My visit to the Whale Interpretive Centre

I had the pleasure of interviewing an interpreter at the Whale Interpretive Centre in Telegraph Cove. Meet Gillian Holmes who is spending her fourth summer at the museum. 

Can you tell me a little bit about the Whale Interpretive Centre?

It’s an education centre all about marine mammals, mostly local species but also just marine mammals in general. It opened in 2002, started initially as a education centre for the Robson Bight Ecological Reserve, which is where killer whales go to rub on the beach. It’s grown to include marine mammals in general.

What is your favorite part about working at the Whale Interpretive Centre?

I like having the opportunity to talk to people from all over the world to teach them about the fantastic animals that are in the area and to have the chance to teach them something new.

Why is it so important we care about our sea life such as whales?

If we don’t care about the local species we’re not going to do anything to save them. We’re not necessarily going to be as interested in preserving the behaviors we see here or the unique environments. If we care about it we’re going to work to preserve it.

What is your favorite thing to get asked by visitors?

It’s when people come in with either a piece of bone or a photo of something and they don’t know what it is and I like walking them through the identification process. I like involving them in the process rather than just telling them what it is.

If a visitor approached, wondering about the safety procedures when on a boat with whales in the waters around, what would you tell them?

I’d tell them the regulations, 100 metres from most marine mammals, but for killer whales it’s 200m and for southern resident killer whales it’s 400m. I’d also tell them that common sense is a big factor here. Don’t run up and park yourself in front of them.

How old is the oldest bone in here? What’s it’s story?

I think the oldest is probably the blue whale jaw bones, those came from the Coal Harbour Whaling Station, closed in 1967, in their 19 years of operation they took over 1000 whales and so these ones were donated to the Centre.

What’s your favorite artifact in the Whale Interpretive Centre?

I really love the Minke skeleton but also the big killer whale skeleton is certainly beautiful, that’s one of our newest specimens. It’s really interesting to compare the size of that one to the younger killer whale we had before.

Can you tell me how we can all be more “whale aware”?

Whats important when you’re out on the water is just keeping a close watch. If you spend some time up here you’ll here the phrase “if you see a blow go slow.” This is really important for the killer whales and dolphins and porpoises that we have around here, they have echolocation so they’re pretty aware of what’s going on around them. The bigger whales like the humpbacks and the minkes are not necessarily so aware without that echolocation, so they may not know a boat is coming towards them. It’s important to be cautious of what’s in the area.

Why do you think whales like being in the Queen Charlotte Strait?

I think it’s a good opportunity to get a lot of food. There’s historically been a lot of salmon here, which is why we see so many of the northern resident killer whales. There’s also a lot of juvenile herring which is good for the humpbacks. It’s just a lot of food in a nutrient rich area, it’s a good ecosystem for them.

Why is underwater noise such a problem for sea life?

While underwater noise doesn’t necessarily directly affect their health, it just adds a lot of stress to their everyday life. For killer whales especially who are really interacting with each other and communicating with each other it adds a damper and how they can communicate. If you’re looking to buy a house you’re not necessarily going to settle in right next to a highway where it’s going to be loud at all hours of the day or search out a construction site. That would add a lot of stress to your life just like underwater noise does to our killer whales.

What else do you think we should know?

I think as long as people continue to care about these animals that there is certainly hope to really make a difference for the animals that are starting to struggle. As long as people continue to care we can still keep working towards a solution.

If you have the time I highly suggest going out to Telegraph Cove and checking out the Whale Interpretive Centre, be sure to say hi to Gillian!

Check out these photos from the Whale Interpretive Centre:

 

Cove Adventure Tours

Recently Laura and Seth, who are members of our visitor services team, went to San Josef Bay with Cove Adventure Tours and here is their take on the day. It was AMAZING! The tour starts at 8:30 am when you are picked up in Port Hardy and you are greeted with the smiling faces of your tour guides Chris and Leah.

To get to San Josef Bay you travel on the Holberg road, a gravel active logging road for two hours. After which you will arrive at the San Josef’s Bay trailhead and hike 45 minutes to the beach. While you can take your own vehicle, with Cove Adventure Tours you can relax and arrive ready to enjoy your experience of San Josef Bay.

Chris and Leah have amazing stories of Port Hardy and about the history of the Cape Scott area to make the 2-hour drive seem to go by quickly. In Holberg they make a stop at the Scarlet Ibis Pub enjoy a bit of the history of Holberg.

Scarlet Ibis Pub Holberg

As we walked to San Josef Bay from the trailhead we stopped to check out the unique growth patterns of some of the trees. The trail to San Josef Bay is super easy and doesn’t even seem like 45 minutes.

Cape Scott/San Josef Trailhead
Large Ceder
Old Growth in the Cape Scott Provincial Park

San Josef  Bay is breathtaking and you’ll see no other beach like it. With Cove Adventure Tours you travel around the beach and they also supply you lunch! It’s great to feel the sand between your toes and check out the cool tide pools.

Holberg Dock
San Josef Bay

 

San Josef Bay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On your way back you can either stop at Ronning’s Garden, the Fossil Beds or the Holberg Dock depending on your preferences. Sadly there was a pet boar on the loose so we did not go to Ronning’s Garden.

At around 4:30 you arrive back in Port Hardy having enjoyed an eventful day. The trip in all was super fun and we highly recommend going to San Josef Bay with Cove Adventure Tours, or even on your own.

At the Port Hardy Visitor Centre we believe that the best way to describe an experience is to have the experience.  Thank you to Cove Adventure Tours for making this experience possible.

 

 

 

 

 

Continue reading “Cove Adventure Tours”

Outdoor Adventure Tourism in Port Hardy

tex lyon trail

Descend into cold depths of the emerald sea, explore in and around tall trees, and expect the unexpected from Port Hardy. Whether you enjoy diving in world renowned cold waters, catching salmon of a lifetime, or hiking amongst various terrains –– Port Hardy has many outdoor adventure tourism experiences readily available.

Hikes and Walks

Follow the footsteps of the Kwagu’ł ancestors on the Commuter Trail (also known as Fort Rupert Trail), which takes you through first and second growth forests. Take a leisurely stroll through the Quatse River Nature Trail, along the Hardy Bay Seawall, or Storey’s Beach. If you’re feeling ambitious, then challenging the Tex Lyon Trail would be a great option. Learn more about these hikes and trails on our previous blog post.

Diving

The Queen Charlotte Straits is known as the best cold water diving in the world. This was proclaimed by underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau, who said, “the best temperate water diving in the world and second only to the Red Sea”, while talking about Vancouver Island, including Port Hardy. The only way to understand Cousteau’s bold claim is to experience it for yourself with a diving charter or lodge. For it is a whole different world, under the dark blue ink of the Pacific Ocean, and into what is known as the Emerald Sea.

Fishing

Port Hardy was recently titled as the best place to fish in Canada by Expedia. This is rightfully so because there’s a lot of fishing opportunities, fresh water and tidal, within the nearby Port Hardy waters. From salmon, halibut, and other bottom fish, such as red snapper and lingcod in the open water. Also, various trout within nearby rivers and lakes surrounding town. Our local sport fishing charters know all the gems

Learn more about water adventures on this page.

Port Hardy Walks and Trails

Port Hardy has a few lovely walks and trails to offer, within town, for those of all experiences! From leisurely paced walks of Hardy Bay Seawall or the Quatse River Nature Trail; easy hikes like the Commuter Trail; a challenging all-day hike of the Tex Lyon Trail. There’s an adventure waiting for everyone!

Hardy Bay Seawall
Difficulty: Easy
Length: less than 0.25km

This leisurely, yet scenic waterfront walk starts in the heart of downtown Port Hardy. Not only does it provide scenic views, but various park options such as Rotary Park, Carrot Park, and Tsulquate Park. Along the route are interpretive signs of local wildlife, the Japanese Garden for our sister city Numata, the cenotaph in honour of those who served our country, and entrances to the rocky beach. This seawall walk has perfect photo opportunities, such as the giant ‘Welcome to Port Hardy’ sign, giant wooden carrot, and various birdlife.

Quatse River Nature Trail & Estuary Trail Loop
Difficulty: Easy
Length: 2.5km Loop

Another leisurely stroll in Port Hardy is the Quatse River Loop. This nature trail is easy terrain with a mixture of gravel and boardwalk surfaces. You can extend this walk by going under the bridge and continuing with the Estuary Trail. During the spring and summer months this area is a haven for various birds, such as ducks, geese, ravens, great blue heron, eagles, etc. When the salmon run occurs, the estuary and river area becomes abundant with wildlife.

Commuter Trail (also known as Fort Rupert Trail)
Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 3.7 km

The Commuter Trail, also known as The Fort Rupert Trail, is a historic walk through Kwagu’ł territory. This route was used to commute between villages at Tayaguł and Bear Cove. Nowadays it is a beautiful hike through first and second-growth forests; keep an eye out for culturally modified trees. The Commuter Trail has two trailheads, located off Beaver Harbour Road and Bear Cove Highway –– both have local First Nations artwork at each entrance. The trail includes boardwalk and a gravel type surfaces, and some uphill terrain.

Tex Lyon Trail
Difficulty: Difficult
Length: 12km

The Tex Lyon Trail is the most difficult trail within Port Hardy. So, if you’re looking for a challenge and have the time –– this trail is for you! The trailhead starts at the north end of Storey’s Beach and goes out to Dillion Point. While a round trip can be done in eight hours, it is recommended to allow 12 hours for a return trip, and to watch the tides. Along with this timeframe, it is recommended to be well prepared with proper attire, food, water, first aid kit, and knowledge of tide charts. Although, the Tex Lyon Trail can be challenging, it does have rewarding views of Beaver Harbour and the Queen Charlotte Straits.

We have more resources, on these trails, available at the Port Hardy Visitor Information Centre. Lastly, it is not uncommon to encounter wildlife on these trails. While adventuring make sure to have your presence known – either talking with your hiking buddy, humming a song, or take a bear bell with you.

Here are some online resources on how to be bear aware and safe. Also, about Leave No Trail practices.

Bear Smart – British Columbia

Bear Safty- Outdoorily 

Staying Safe in Bear Country

Black Bears – Wild Safe BC

Leave No Trace

 

Article was written and photographed by Sarah Étoile. First Nations Storyteller and Steward based on Vancouver Island, British Columbia.