Haida Gwaii, Old Massett

May 18, 2019 - National Geographic Sea Bird


Earth without art is just eh, a truism experienced this morning in Old Massett when Master Haida carvers Christian White and Jim Hart described their art and provided tours of their studios.

Christian first explained the stories and meaning of his family pole and described how it was erected. He then stood by a large cedar log (which required 24 years of searching) in his carving shed and explained how he would proceed to create a large canoe. Jim Hart graciously invited us into his home, which also serves as a studio and, quite clearly, a first-class museum filled with a plethora of exquisite large and small carvings in wood and stone.

After the studio tours, we had lunch in Christian’s lodge house and witnessed five dances performed by our servers: The Welcome Dance, The Bird Song-Salmon Berry, Women’s Song, Men’s Song, and The Blanket Song. The challenge to participate in the women’s and men’s dances was enthusiastically accepted!

In the afternoon, several of us viewed the art of nature by driving through breathtaking old-growth forest, then hiking near Tow Hill, 134 kilometers north of Old Massett. Some made a steep speed-climb to the top and were rewarded with a breathtaking (in more ways than one) and all-too-brief view of distant Alaska to the northwest and of the long beach leading to Old Massett to the southwest. The return to Queen Charlotte City and National Geographic Sea Bird gave us the chance to quietly absorb the art of the Haida and nature before heading for Alaska and new adventures.

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About the Author

James Coyer

Naturalist/Expedition Diver

It was Malle and Cousteau’s The Silent World, viewed in a dusty meeting hall on a wintry day in central Wisconsin that forged Jim’s dream and commitment to become a marine biologist. Never mind that he was only 8 at the time and that it would be another 13 years before he finally felt the spray of an ocean on his face.

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