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West Coast Living in Ahousaht, BC

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clayoquot sound

Another Tragedy on the Water

When disaster strikes on the water, we think of the Coast Guard. However, what happens if the Coast Guard isn’t there for you? The village of Ahousaht has come to rely on their own in an emergency. That’s not to say the Coast Guard isn’t involved, but more often than not, they request any available local boats to assist anyways. And that’s how it should be. All vessels in the region need to be notified of a mayday emergency so they can respond if possible.

On Sunday, April 30th, that didn’t fully happen. When a 8.5 meter¬†catamaran fishing vessel, carrying 5 people began taking on water in outer Clayoquot Sound, the Coast Guard put out a call for assistance on Channel 16. Boats that were scanning or monitoring ch. 16 on their VHF heard the call, but many did not. The Coast Guard has the option of, and has many times in the past, put out an all station broadcast, which redirects all radios to Ch. 16 for the emergency broadcast. These all channel broadcasts aren’t particularly uncommon. Not too long ago, one went out for kayakers in the Sooke region, requesting available vessels to search for them. No all channel broadcast was put out for the vessel on April 30th, leaving many boats unaware of the emergency and unable to offer their assistance.

It leaves me wondering if that all channel broadcast could have changed the outcome and whether having more boats respond immediately would have widened the initial search pattern.

What is the Coast Guard’s criteria for all channel mayday broadcasts? Why does one emergency receive one and not another?

Our local rescuers and Coast Guard did an amazing job and assisted in every way possible. But I can’t help but wonder if additional lives could have been saved if more boats had initially responded and the search pattern therefore expanded exponentially.

 

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A Mountain that Symbolizes a Nation

Catface Mountain is a symbol of the Clayoquot Sound region. It has been a part of the skyline for thousands of years. From the Nuu-Chah-Nulth village of Ahousaht on Flores Island, it dominates the landscape and is visible from nearly every vantage point. From Tofino, it stands alongside Meares Island’s Lone Cone Mountain – Brothers in stone, literally, as these two mountains are made from the same subterraneous chunk of rock.

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In the early 1800’s, there was a great war in this region that lasted for 14 years. The land where Ahousaht now is, belonged to the Otsosaht people. There were many battles and stories of the war. One of them goes like this:

The Ahousaht’s put their women, children and chiefs high on Catface Mountain where they would be safe during the fighting. Here, the warriors also prepared for battle. They cut down massive trees and carved them into canoes. The trees had been fallen so they pointed downhill. When they were ready to be launched, smaller logs were placed crossways beneath the canoes and they were rolled downhill to the sandy beach at the base of the mountain. From here the warriors paddled to the east side of Kutcous Point and under the cover of darkness they attacked the Otsosaht tribe. Many were beheaded and those who survived were sent south and they ended up settling in what is now Washington State.

The heads were put on stakes around the island as a warning to others who might try to take on the Ahousahts. Kutcous means – heads cut off, in warfare. One story tells of how the river here ran red with blood for 3 days after the battle.

This war was for resources, just like in European cultures and the wars still happening today – Land, water, fuel and food. The Otsosaht had control of the salmon rivers and clam beds. The Ahousaht people wanted their share.

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Catface Mountain protected the Ahousaht people and prepared them for battle. It gave sustenance, shelter and the means of transportation.

At the base of the mountain are a series of rocks that jut out into the water. Here is the most dangerous part of our modern commute to and from Tofino. During calm weather, boats may take a shortcut through the rocks. Kelp and submerged reefs are are a very real danger to even the most experienced captain. Only the most nimble of boats can make it through the gap. In rough weather all boats go around the rocks. Large swells and more hidden reefs present further dangers. At night, or in rough weather, family and other boat drivers listen out for the call that a boat has “made it around Catface”. They aren’t home yet, but the greatest danger has passed.

Catface Mountain will always be a symbol of strength to the Ahousaht people of Clayoquot Sound. We awake under it’s shadow as the sun rises behind it and we go to sleep as it glows pink as the sun sets. It is and always will be a symbol of home.

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*Marcie moved to Ahousaht as a teacher in 2014. Here she met and become engaged to Lennie John, an Ahousaht man whose home was nicknamed “Mountainview” in honour of the stunning view of the regions mountains, including Catface.

**The stories surrounding the Ahousaht-Otsosaht war have many versions. This is just one account. Other versions may have different details.

For more information please see:  http://www.guidethewildside.com/resource/kutcous.pdf

Orca Surprise!

What a beautiful and unexpected way to end the day!

We didn’t think we would get to meet up with the pod of orcas that was in the sound and in fact, we had no clue where they were. But 10 minutes from home, smashing through the glassy calm waters, came one of the youngest members of the T109As. We thought it was a Harbour porpoise at first glance, then maybe a dolphin. .. and then when the rest of the pod surfaced… Orcas!

For our friend on board, it was only the second time in his life to see a whale (the first was a cow and calf grey whale earlier in the trip!)

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