Our trawler, INTREPID, has brought us safely from Alaska to Sullivan Bay, B.C., a most interesting floating community. Yes, every building in this town, bobs on the water, held together by more than a half mile of wide wooden docks. A restaurant, fully stocked store, fuel dock, laundromat and library, offer services to the homes in the town as well as to private boats who dock here. In a big blow, the whole city rocks and rolls! What should be an unsettling environment is clearly a thriving community.
Other oddities we’ve come upon on our Virgin Trip to Alaska.
Example #1: Human Interest. We met a couple with a boat like ours, who spend days on end searching for glass beads and glass balls on the wild shores of Alaska and British Columbia. One year they found twenty-five Japanese glass balls (the kind used to float fishing nets, back in the day). During the summer months they comb Pacific Northwest and Southeast Alaska beaches for the t-tiniest glass beads…called ‘trade beads.’ I’ve seen the jewelry…the beads are beautiful! But to find these little things on a beach among multicolored rocks and miles of sand…I mean you’d have to be a little crazy (and willing to live with a crick in your neck). Until a week ago, I’d never heard of the incredible prices people will pay for tiny glass trade beads, made in Europe, but used hundreds of years ago to barter with Native Americans. Who would have thought?
Example #2 Salmon in Peril. We anchored at the end of Lowe Inlet (Princess Royal Reach, B.C.), where a waterfall spills ten feet (at high tide) to the ocean. Black bears (see the story below) wait to catch any salmon that jump to paw or jaw height. For the first time, I saw the difficulty involved in a salmon’s impetus to spawn. The critters attempted to scale that giant wall of falling water, but the task seemed impossible, even at high tide. I saw scores of fish leap, smack their noses or bodies on the rock wall, and fall back, stunned, probably too weak for another try. Hundreds got caught and eaten by bears. In fact, in all the time I watched, I never saw one salmon succeed in scaling the waterfall. And I thought using the Internet as a marketing tool was tough
Example #3: Bears. Evidently, bears have to eat lots of salmon to build up their fat reserves for hibernation, so they get mighty greedy when salmon run upstream. Turns out they’ve got as many challenges as the fish they’re trying to catch. I observed six black bears anchor themselves precariously on the rocky side of a small waterfall and wait patiently for salmon to jump within their grasp. Frankly, I wasn’t impressed by their hand-eye coordination…their misses were many. They’d try to stab the critters with their claws or snap them up with their jaws, but they failed ninety percent of the time. Plus the poor things got drenched by the waterfall as they fought for footing on the steep, mossy bank. When one was successful, he’d secure the fish in his mouth and carry the wriggling fellow to the woods. I’m told most black bears feast on salmon eggs to get the most protein out of their prey. Not to worry, the eagles were always on hand to carry away the leftovers.
Humans, salmon and bears. Persistence counts.