Logbook: SGaang Gwaay

IMG_5801 (1280x853) We anchored in the SE cove on a day when the winds were blowing from the NW. We planned to take advantage of those winds by leaving directly from the village site for a two day passage to Vancouver Island.

Because of the passage we had packed away the dinghy and motor and we used the kayak to come to shore. A modern echo of the wooden canoe.
IMG_5804 (853x1280)SGaang Gwaay is easily the most beautiful island we visited in the entire park and although I wish we could anchor there I’m glad that it is being preserved.

The woods were lush in a Tofino area kind of way and the Haida Watchman Patrick took just the two of us on a tour of the village site.

The village itself is fronted by a gorgeous small cove in which they fished, collected shellfish and used long stone slides in the water to pull their canoes up to the beach at low tide.

I would love to have spent the night anchored there but it is no longer allowed which is great because could you imagine listening to someone’s generator while viewing the poles??

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When you put your back to the cove you see a line of poles that were in front of a line of longhouses. All of the primary frontal poles (the tallest) were taken by museums in the past and what remains are clan chief poles and mortuary poles in various states of decomposition.

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Some efforts were made in the past to support the poles but the Haida Band Council made the decision to allow the poles to return to the earth and so the only preservation tactics still used are trimming of the plants that take root and begin growing in the poles.

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The area is pounded by SE gales and so all of the poles show strong weather on the SE side and much crisper carving remains on the NW side.

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The longhouses are fallen and are covered with grass and moss. This is the last standing join.

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Cedar is rich material for other plants and so in many areas you can see where either totem poles or support beams for the longhouses have been used as a nursery log for what is now an enormous tree (left). The mortuary poles had human remains in boxes in a cavity in the top and these cavities were protected with face boards (now gone – many in museums) and cedar bark roofs. Now that the cavities are open, they host plant life and birds (right).

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This was the highlight of the Haida Gwaii trip by far.


  1. I love the way you spoke of the cultural aspects of the totems.

  2. Your post, again, makes me miss the Northwest. I have just finished reading the Kindle version of "Morning of Fire: John Kendrick's Daring American Odyssey in the Pacific" and while much the contact with the First Peoples occurs and Nootka Sound - there are echos where you are now.

  3. Great pics as always. I need to travel. I'm reminded over and over how much of the world I'm missing by staying in one place!

    Keep up the great posts!



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