40. Brooks Peninsula
North Brooks Peninsula, July 18, 2022.
Coming out of the inlet you could feel the swell building. From the open ocean! At last. Covid may only be in respite but Dan, Evan and I, los tres amigos, are finally on another ocean trip. A couple of sea otters that were laying on their backs amongst the giant kelp moved lazily away as we paddled by. A quiet greeting, welcoming us back to the west coast. We’re on a beach with a river. Fresh wolf tracks on sand still wet from the last high tide. If the size of the two piles of poop is indicative, there was also one very large bear here. Still steaming, perhaps it saw us approaching and took off. We make noise when we are in the bush. We’ve been playing. Boys stuff. Jumping naked into the river, so cold. Rock throwing contests. I used to be good at that. We’ll be heading around the Brooks if the weather lets us, and back. We don’t have too much time. Evan has to be back on his Coast Guard ship and Dan’s youngest daughter will be having dental surgery. He’s fretting. I need to get back planning the sea farm and making boat parts. We’ve had mist, then sun, followed by rain, some fog, now mist. The wind has died, so now also bugs.
Brooks: never glaciated, never logged
July 19, 2022 Beach NE Brooks
There are three guys surfing on inflatable paddleboards. Good waves, and they are skilled. They flew in on a float plane, each with gear and 2 paddleboards. A long one for travel and a shorter one for surfing. Rockin it. Jimmy, Val and Dennis. Gorgeous beach with mountains behind. Never glaciated, never logged, no roads in. Magical place. Now bright sun. Windy.
July 22 Still NE Brooks
Still here. Paradise. We’ve had the same high pressure weather system since arriving: NW 25-30 knots. Dan has talked about his part time army reserve job. His award as best soldier. Blowing up doors and walls. Training with and teaching new recruits. He’s lovin it. And, of course, his two little girls, Ames and Issy. I’ve told him about my starting with Jim a group to re-introduce herring to Victoria’s water, sewing herring panels, collecting spawn, working with Yogi, the expert. He was interested in my plan of growing seaweed and scallops together off Pender Island at a farm based on Greenwave designs. I told him about meetings with Chrissy, Fisheries Manager for Tsawout First Nation in Saanichton, near Sidney. She’s this short, dynamic gal from Prince Rupert. Father; Chinese, mother; Tsimshian, home is in Hardy, but works for Tsawout because she is a firecracker who gets things done. When I visited her with Jim last year and showed her the farm plan and drawings she was immediately intrigued and wanted to explore the idea further. After more visits, all on her time, she said: “let’s go visit your site”. I didn’t know what kind of boat they had, and it was a bit rough that day, so I showed up in paddling clothes. Not necessary. Their boat was a new, front loading aluminum skiff with bench seating and twin 300s. The skipper was Jodi, a young woman who has grown up on the coast, knows the shoals and shores, and also the history of the people. We rocketed over to Pender and picked up Peter and Lisa, two Pender folks who are now interested in the sea farm. Then we went to the site, which I had marked on my GPS. They liked it. After this trip I’ll be going with Chrissy and others to a hatchery near Nanaimo to talk about scallop eggs (spats). Hopefully Tsawout will then issue a permit for the farm, which will be forwarded to Fisheries and Oceans, Transport Canada and the Province. Tsawout first, however, as they have been here for thousands of years. Meanwhile, on Pender we need to create a non-profit social organization under the umbrella of SGI Community Resource to sign with Tsawout. There seems to be a bit of a dance between First Nations and Fisheries and Oceans Canada over who has jurisdiction over what. But it seems more likely that Fisheries will approve it if it has the blessing of Tsawout. Reconciliation is a word much bandied about on media. I think that this is the real deal. Tsawout and island settlers working together. Hopefully, we will kick start a seafood industry amongst the lower Gulf Islands, which is blessed with cold, clear Pacific waters and huge markets around Victoria and Vancouver.
Straight from the snow fields
In a regenerative sea farm, the kelp sequesters carbon about five times faster than land plants, reduces nitrogen excess and releases oxygen into the water. This last point is very important. Increasing acidification decreases the ability of shellfish to grow shells. The addition of oxygen increases the availability of carbonate (CO3) to create shells (CaCO3). The shellfish filter and clean the water and also reduce excess nitrogen. A recent study that looked at how people can reduce their personal carbon footprints concluded that reducing, or eliminating meat consumption, especially beef, was far more effective than driving less, driving an electric car, or heating with a heat pump. We’re supposed to believe that soon we’ll all be eating meat grown in a big vat or made from processed vegetables. Maybe. What is overlooked is that all our protein needs could be sourced from the ocean. I think it was in the seventies that Jacques Cousteau said we should stop plundering the ocean and instead grow our food in it. That is what civilization is about: growing, not plundering.
When I became interested in growing seaweed, I began harvesting small quantities during my morning kayak paddle and drying the blades and then chopping them up in a food processor. One morning I brought home a pretty big batch, hung it up in the basement and fired up the heat pump to dry it out. Soon the whole house was engulfed in the sweet aroma of the sea. My wife was having none of that and she refused to keep the heat on. It was winter and we froze for three days.
Seaweed, especially kelp, is interesting. It’s nutritious, far more so than most plants, but people here don’t eat it. Although I eat a spoon full of dried bull kelp or winged kelp every day and spread a little on salads, I have a lot to learn abut how to prepare it in more sophisticated ways. Scallops: oh, I love scallops! That is what Tsawout are particularly interested in. They are precious and we think of them as a great treat. But, for them to become broadly accepted I think we are going to have to somehow get the price down and introduce scallop burgers. Getting people turned on to shellfish instead of beef would be a real achievement.
Forecast: still NW 25-30 knots. We will stay here a few more days and then get up at 3 am to beat the weather to continue on. Dan says the army calls this zero dark stupid hour.
Drying bull kelp in the sun
Dan with boat and gear at ferry terminal. Evan behind.