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Remote Vancouver Island

Northern Tip & Brooks Peninsula - July 16-22, 2021
I had the great honor of being invited to join Maple Leaf Adventures on board their ship Cascadia for a week long voyage around the northern tip of Vancouver Island, down the west coast to the Brooks Peninsula and back. I was there as an ambassador for the Royal Canadian Geographical Society and so I gave a few presentations on the ship throughout the journey. What a great trip it was. Plenty of wildlife sightings, pristine wilderness areas, some great interactions with the Kyuquot indigenous community and more. What a great way to experience this corner of the world. The ship was amazing with delicious food, a hot tub, and many more amenities. It was a very small group, only about 15 guests, plus 10 crew which made it easy to get to know everyone on board very quickly.

Map

Cascadia

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The catamaran Cascadia, our very comfortable home for the week.
An Orca surfaces near Kyuquot, Vancouver Island
A stellar sea lion swims through glassy calm water.

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Evening light along the western coast of Vancouver Island.
A humpback whale lifts its fluke out of the water as it prepares to dive.
The passengers of the Cascadia with the Canadian Geographic flag at Cape Situl, the northernmost tip of Vancouver Island.

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Expedition leader & Maple Leaf CEO Kevin Smith (L) and RCGS Explorer In Residence George Kourounis (R) with the flag of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society at Cape Situl, the northernmost tip of Vancouver Island.
The view, looking straight up in the temperate rain forest of Vancouver Island.
The sun setting at the stern of the Cascadia after a great day exploring western Vancouver Island.

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Sunset from a protected anchorage of the coast of Vancouver Island.
One of the passengers aboard the Cascadia on the watch for whales.
A bald eagle perched the branch of a dead tree.

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A streak of sunrise light illuminates the sky above mountains along the coast of Vancouver Island.
A female sea otter floats on her back. They can propel an manoeuvre themselves with just their tail while lying like this.
A gull swoops past a sea otter near Kyuquot, south of the Brooks Peninsula, Vancouver Island.

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A marine debris removal team shows off all the trash that they have cleaned up off of Vancouver Island’s coastline. Most of it is fishing equipment that has been lost at sea in the Pacific. This is a collection point in Kyuquot before the trash is ultimately brought to a processing center, most of it will be recycled.
A “raft” of between 50 to 60 male sea otters floating amongst the kelp, just offshore from Kyuquot on the west coast of Vancouver Island.
One of the small landing-craft style tenders that are used by Maple Leaf Adventures to get to shore in remote areas. They are custom-designed and built specifically for Maple Leaf’s unique requirements.

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A sea otter skull.
Dave Pinel, naturalist and guide on the trip. He also operates West Coast Expeditions out of Kyuquot.
Expedition Leader and Maple Leaf Adventures CEO Kevin Smith.

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Dave Pinel guides the group through the dense rain forest during a shore excursion.
A Kyuquot elder shows some of the group some tradition techniques to weave tree bark.
A kayaker surrounded by some of the stunning rock formations found along north-western Vancouver Island.

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Expedition Leader Kevin Smith with a skull & partial skeleton of a sea otter that was found while beachcombing along a remote beach on the west coast of Vancouver Island.
The Canadian flag flies from the stern of Cascadia as the vessel passes a rocky island, peppered with sunbathing stellar sea lions at Solander Island Ecological Reserve.
A group shot at the stern of Cascadia at Solander Island Ecological Reserve.

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Orca Breaching 1
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Orca Breaching 3

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Orca Breaching 4
A family of orcas surface in glinting sunlight off the Brooks Peninsula, B.C.
An orca with a rare collapsed dorsal fin. This individual (B-13) is known to marine biologists as the only known northern orca with a collapsed or “droopy” dorsal fin.

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Stacked lenticular clouds overtop a mountain show how the local geography can provide orographic lift which causes moist, ocean air to be pushed up into the atmosphere where it cools and condenses into clouds.
A rare coastal wolf prowls the shoreline near the Brooks Peninsula. These wolves’ diet is made up mainly of sea life that is caught up in tidal pools when the tide goes out.
A Kyuquot woman filets a fresh salmon, which we all shared for dinner.

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Expedition leader Kevin Smith with a very rare Japanese hand-blown glass fishing float. Before plastics were invented, these glass floats were made to hold fishing nets up at the ocean’s surface. These are considered treasure by British Columbia beachcombers, and this one (a gift from a Kyuquot elder) is likely close to a hundred years old.
Some of the passengers show off the salmon they caught during an early morning fishing excursion.
Tracks from a coastal wolf on a remote beach north of the Brooks Peninsula.

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Turret Rock
Dave Pinel clowns around with a an improvised sea-kelp wig.
Size comparison between a human hand and the footprint from a very large coastal wolf.
Moving Island Optical Illusion
Turret Rock in the Slingsby Channel, British Columbia.
Here, the Nakwakto Rapids have the strongest tidal current in the world (16-20 knots). Turret Rock is nicknamed "Tremble Island" because it supposedly shakes from the force of the current when the tide shifts from the Pacific Ocean through Seymour Inlet.
There are tales of people tying ropes to the trees on Turret Rock and water-skiing in the rapid current.
The perspective of the island, the flow of the water, and my position on a small boat create the illusion that the island is moving through the water.

 

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