7,000 Years of History on Triquet Island

You never know what you’ll run across on an Outer Shores Expedition – even an archaeological dig! Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

I awoke to the sound of heavy rain pounding on the deck of Outer Shores Expeditions’ Passing Cloud. It’s an oddly relaxing, cozy sound – one that made me curl up against the wooden bulkhead of my cabin and nestle in for another 30 minutes of sleep.

Mornings aboard Passing Cloud tend to follow a similar routine. Most guests wake around 6:30 to 7:00 and wander into the Lounge, or out on deck with a cup of coffee to take in the scenery.

Here comes the rain again…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…but Passing Cloud is prepared, with swanky new awnings to protect guests. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Out on deck, Captain Matt and First Mate Kyle had strung up Passing Cloud’s aft tarp to give guests a dry place to sit on this rainy morning. New this season, however, is a smartly-designed tarp that can be draped over the midship section of the vessel as well, providing even more additional dry space out on deck during inclement weather.

After a hearty breakfast consisting of poached eggs with hollandaise sauce served upon a bed of hashbrowns, cabbage and onions, we started motoring along at 8:30 and ran immediately into a raft of sea otters.

Unbothered by the rain, there were well over 100 sea otters basking in the inlet, swimming towards us before peeling off into two separate groups. Passing Cloud sailed along with them for a while, at a respectful distance, before resuming our course around 9:30.

The aft deck was pretty deserted as we started motoring today, due to the inclement weather. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Outer Shores does a great job of preparing you for their expeditions by providing an excellent packing list and itinerary PDF document to booked customers. A waterproof jacket and waterproof pants are essential items to bring along with you, along with a pair of binoculars and plenty of memory cards for your cameras; you’ll be taking more photos than you might think.

Speaking of cameras, I nearly didn’t take mine ashore on this morning’s adventure. With the rain coming down sideways, I thought it might be best to leave it, nice and dry, on the ship. At the last second, however, I took it from my cabin and hopped into the zodiac. As it turned out, taking my camera along was the best decision I made this morning, considering the inspiring adventure that awaited us.

Passing Cloud anchored off Triquet Island, British Columbia. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Coming ashore on Triquet Island, we stumbled upon an archaeological dig being conducted by the Hakai Institute and the University of Victoria (UVic). This same group recently discovered evidence of life dating back 10,000 years on nearby islands here, and today (and for the past few days), they’ve been working on Triquet.

We stumbled upon an archaeological dig led by researchers from the Hakai Institute and the University of Victoria (UVic). Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Quentin Mackie (in the green jacket) was kind enough to explain the whole process to us. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

UVic Professor Quentin Mackie greeted us as we came ashore. He recognized Passing Cloud, anchored offshore; his brother had served aboard her last year for a few voyages up in Haida Gwaii as an Expedition Specialist. Captain Matt made it clear that we didn’t want to interfere with the work of Mackie and his group, but Mackie graciously introduced us to the team of researchers and PhD students who had assembled on the beachfront dig. One was sat in a folding lawnchair under an oversized umbrella, studiously recording every bucket that came up from a 1.7-metre deep pit dug into the shoreline. A diesel generator was running in the background, pumping water out of the pit at a furious rate. Mackie explained that, as the tide rose, they would reverse the pump to allow the pit to fill more slowly and avoid swamping it with a sudden rush of incoming water.

Working in “the pit.” Not so dissimilar from prospectors during the Gold Rush. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

The two men in the pit said a brief, “Hello”, then went work to their back-breaking work, hauling buckets of debris out. A man with a straw hat would disappear beneath the wooden barrier for a few moments. When he reappeared, he’d thrust a bucket filled with watery earth onto the shore line, accompanied by grunts of exhaustion.

To the right of the pit, two men sifted through shoreline sediment in search of artifacts. They looked like Gold Rush-era prospectors, standing out in the pouring rain with their drenched jackets and pants. But what these men are looking for isn’t gold; it’s far more valuable than that.

Sifting through sediment near the shoreline, in search of ancient First Nations’ artifacts. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Mackie produced a recent find hauled up from the pit: a rock arrowhead dating back at least 7,000 years. This, along with other recently-discovered artifacts, conclusively prove that Canada’s First Nations peoples inhabited these lands long before Europeans ever made contact.

I have seen some pretty amazing things in the eight years I’ve been writing about cruises, but I have never felt as privileged as I did today. To be shown around an archaeological site like this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and to have Quentin Mackie’s personable guidance for well over an hour was a real honour.

A view of the campsite on the Island…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…and a guided hike up the ancient midden. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

To explore this shoreline and hike the midden was an unforgettable moment. To think, though, that this small, largely forgotten island called Triquet was inhabited over 7,000 years ago is just mind-blowing. It’s absolutely amazing, and it’s exactly the kind of unexpected surprise that I’ve come to expect from Outer Shores. With no fixed itineraries (other than start and end dates and ports), you never know what you’ll stumble across in this remote region of British Columbia.

This afternoon, the weather never really let up…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…but we did get the chance to put in some good sail time! Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

A little Lemon-Ginger tea also cured my seasickness. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

This afternoon, we made our way south into the first reaches of the unprotected ocean in order to view an incredible colony of sea lions that were basking, as sea lions do, on an exposed section of rocky, barren islands. I wish I had a better constitution: the movement of the ship in the large swells started to get to me, and after about an hour of feeling unwell up on deck, I retreated to my room for a nice hour-long lie down that made me feel infinitely better.

Despite my seasickness, today was the kind of day that I truly love writing about: a real adventure. We’re close to civilisation, but here onboard Passing Cloud, our overnight anchorage is miles away from anything. There’s no cell service, no wifi. There are no other boats, or people, or even animals near us. There’s nothing but the ten of us aboard Passing Cloud, tucked into this nice little inlet, listening to rain hammer the teak decking as we polish off the last of the night’s wine.

That’s a pretty darn good day.

Captain Matt guides us forward…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…while guests enjoy the scenery out on deck. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Passing Cloud arrives at her overnight anchorage…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…miles away from anything resembling civilization (or cell service). Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Our Voyage Report from Outer Shores Expeditions’ Passing Cloud in the Great Bear Rainforest continues tomorrow as we call on the Hakai Institute. You can learn more about travel in British Columbia by visiting the HelloBC website.  Follow along on twitter with @deckchairblog.

Springtime in the Great Bear Rainforest

May 29Arrival in Bella Bella
May 30Our Expedition Sets Out
May 31Beaches and Excavations
June 1A Day at the Hakai Institute
June 2The Abandoned Town of Ocean Falls
June 3Adventures on King Island
June 4Bears and Dolphins: a Wildlife Paradise in the Great Bear Rainforest
June 5One Last Day; Recapping our Voyage

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