Humpbacks and Herring – Easter on Haida Gwaii’s West Coast

April 3rd, 2013

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There are certain times when I’m reminded of just how incredible Haida Gwaii is. Spring is one of those times. And Spring on the west coast of the islands is about as good as it gets.

On Easter morning the sun rose over snow-capped mountains at the head of Kano Inlet where Atlas was anchored in Givenchy Bay. Small pocket islets protected us from the swell of the Pacific Ocean surging in through the inlet. As James prepared coffee and I relaxed in bed, he suddenly called out – “Whales!” I scrambled onto deck as quickly as I could. About 20 feet from the boat two humpbacks were lunge feeding on krill, splashing their tails, and casually rolling about on the surface of the glassy calm bay. We pulled out deck chairs and enjoyed the show for an hour with our hot cups of coffee in hand. Now THAT is Easter on Haida Gwaii!

ImageThe west coast at this time of year is bursting with new life as the herring return to spawn and the whales feast. The following morning we awoke to the milky blue waters of herring spawn in the inlet – the result of billions of herring eggs deposited on the long kelp fronds. Eagles, sea lions and seals watched the scene with interest, clearly excited about their imminent feast.

The Haida word for herring roe-on-kelp is k’aaw. It is a delicacy that makes my mouth water, and March is when you start to crave fresh k’aaw, knowing that after the herring arrive, the ocean will begin bursting with life as all the other marine mammals and birds follow. Easter this year was a treat – and a reminder that Haida Gwaii will never cease to surprise and awe me.