Cruising & Alert Bay, British Columbia

May 07, 2018 - National Geographic Sea Bird

Early morning on the National Geographic Sea Bird began with fog, then no sun, then no fog! It was as if we were moving from the unseen world to the seen world, a wonderful preparation for witnessing the lives and culture of the Northwest Coast peoples we would soon meet in Alert Bay, British Columbia. Our vessel cruised into Blackfish Sound in search of wildlife and any other surprises we might find. Birding on the bow was excellent...though, the fog kept everyone busy watching to see what natural or supernatural figure might appear in the mist.

As Sea Bird began her approach to Cormorant Island, the marine layer began lifting. Slowly, our vessel approached Government Dock where we would remain tied up for the remainder of the day. Once the gangway was in place everyone made their way through town towards the northern end of the island and the U’mista Cultural Center.

After tours of the potlatch collection some of our group had an opportunity to visit a carving shed and visit with Wayne Alfred, master carver and lifelong resident of Alert Bay.

Eventually our full complement of guests, staff, and crew made their way to the Big House, the cultural center of this Kwakwaka’wakw community. It was our first opportunity to witness the Living Culture of the Northwest Coast. The T’sasala Cultural Group welcomed us for what they called, “cultural sharing.” During the next hour we were introduced to life inside the Big House and the cultural foundation of the potlatch.

Our afternoon was made complete with a delicious sample of traditionally cooked Sockeye salmon and bannock! Wonderfully fueled and filled with the joy and magic of the Big House, we made our way back to our waiting ship ready to continue our journey exploring the Inside Passage along the west coast of British Columbia.

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About the Author

Sharon Grainger

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Sharon’s degrees in Psychology and Anthropology from Eastern Washington University have given her a good base to pursue her profession as a naturalist and photographer. With five generations of artists behind her, she has developed a portfolio of images covering many interests including indigenous cultures, ethnobotany, natural and cultural history. Photography gives voice and interpretation to her experience of the world. Spending many years with Native peoples has dramatically affected her attitude towards how and what she sees. She recognized, through these experiences, the diversity of peoples around the world. This began a lifelong curiosity about the variety of ways in which different cultures relate to each other and this planet.

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