The last couple days have allowed us to really get to know Port Hardy and Port McNeil. We’ve been continuing more projects and logistics of the trip to prepare us for the next two weeks. Other than being able to check more things off our never ending to-do list, we met with three of the most interesting people we will probably encounter on this trip. Last winter, in preparation for the film trip, Kevin, T-Rex, Leon and Chester took a trip driving around Vancouver Island and meet potential interview subjects to get a feel for the excursion the following year. First off, they met Jackie.
I had heard all about Jackie and the wonders of her work in British Columbia but nothing could have prepared me for our time with her the last couple of days. If there were one word to describe Jackie it would be hero. Jackie is involved in so much in the community, whether it is photo ID-ing whales, supporting first nation rights, educating people of all ages about the complex environment that is Blackfish Sound, or inspiring young people to get involved; she is the go-to person when it comes to environmental issues of the north island. You could sense her passion, every sentence she said with pure desire to make a difference. Her passion was also shown in her willingness to make time for us in her busy schedule. It felt as though she realized the magnitude of what we are trying to do and really understood our hopes for this film. Throughout our time with her, we were able to accompany her on a humpback whale identification trip and become mesmerized by her field skills. She would see a humpback, ID the individual animal in three seconds, and tell us who the mother is of this animal, changes in feeding behaviors, and how many times it had pooped this week. Conveniently, the day we scheduled to spend with Jackie was the same day of the Swanson Island solidarity flotilla. Jackie showed deep concern for the issues of the fish farm and you could feel her urge to help out. Orion, along with “Fluke”, Jackie’ boat, floated in solidarity for support of First Nation rights and protecting the ecosystem.
We were able to watch her give a presentation on Northern Resident killer whales, conservation of the environment, and she even added a little section about North Pacific right whales. For someone who is just starting a career in marine research, this was truly inspiring. I would be lying if I said her sit down interview onboard Orion didn’t leave everyone covered in goose bumps and tears streaming. She is a truly moving person and left everyone hopeful about our film efforts and our chances of seeing a North Pacific right whale.
We transited from Port McNeil to Port Hardy and were met with some cold days and lots of rain. Everyone was able to test out their rain gear and spent some time remembering not too long ago when we were sailing in tanks, shorts, and flip-flops. Although at the dock in Port Hardy it down poured, our interviews during this time were extremely up lifting. We met with Joey and Harry, a long awaited interview since last winter. Harry grew up in Coal Harbor, worked at the whaling station, and was there the day the right whale was brought in to process in 1951. He talked about the economy back then, how it was just another job, and how he couldn’t help but notice how big the right whale’s baleen was compared to the other whales brought in. We could make an entire documentary just about Harry’s life; his stories are intriguing and something we can hardly relate to. We were able to check out his collection from the whaling days, which included various whale oils and spermaceti. Everyone was very captivated when speaking with Harry as his life experiences helps us tell the story of North Pacific right whales.
Our time in Coal Harbor wouldn’t have been complete without meeting with Joey. The crew met him last year and knew his work had to be in this film. He is known around Vancouver Island for the historic artifacts and museum he put together. He owns and works for a floatplane company and over the years has collected many old piece of history including engines, propellers, wax cylinders, chain saws and telephones. Joey gave us a tour of the former whaling station building, which he now uses to house his floatplanes. He pointed to where the refrigerators were that kept the whale meat. We were most interested in the pieces from the whaling station. Joey We stood under a blue whale jawbone that towered over us and envisioned what it will be like to take Orion to the location the right whale was taken. There is a photo of the right whale that Joey says he makes sure is pinned up as a conversation topic. We took a photo, went outside and stood where the whale was. Trying to get the mirror image with the same frame was hard, backing up over and over; right whales are large whales. We are so thankful for Joey’s commitment for preserving history and allow us to understand our film better. On display he had newspaper articles, harpoon guns, books, photographs and most interesting, a map with corresponding records of what whale was killed where.
Row 81, July 18 1951, Right Whale, Length- 43’
People who have heard of North Pacific right whales: 10
People who have seen a North Pacific right whale: 1