Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Part 6: Interviews from Sointula - LEK from BC's Central Coast

Part 6 of a 6 part series by Kirie McMurchy

Working on the water for so long, people get the chance to see things that those of us lowly land-dwellers could never even imagine. During my time conducting Local Knowledge interviews for the Living Oceans Society, I felt honored that people were willing to share their stories with me as well as the general public. This is an excerpt from my interview with Jon Taylor, a fisherman, woodcarver, and avid story teller living in Sointula.

Excerpt from interview with Jon Taylor, (contributed with permission).

"You see things out on the water only if you spend time, and only if you know what is and isn’t there. I take people out whale watching and they don’t see the whales until they’re right there. You learn to see. The significance of the way the birds are acting, the way the water ripples. There are various people who swear they can smell a salmon run. That’s how they did their fishing. I certainly smelled the smell. Over the course of many years I’ve seen many things, I’ve also seen a lot of empty water. There’s the feeling that you’re always about the see something."

"Exhaustion, alcohol, fog, and no radar. Great stories. There was a lot of that, and then there was a lot of genuine, unexplained things. All of us have seen stuff that shouldn’t be there. Between fog and alcohol and extreme fatigue, that’s one thing, but sometimes it’s [different]. There are four of us that I know of that have seen this very large animal that was officially extinct in 1780 or something, it’s called the Stellar Sea Cow. You find it in the book, it’s all documented."

"Before I’d heard any of the stories I met one face to face down in Blackfish Sound. I started asking around quietly. I saw it on the way down to the fish camp and I had just headed out and I ran into this thing. Thought 'that’s the damndest dead head I’ve ever seen in my life.' It’s all covered with shaggy cedar bark. Put the binoculars on it and it’s got a face and it’s staring at me. It’s got these tiny little arms that I thought were just branches. And I realize it’s watching me. I arrived in Double Bay maybe twenty minutes later and the guys said 'What is wrong with you?' and I said 'I’ve just seen a fully furred whale and it was spy hopping and it was staring at me.' 'Oh you’ve been doing dope or something.' Well I don’t do dope. You try and report something like that to the authorities and the first thing that happens is somebody says 'Oh, what you really saw was…” And you’re just going 'I’ve been at sea since I was four. [I know this was different]'"

"[Outlandish] stories thirty years ago were very, very common here. Guys with small boats go out, be alone for days, nobody else is around, they’d see things, hear things, think things. Some of them I have no doubt are real, some of them I have no doubt were the DTs from alcohol. When you get further and further from home you see things differently sometimes. This is right in home waters where we’ve all seen the Stellar Sea Cow. I’ve seen it with my own eyes and it was not a whale, it was not a dead head. I drew a sketch of it and didn’t hear the word ‘Stellar Sea Cow’ for years and went and looked them up, and that’s it. It has the face like a dog or a pig and it has these two tiny little useless arms that look almost like bent twigs. An absolutely peaceful kelp grazer. They were a great food source if you had ship loads of men there. It’s not in any form mythic. They have the hide, they have the skin. Stellar was a great botanist who explored this area. Stellar jays, stellar sea lions, all named and documented by him. This is the late seventeen early eighteen hundreds. We still to this day have pieces of skin in the museums."

Kirie McMurchy is a Guest contributor to coastal voices blog. If you have Local Knowledge about the ocean or about living on the Central Coast of British Columbia - we want to hear from you! Contact us at info@livingoceans.org.

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