October 26, 2014 – It was a long and not-as-planned week this past week. But that’s fine, it keeps life interesting. I was on Vancouver Island from Monday morning until Thursday evening for a number of purposes.
I’d been asked by Communications to provide what photographs I could for as many SEP facilities as possible and, since I was heading for the Island for other purposes, I decided to head over early and visit some sites that aren’t my responsibility as a support biologist, and therefore are ones I haven’t visited for a long time.
One I haven’t been to in about 6 years or more – Little Qualicum River spawning channel, was a delight to stop in and visit. I had forgotten how beautiful the channels are. I chatted with the staff on site for a bit and then wandered around to take some photos before heading off. While I got some shots for the program, I also found a few treasures for myself in a series of fabulous mushrooms.
From there I stopped in at Big Qualicum and had a visit with staff and the manager Les. I love the hatchery staff, most are genuinely passionate about what they do.
From Big Q it was a quick visit to Rosewall Creek Hatchery, a former research station. Jack let my clamber up to the top of the aeration tower and take some good shots of the facility for the websites, and then I was back on the road. On my way back to the highway I crossed over the tracks of the E&N Rail line, it’s had a long and tumultuous history and an on again off again life.
I love the richness of the fall tones and you can just feel the moisture in the air. It had stopped raining for a few moments and I took a few shots down the tracks before heading back out onto the road.
I stopped in at the Puntledge River hatchery for an hour or so and had a great visit with the manager and a few of the staff and then I was back on the road for my evening destination, Campbell River.
Tuesday morning I stopped in at Quinsam River hatchery, my ultimate destination and where I was hoping we would be doing some data collection for the first year of a multi year size selection experiment. Unfortunately, the Chinook haven’t come in at the numbers expected and so things were up in the air a bit.
When the manager decided that the hatchery would be doing production egg takes that day, I opted to take a run out to one more hatchery that is a little more challenging to get to. Conuma River hatchery is out between Gold River and Tahsis and a good chunk of the road is a commercial logging road. But I wanted to get out to see the manager about some work that I’d pushed Engineering to do and wanted to see how it was coming.
Ten minutes out of Campbell River the skies opened and monsoon-like rains of epic proportions began to pound down on the road. I wondered what the unpaved portion would be like, and assumed terrible.
I wasn’t far off.
The rain was coming down so hard and fast that my wipers, even on high, weren’t doing much to clear my windshield. The terrain is mostly rocky, so water doesn’t soak in so much as it collects and runs out of the forest like fire hydrants open fully. There were waterfalls where there aren’t really waterfalls. The rivers and creeks were raging torrents and that meant that the hatchery staff would probably be frustrated as they would be unable to collect fish on the rivers for safety reasons. Hard to seine fish when the river will likely just steal your net, and quite possibly you along with it.
On the upside, the rain filled the potholes and made them more visible and a bit easier to avoid, but I still slammed into an awful lot.
Strangely, at Conuma River hatchery, there was a blue patch in the sky, and no rain fell at the facility in the four hours I was there visiting staff and management.
But then I left. And the skies poured down on me again.
I wanted to get out of there before it was dark so I pushed hard on the road back out and arrived back in Campbell River to quite the storm. Wind, torrential rain… quite the night. And it didn’t bode well for the following day.
When I arrived back at Quinsam Wednesday morning, the river was raging and staff had been out all night trying to keep the fence clear. There would be no seining that day, and egg takes would be restricted to fish in holding, in other words, no experiment that day either. So after a couple of hours it was back to the hotel to work on some documents I am writing and make a phone call back down to Puntledge to see if they needed an extra pair of hands for Thursday.
So Thursday morning it was up early and a drive back down Island in the dark and the rain to help them out. They were going to do their Chinook eggs over two days, but the extra hands and some good attitudes left them deciding to push through and finish up that day. So, by the end of the day, the last fall Chinook eggs were collected for the Puntledge and I raced to catch a 5pm ferry back home to the Mainland.
Not the week I’d envisioned, but still a productive one. Except that I will probably head back over to Campbell River this week int he hopes that the experimental egg takes will take place at Quinsam.