Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Sound of Silence

I had kayaked for fifteen years along the remote and spectacular coast of British Columbia. Off the west coast of Vancouver Island is a kayakers paradise, the Broken Group Islands in Barclay Sound.  Further north are places such as Nooka Sound, Esperanza Inlet, Clayoquat Sound, and there are tiny communities of Gold River, Thasis and Zeballos, populations of a hundred or so. On the east coast of the Island is Johnson Strait, with fifteen knot and more tidal currents running through the deep, narrow glacier-carved passage between the Island and the mainland of British Columbia. 

These areas are pure wildness and any creature comforts you might want need to fit in the hold of your kayak. Venturing ashore is done with caution, constantly on the look-out for bears and wolves.  At night food supplies are hoisted high into the air on a line slung over a tree branch, well out of reach of animals, large and small. In the silence of the wilderness you become much more aware of bird life, of the scurrying of tiny rodents, of the splashing of otters and fish. Along the shores of Johnson Straits, you are awakened by the early morning spouting of the local Orcas, and watch them magnificently displayed against a magical backdrop of mountains.

A few years ago I sold my kayak and all its gear and joined a bigger boat to sail larger seas. We took Sequitur to Cape Horn. Through Patagonia we anchored in remote places with spectacular surroundings. Before going ashore we automatically scoured the area for animals and soon realized that there were none. There were no birds singing or chirping, nor any small animals looking for food or shelter. It was if someone had turned off the sound. Because of the sparseness of the small creature population, missing also were the birds of prey.

As British Columbians so accustomed to the diversity and vibrancy of life in the wilderness, we were unaccustomed to the stillness and the sound of silence.

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