National Geographic Sea Lion
spent the night anchored off Graham Reach in Khutze Inlet. In the early morning hours, Captain Nettles and his crew raised the anchor, and we began to make our way northbound, in the calm waters of Graham Reach. Port side is Princess Royal Island, home to the Great Bear Rainforest National Park. This lush forested island has the highest density of spirit bears, or “Kermodes,” in British Columbia. A legend passed down by the native peoples tell of a time when the world was once covered in frozen glaciers. Raven the creator, descended from the heavens and created the green. However, he was still not satisfied; Raven wanted a reminder of the long harsh white time. He chose to speak with Bear, the keeper of dreams and memory. Bear (a black bear) made a pact with Raven that one out of every ten black bears would be white to keep the reminder of the great ice age.
Our ship arrived to the old Butedale Cannery at 7:00 that morning. Owner Shawn Kennedy and his son Dayton came aboard the ship and enjoyed breakfast with our guests and crew. Shawn gave a nice talk on the history and current condition the property. Our vessel stood off in the small bay just off the Butedale dock. Expedition landing craft were deployed to ferry our guests and crew ashore to tour the property and take a hike to Bute Lake, just a short distance above the property. A pair of harlequin ducks and a few pigeon guillemots enjoyed the morning sunshine as we departed for shore.
Construction in Butedale began 1911, originally under the ownership of the Canadian Fishing Company. The Butedale Cannery was valued as one of the last remaining northern cannery sites in British Columbia. The cannery was a success despite its isolation. The town’s creek offered a supply of fresh water and hydroelectric power. While the years wore on, the facility came into disrepair. Currently most of the dilapidated buildings have been removed and the property is being cleared for future development that is still to be determined.
Departing, we kept a keen look out for the famous spirit bears that live near Butedale. The hike to the lake was an irregular trail leading through western red cedars, hemlocks, Sitka spruce, and many small skunk cabbages poked out of the moist soil of the rain forest floor along the trail. Reaching the lake, hikers walked through a small muskeg before arriving to the lake’s spillway, and on a bit further, we visited the lake’s dam for pictures before returning.
After lunch, our ship and guests enjoyed stunning views of snowcapped peaks and gushing waterfalls cascading down to sides of the inlet as we cruised westward. The ship encountered both humpback and fin whales in passage. Jerri Roberts, a guest speaker accompanying the Rhoads Scholar Group, gave an informative presentation on the ecosystem of temperate rainforests.
At the cocktail hour the guests and staff chatted about the wonderful, somewhat haunting visit to Butedale. After recaps our intrepid expedition leader discussed plans for our next destination. The legendary land of the Haida and all souls aboard prepared for the crossing of Hecate Strait as the sun laid in the west.