest, rawest places in the world, haida gwaii’s population is under 5000. between the staff and tourism in gwaii haanas, a place where you could be a minimum of 2-4 hours by speed boat to the nearest town, i would guess the population at 50 in high season. though that might be generous. either way, kayaking the gwaii haanas is the epitome of getting into nature. you go days without seeing another person while seeing wildlife moment after moment.
our trip was a seven day kayak-camping exploration of gwaii haanas, jumping from island to island every day to set up a new camp, all the way to our final destination, hotspring island. -to say it was cold in august was an understatement. days averaged at 9° celcius. which was sometimes hard to fathom when you knew you were in summer and waited all year for warm weather only to take a trip into some sort of snow globe.
to cite a fun sentence from wikipedia’s entry on haida gwaii:
precipitation is typically extremely frequent, occurring on around two-thirds of all days even in relatively shielded areas, and direct sunlight is scarce, averaging around 3 to 4 hours per day.
that said, while there were many days of going to bed in the rain, waking up to it, changing in it and eating in it; we did catch some flawless, hot summer days. a rarity to be found.
tear down camp, breakfast, five-seven hour days in the kayak, make camp, dinner. every day for a week. seven days of rations, separated by day, then by meal. so if you wanted more than you packed, you’d support andrew’s fishing.
pure, raw wild like i’ve never seen before. all to one direction, hotspring island. mother natures destination resort spa. between entire days in a kayak while being hit by heavy rain to never getting to properly stretch your legs while seated in the ocean, the hot springs were heaven on earth. natures infinity pools, they were deep enough to submerge, long enough to do a good few strokes, all with soothing just-barely-bearable temperatures. we watched the sun set while low hanging clouds rolled over islands in a way that appeared to swallow them whole.
but now it’s all gone.
two months later, on october 27th, a 7.7 magnitude earth quake hit haida gwaii (the second largest to ever hit canada, preceding the 1949 queen charlotte earthquake) shaking the entire archipelago and sealing off the springs on hotspring island. stopping the flow of water, the islands three pools are now dried up. while locals hope that the next quake could reopen the springs and bring life back to the island, it is for the time being, and possibly a lifetime, gone.
we only had one evening, one sunset to experience such a place. but i think we are all able to reflect well, knowing that even with such a short time, we took nothing for granted. we expressed and shared our love and awe for it and left knowing we had experienced a place like no other.
*black and white photos shot on a contax t2 with ilford xp2
**color photos shot on a yashica t4 with portra 160