Alert Bay, Cormorant Island

May 10, 2019 - National Geographic Venture


After safe passage through Seymour Narrows late last night (site of one of the world’s largest non-nuclear detonations, one to remove 650,000 metric tons of rock from the narrow channel for safe navigation), our National Geographic Venture found itself shrouded in pea soup-like fog of the early morning. The fog held for most of the morning but cleared enough to allow the sighting of a few humpback whales and harbor porpoise in the distance.

After a scrumptious early lunch, we disembarked in the town of Alert Bay on Cormorant Island. Our goal this afternoon was to visit the First Nations tribe who call themselves Kwakwaka'wakw. We viewed the totem poles in the town cemetery along with tours of the U’mista Cultural Center, where much of the preserved regalia has been returned to the Kwakwaka'wakw, after being illegally taken by museums and collectors in the past century. The highlight of the visit was most decidedly the traditional dance performance in the Big House.

I have been a spectator to this traditional performance for the last 15 years and am always amazed at the level of commitment the dancers have to their ancestral roots. The youngest dancer was only three years old and the oldest was a great grandmother! The rhythm of the pulsing drums and chanting drove the performance and dancers young and old captivated us with their stories, all by the light of the fire in the center of the Big House!

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About the Author

Michael Nolan

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Michael Nolan was born in Bitburg, Germany to an Air Force family stationed there. His first experience of the ocean came at age 12, when he learned to snorkel in the Italian Mediterranean. At age 17 he moved to Tucson, Arizona and became a PADI SCUBA instructor, before starting a SCUBA diving business that specialized in diving trips to the Sea of Cortez.

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