SAMS students enjoyed everything Hakai had to offer

The Amazing Hakai Beach Institute

The Amazing Hakai Beach Institute - a student's perspective

The following is a reflection essay written by SAMS student Aodhan Cearnaigh from Ms. Germain’s Science 10 class about their year-end class trip out to Hakai Beach Institute on Calvert Island this May.

I feel so lucky to have been able to go on the trip to Hakai. It was an amazing experience that I will probably remember for a lifetime. The entire trip was great from beginning to finish.  We had some wonderful hikes and saw many amazing creatures. Our class learned about the past and the present, biology, geology, and many other fascinating subjects. People were in good spirits the entire time. How could you not be in a place like Hakai?

We came to Hakai in the water taxi from Bella Bella. The entire trip only took about two hours total. I remember noticing the changes in the environment. The wind smelled different, salty like the ocean it blew in from. The water became clearer and bluer then it ever gets in Bella Coola.  The trees get smaller and look windblown. Their branches reach one way or another. They look scraggily. The Coast Mountains are shorter than the ones farther inland.

Hakai Beach Institute on Calvert Island is a pretty cool place. It is a collection of buildings that once used to be a fishing lodge back in the day. There is the main lodge, a few cabins, a smaller lab/winter living space, water treatment building, power storage and control, heating, and other lab buildings. The entire establishment is set in a stunning coastal vista. There are many trails from the institute to various parts of the island as well.

While in Hakai we met with various people, each of them with some job or research based out of Hakai. The first presentation we had was by an archaeologist studying past environments and sea levels. While we were out there he talked to us about the past time when glaciers covered inland of what we call BC and how only the coast was exposed. He said that much of what is underwater now was once land or islands. He told us about using pollen records to determine the plant life of that time. To finish off is presentation we were taken to a dig site of his team’s.  It was weird looking into that hole and knowing the layers at the bottom were thousands of years old.

We also talked with some people from an organization called Tides Canada. Despite their name, they had nothing to do with moon influenced movements of the water. Their organization gave money to small communities in the intent of supporting or protecting one thing or another. A benefactor who wanted to for example, “save the bears” or “protect the salmon run” could contact a member of Tides and figure out a way to use their money in a beneficial and realistic way. In short they were the bridge between a city mind with good intentions and small towns on the coast with things like bears and people. After they explained this to our class they took us on an adventure to check out a number of intertidal species on West Beach we had never seen before.

Lastly we met up with a biologist who was studying plankton. She took samples and analyzed them, finding patterns between them and the larger life in the ocean. We ended up checking out some of the creatures under a microscope back in her lab and it was pretty neat.

My highlights for the trip were many and often. The entire trip was pretty much a highlight in itself.  I really enjoyed the hikes, swimming at West Beach, learning about the species on the coast, seeing all the people with their jobs and passions, and being out on the coast away from everything. Staying in the lodge was awesome as well. It’s pretty hard to go wrong with gourmet meals and five star accommodations. There were some great meals and I have to say “Thank you” to the cooks too. They were also great at making new dishes out of leftovers. That’s quite a feat. We also spend some great nights down at the beach. We had fires and memorable times.  The two nights we spend sleeping on the beach overnight were super fun, complete with wolf tracks in the morning!

We have many people to thank for this trip; obviously the Hakai Beach Institute for their generosity and opportunity to learn from such incredible surroundings and professionals, but also our chaperones Harvey and Carol Thommasen, School District 49, and the entire Bella Coola Valley for their support in our fundraising efforts.

Overall, great trip!  Fun was had by all and memories made.  My only question remaining: when do we go back?