A Wilderness At Sea
Photo credit: Murray Foubister/Flickr

Photo credit: Murray Foubister/Flickr

Sometimes shrouded with mist, sometimes encased in snow, Haida Gwaii is enclosed by wild seas – the Hecate Strait and the North Pacific Ocean. Situated off the coast from Prince Rupert, Hecate Strait is shallow and wide, and has a high tendency for large swells and powerful winds.

The seas around Haida Gwaii are prone to sudden change and aren't much fun to be stuck in during stormy weather when on a boat or ferry. However, there are lots of creatures that live happily beneath the waves and can sometimes be seen jumping above them!

Marine mammals that live and/or travel in the local waters include:
•  Grey whales (Eschrichtius robustus)

•  Orca whales (Orcinus orca)

•  Fin whales (Balaenoptera physalus)
•  Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae)

•  Blue whales (Balaenoptera musculus)

•  Minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata)

•  Sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus)

•  Pacific white-sided dolphins (Lagenorhynchus obliquidens)

•  Harbor, or common, porpoises (Phocoena phocoena)

•  Dall's porpoises (Phocoenoides dalli)
•  Northern fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus)
•  Harbor, or common, seals (Phoca vitulina)

•  Northern elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris)

•  Californian sea lions (Zalophus californianus), and

•  Steller, or northern, sea lions (Eumetopias jubata).

Haida Gwaii is also home to other sea-going animals, from rare urchin-eating otters to millions of ancient murrellets. Many fish species can be found off the coast, including halibut, lingcod, rockfish, herring, red snapper and five types of salmon (chinook, coho, chum, pink and sockeye). 

Tsiin (salmon) is an important fish on the islands and is culturally significant to the Haida people. It's an integral part of their livelihood and is connected to the well-being of their community.

For the Haida, revering the salmon, herring, whales and seabirds that live on the coast is naturally part of who they are. Their culture is founded on a respect for nature that all of us need to learn from.

Angela Gnyp
In Love With Redwoods
Photo credit: Paolo Vescia/Save The Redwoods League

Photo credit: Paolo Vescia/Save The Redwoods League

Redwoods are immense and unforgettable, and I imagine that you feel the same way too. The time I spent in their presence on a snowy day in Sequoia National Park some years ago still stays with me. Today, I'm in love with these trees as much as ever and seek them out in forests not far from where I live.

These huge trees are living reminders of an ancient wilderness that once blanketed the West Coast of America. With lifespans dating thousands of years, their canopies reach skyward, filling the air with intricate foliage and thickened branches.

Away from the giant sequoia that grow in the mountains of Sierra Nevada, coast redwoods live in a world of their own in North California and southern Oregon. Despite their dislike for salt water, they prefer living close to the open sea. They thrive on the thick fog that drifts in off the Pacific Ocean, absorbing the endless moisture that coats their narrow leaves and the soil where they stand.

Fibrous and dense, the root systems of these trees resemble a finely woven mat. With no deep roots to keep them firmly anchored in the earth, towering redwoods become weakened by centuries of wind damage and eventually topple over in savage storms. Their tall trunks are coarsely layered with reddish-brown bark which acts as a shield against fire and disease.

Closely related to each other, coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) and giant sequoia (Sequoia giganteum) are iconic and endangered in the wild. By protecting them in public parks, through the efforts of the Save The Redwoods League, we can continue to safeguard their future. Offering shade and respite and some time out in nature, I know from my own experience, there's nothing that calms the soul like being in a redwood grove.

Angela Gnyp
Talking About Raven
Photo credit: Angela Gnyp

Photo credit: Angela Gnyp

When a raven takes flight, it’s possible to pause and recognise a presence beyond the physical realm. Appearing as a wide-winged, blackly feathered bird, the common raven (Corvus corax) is anything but boring. In my world, it is a bird of mythic proportions.

Considered a legend in Canadian aboriginal art, the raven is depicted as one who steals the light (the sun) and sometimes, the stars and moon. It is both a thief and trickster, and is closely associated with the storytelling of Coastal Salish, Tsimshian, Heiltsuk, Haida and Tlingit peoples along the coast of British Columbia.

For the Haida people, the raven (yaahl) is the central character in their creation story, Raven and the First Men. It's here that it takes on the role of hero and guardian of the first people that emerge from a beached clam shell on Haida Gwaii. It's also embedded in their nature-based existence, bearing equal significance with the eagle in the identification of their two major clans. 

While the raven and its humorous qualities have been transposed into many First Nations stories, in real life it's never without wit and mischief either. It easily takes on the sounds of other animals, such as dogs, and even human speech. Squawking and croaking, it’s highly vocal in its communication and is an adaptable scavenger in the wild.

Found in close proximity to man and wilderness, the raven lives in mountainous areas, and coastal and inland forests in the Northern Hemisphere. Larger than many hawks, owls and other related species like crows, it’s essential to the ecology of its natural environment.

Enriching the narrative of northwest coast art, raven has, at times, served as inspiration in my own work. It boldly symbolises the act of conscious transformation and revelation, and means more than just a bird to me.

Angela Gnyp