Again, we spend part of the morning in Bamard Creek. The ravens are calling out for the wolves and bears – but I’m sure we are sensed. There is more evidence (tracks and salmon kill) of wolves. More wolves means fewer bears. A wolf pack on land is similar to an Orca pod in the water, both are at the top of the food chain. Wolves in pack will drive bears from an area in the competition to feed.
We also spend time looking at the stone weirs where the creek meets the sea. These stone dams would have been used by ancient Tsimshian to capture salmon. At high tide the fish would swim into the pool created by the weir and when the tide dropped they would be trapped and easily speared. The salmon would be taken in this section of the creek because, as is part of the spawning cycle, they begin to die and decompose when they swim into the fresh water of the river. Ironically it’s in the river that the female will move gravel with her body to create a safe place for her eggs. Many of the salmon won’t even get the opportunity to spawn and will be taken by predators or will succumb to the next-to-impossible journey.
For the remainder of the morning we paddle around the edges of Cameron Cove. Its a gorgeous day; clear and warm. For the first time we have all left our thermal clothing layers and rain gear behind and we are freely paddling in shorts and t-shirts.
The water is very clear today. I can still see the bottom at over 10m (30 feet) in depth. The bottom of this bay is littered with clam shells and covered with huge sunstars – very large multi-armed starfish. They range in colours of red, purple and yellow. Occasionally they appear quite large in the center, meaning that they have passed over their prey (likely a clam) and are now slowly prying the shell open in order to ingest the inner flesh.
Later on we paddle around Borde Island. Its a small Islet surrounded by sea shelves that are rich in life. Much of this life lives within massive underwater forests of kelp (large underwater seaweed). The wide, long noodle-like translucent blades move gently with the current and filter the sunlight onto the sandy shelf below where they are anchored with a system of roots. Standing on our boards, floating 2m (6.5 feet) above the sea bottom gives us a perfect vantage point. We see fish of all types. The most recognizable are the flat bottom-swimming flounders. We also view various starfish, sea cucumbers, several kinds of anemones and incredible clusters of sea urchins. Thousands of these spiny globe shelled creatures are packed together in mobs.
As we move toward the beach we spot a Kermode bear cub just above the high tide line. He is slowly moving along behind his mother (a black bear). Kermode – also known as Spirit Bears – are not albino but white as a result of a recessive allele. This subspecies is very rare and unique to this part of the Great Bear Rainforest (the area of coast ranging from Princess Royal Island to Prince Rupert). To see a spirit bear is an even rarer occurrence, especially now with wolves active in the area. The small white bear (who looks a little like a Samoyed dog) is dawdling behind his mother. She moves easily over a fallen tree. He has to climb, perch and tumble. At another fallen tree he stops and sprawls out. He is collected by the mother and coaxed up into the trees. He is desperately trying to find a way to sleep but his mother won’t let this happen until there is a layer of trees between us.
We view the mama and cub until the late afternoon sun begins to drop behind the hills and then paddle away from the shore. On our way out into more open water we can hear heavy thumping splashes. Not too far off we see a Humpback pounding the surface, first with a huge pectoral fin then with its tail flukes. Soon after he is fully breaching, throwing most of his body from the water and splashing down onto his back.
Great Bear Rainforest Stand Up Paddle Expedition · Day 6: The Kermode