Thursday, January 17, 2013
To All My Progressive Friends, You Dwindling Few
Progressivism is now pretty thoroughly scrubbed out of the Liberal Party and it's in a state of respiratory distress even in today's Tony Blairified NDP. Fortunately there are still progressive voices and progressive minds. If you're one of them I'd like to introduce you to a wonderful offshore newspaper, Island Tides.
It's been publishing every second Thursday for 21 years and is circulated along the east coast of Vancouver Island and throughout Saltspring, Gabriola, Pender, Galiano, Mayne, Saturna, Denman, Hornby, Quadra, Cortes, Texada, and Read Islands.
There's some terrific journalism to be found in its pages and you can access the latest edition and the paper's archives free of charge at the link above. If you're one of those affluent mainland bastards you can even subscribe.
In today's edition there's a fascinating discussion about the "Honour of the Crown" and whether the Harper government has shirked its obligation, clarified in the 2004 decision in Haida v. British Columbia, to consult with First Nations impacted by changes to environmental review procedures, the Fisheries Act, and navigable waters legislation. Most important is whether Harper had the authority to implement the FIPA treaty without First Nations' consent.
There's also in print the transcript of remarks made by Sid Jorna to the environmental review panel into the Northern Gateway pipeline proposal.
First of all, thank you for hearing these submissions. My name
is Sid Jorna. I’m a retired commander of the Royal Canadian
Navy with a bridge watchkeeping certificate, so I’ve had
experience at sea. With a Master’s degree in engineering, I’ve
had a second career as a Director of Engineering, General
Dynamics Canada, overseeing the development of naval sonar
Knowing something of the marine environment, I will
therefore confine my comments to the issue of bulk oil carrier
vessels in the Dixon Entrance, the Hecate Strait and the Douglas
In my opinion, bulk oil carriers in these waters pose an
unacceptable risk of a significant oil spill with extreme
consequences to the environment. I believe that a major tanker
accident in this confined sea is inevitable over time due to the
nature of the tankers and the nature of the sea and climate of
The very large crude carriers, or the ultra large crude carriers,
are huge, ponderous ships of 366 metres or more, 25 metres of
draft, and carrying some 2 million barrels of crude oil or more.
They have the capacity to spill roughly 10 times the oil that was
spilled by the Exxon Valdez.
By comparison, the Exxon Valdezwas a double-hulled crude
oil carrier with a capacity of approximately 1.2 million barrels
of oil. It spilled roughly 10% of that, causing all that
environmental damage in Prince William Sound.
Consider the destructive potential of a modern bulk oil
carrier. Bulk oil carriers are not very manoeuvrable. In the very
nimble destroyers of the Navy, we considered that the point at
which collision cannot be avoided by the action of one ship alone
is reached at approximately three kilometres owing to the huge
momentum and limited ability to manoeuvre of the bulk oil
Another measure of the vessel’s huge momentum was its
stopping ability, needing at least 8 to 10 kilometres to stop.
These vessels are so large that they must constantly alter course
to the waves to avoid setting up harmonic oscillations which
could tear the vessel apart.
Douglas Channel from Kitimat to the Hecate Strait consists
of 140 kilometres of narrow, winding passages with multiple
islands, rock outcroppings and steep cliff banks. The narrowest
point is approximately 1.2 kilometres across between 90-metre high cliffs.
This is not a safe passage for such a large, ponderous ship.
Even in the best of conditions, with tugs in attendance,
conditions are not often the best. A ship would not be able to
ride out a tsunami in the Douglas Channel where the wave
would be magnified greatly by the funneling effect of the
Hecate Strait is notorious for hurricane force winds and
gargantuan waves. An excellent description of possible
conditions here can be found in Chapter 10 of The Golden
Spruce  by John Vaillant. I’ll paraphrase a few.
Hecate Strait is arguably the most dangerous body of
water on the west coast of British Columbia. On a regular
basis, its unique combination of wind, tide, shoals and
shallows produce a kind of destructive synergy. Katabatic
winds generated in the mountains funnel wind tunnel
style through the many fjords, like Douglas Channel.
Winter storms manifest as southerlies along the
coast. It is because of these winds that waves of over 30
metres—30 metres—have been recorded at the weather
buoy at the southern end of the Hecate Strait.
The Straits are so dangerous because these weather
westerly sea storm, blowing at 80 to 160 knots per hour,
collides head on with a north-easterly katabatic wind of
similar strength, the result is a kind of an atmospheric
hammer and anvil effect.
Tides that can run up to seven metres are another
ingredient. The transfer of such volumes of water in the
confined spaces like the Douglas Channel and the Hecate
Strait form the effect of a giant thumb pressed over the
end of an even larger garden hose.
The third ingredient is called an overfall which occurs
when wind and tide are moving rapidly in opposite
directions. Overfalls are steep, closely packed,
unpredictable waves capable of rolling a fishing boat and
driving it into the sea bottom. The overfalls can show up
anywhere but are intensified by sandbars and shoals like
those that extend for 30 kilometres off the end of Rose
Spit between Masset and Prince Rupert.
Large enough waves will expose the sea floor of the
Hecate Strait. The result is one of the most diabolically
hostile environments that wind, sea and land are capable
of conjuring up.
That’s the description in that particular book. My own worst
experience of the sea’s fury was in the aircraft carrier HMCS
Bonaventure. Off Halifax, the seas were so monumental that
the captain diverted 700 kilometres to avoid turning the vessel
sideways to the seas. This is a large vessel. It was impossible to
stand upright on the bridge. The captain ended up in the bottom
of a heap. We were lucky because this storm occurred when we
were in open waters with room to manoeuvre and not in a
confined space such as the Hecate Strait.
This description of frequent conditions in the Hecate Strait
does not instil confidence in the ability to manage with
technology. In these conditions the huge tankers may be
rendered helpless, their attending tugboats pathetic and no
match for the fury of the wind and the sea.
It is a form of hubris to believe that a combination of risk
reduction measures in these conditions will prevent a
catastrophic event. Risk reduction measures did not prevent the
sinking of Arrowin 1970, the sinking of Ocean Ranger in 1982,
the sinking of Exxon Valdez in 1989, the sinking of the Northern
Explorer ferry in 2007, and the Deep Water Horizon spill in
the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, and the pipeline spills of the
Kalamazoo River of 2011…
During the time of writing this submission there has been
one grounding in the approaches to Prince Rupert and an
Alaska oil rig has to be evacuated and is adrift in the Arctic
waters. On the east coast, a naval vessel has just parted its
towline and sustained damage. A 7.5 Magnitude earthquake
occurred 160 kilometres northwest of Haida Gwaii less than 48
In the case of Dixon Entrance, Hecate Strait and Douglas
Channel, a tanker disaster is a predictable certainty over time
and an unrecoverable ecological disaster for everyone.
Please drop this very bad idea and reinstate the moratorium
on tanker traffic in northern BC waters that have protected our
northern coasts for 40 years. Thank you.
Once you have read Commander Jorna's compelling submission ask yourself what the Liberal Party of Canada is doing dancing around the Northern Gateway business. What is that goddamned miserable remnant of a once great party doing even entertaining a Pipeline Queen like Hall-Findlay as a leadership candidate?
Fighting the Northern Gateway isn't British Columbia's fight. It's Canada's fight. We've already got the camel's nose under the tent. That's Kinder Morgan.
It's time for Liberals of conscience to demand the reinstatement of progressivism in their party. Trudeau, Garneau, Hall-Findlay; they're all taking the LPC even further down it's rightwing path.
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Joma's. warning is critical, Mound. If ever there was a 21st century example of hubris, putting a tanker facility in Kitimat is it.
It's sheer lunacy.
Thanks for the link.
I thought you would like the paper, Owen. I like it because of its coastal focus and steady supply of really good journalism. Many issues also have an article by Elizabeth May.
thanks Mound. not a lib but very progressive.
Hi Jan. When I read Jorna's submission a chill went down my spine.
Many years ago I was out on the Hecate Strait several miles off the Charlottes (Haida Gwai) for a day of fishing on a 30 foot boat. The sky was clear, the sun was warm, the sea was glassy.
Within 15-minutes we went from utterly idyllic conditions into the very worst storm I have ever experienced at sea. We couldn't run for land because we were in the overfall waves Jorna mentions.
The bilge pumps were going full blast, the engine was racing, one man was at the wheel and the rest of us were in the stern with buckets furiously trying to keep the transom out of the sea. I was convinced we were all dead.
One minute we would crest a wave and I'd be able to see Haida Gwai quite clearly. Seconds later we'd be in a trough with nothing but walls of angry water on every side.
My arms were burning with muscle pain and my hands hurt like hell from the wire handle on the bucket but I kept going mainly because everyone else did.
Then, almost as suddenly as the storm broke over us, it ended. The wind died, the seas calmed and in short order the sun came through again. We all just looked at each other in disbelief, shook our heads and laughed.
We were lucky that the Hecate didn't throw anything approaching its worst at us.
He's right. It's sheer madness to run a tanker through there.
Mound, back in the seventies I was logging on the northern end of Moresby Island. One morning we went to work and while waiting for daylight in the landing a radio message came to the yarder from camp telling all crews to return to camp immediately, before the roads were closed by fallen trees. While this message was being broadcast we were watching a group of trees at the backend being blown over up to a 170 ft Sitka Spruce with a 10 ft diameter butt (sound) which came down last after its smaller sheltering trees left it fully exposed. (I know the dimensions of the 17 trees because they extended our setting and had to be bucked and skidded with all the re-rigging that involved)
We got to camp and I went home to watch my 17 1/2 ft two man kayak blow by the window enroute to the inlet be stopped (and damaged) by a power pole as the wind reached over 100 miles per hour, breaking the windspeed instrument at Sandspit Airport. By noon the storm was gone and Skidegate Inlet was glassy as a millpond at dawn.
The Gulf of Alaska is the weather maker for the west coast and Dixon Entrance and the Hecate Strait are the first customers. I've crossed the Hecate Strait a couple times and been on it in a kayak, it is heavy duty even during fairly benevolent weather.
Also the Northwest Coast has the highest tides on the North American west coast which also causes incredible tidal currents in narrow passages, some of which become virtually non-navigable under certain tide races.
The very notion of running such tankers, especially with entities like China and Enbridge neglecting to actually take responsibility is totally unacceptable and I and many others will simply not allow it to happen, I don't want to live in a world with the north coast buried under bitumen.
I remember as a kid looking down on the listing Bonaventure from the Angus L. MacDonald bridge in Halifax. T'was a sad sight.
An even sadder sight is looking down on the Harper government, where an Imperial Oil mail clerk is dictating the direction of our country.
But digging bitumen for corporate profits, with no real advantage to ordinary Canadians and to the great detriment of all humanity, is the saddest sight of all.
Oh stop your bellyaching and get with the program.
.. fantastic testimony ! .. the comments as well !
I sent you this a ways back http://tidalstation.blogspot.ca/ and perhaps several other links which included storm anecdotes from a 3 or 4 generation Hartley Bay based fishing family .. Really think it critical these kind of reality based testimonies be moved to the very forefront of the 'sell it to China' scam. I mean after all Mound, China is currently building the fleet of VLCC tankers that your essay refers to.
My first (and unpublished) novel, Diamond Walker, is set primarily on Vancouver Island and in Vancouver. The premise included the idea that Japanese marine wildlife brokers looking to buy captured orca were the greatest threat to the killer whales, as was ship based sonar. The book ends with a great biblical storm that sweeps down from Alaska, by the way.
I never found a literary agent, or a publisher .. the great Catch 22 of failed novelists. Amen & so what. My protagonist was an islander.. a shamanistic, aboriginal First Nations, Nuu-chah-nulth, 18 year old, who had been swimming or surfing with killer whales since he had learned to swim.. He could throw an unearthly knuckleball .. with either hand.. so he tried out.. as a walk-on.. for the Vancouver Canadians.. at Nat Bailey Stadium (yes.. I met Nat..)
Now, though.. I watch and think.. as the ideas and impressions of BC and Vancouver Island, branded by my life experiences into beliefs and creative extensions - inventions - ie fiction.. are threatened by a new interloper.
My invented fictions pale before the threat and crimes of Stephen Harper, his Big Energy compatriots and his dull witted accomplices, Joe (felled by heart problems) Oliver, Pete Kent (a zombie) and Keith Ashfield (felled by heart problems) .. and so so many others.
The orca will never be stolen or sold under Harper's stewardship. Along with the seals, the otter, the whales, the salmon, the dolphin.. and any other marine creature vulnerable to Chinese sonar.. they will beach themselves, die or be driven from their environment. Goodbye eagles, bears and coastal food chain.. and people and cultures.
No more, no less.. than how the boreal caribou, the wolf, the beaver, the bear. the wolverine are being driven from or killed in their Alberta and BC habitat. All for one, one for all .. let's give er for China and Stephen Harper's pipelines.. and just go and die.... fer gawd's sake.. out of sight and mind.
I need to update my unpublished novel.. add some disgusting reality to it.. make it deeply more edgy and tragic.. and laced with evil and scandal and blackmail and truly freaky pictures. I need to make it more contemporary and real. My fictional and faceless bad guys were just attacking one species.. when they thought nobody was looking. Now I see reality exceeds fiction.. that the real crimes are committed in plain sight.
We have an ignorant and deeply, ideologically flawed prime minister intent on wiping out entire and very real segments of nature's .. ah .. Canada's .. environment and food chains. A Masters degree in Economics you say ?
Hi, all. I really appreciate your comments and insights.
@ Koot - I have read of people crossing the Hecate in kayaks only not living people. Twice? That's just madness. Well, at least now I know someone who survived it, twice. Cool.
@ Sal - thanks for the link and, yes, you ought to think about a re-write of your manuscript. Tankers, protests, suppression, the Chinese, the Manchurian Candidate PM. That could be great and I'll bet you would find plenty of interest in it.
There's a reason why Enbridge is running so many reassuring ads that are almost totally empty of content and specifics.
Do fire up your word processor and get busy.
Diamond Walker is online here
With no damn publisher interested.. I put it online in its entirety.. to see if anyone would steal it. (figuring that might tell me something..)
The idea of this as a film came to me while sitting in the English Bay Cafe.. I'd had dinner with Nat Bailey the night before and he suggested I visit the stadium named after him.. so I did.. was inspired ..
Later, after the film synopsis disappeared, or was stolen from the 'Pitch This' competition at the Toronto Film Festival, I decided to write it as a novel.. OK .. as The Great Canadian Novel ..
Does the protagonist revive the great American game of baseball, while saving the killer whales ? Read and find out..
Does the book need to be re-written with the protagonist, an 18 year old, shamanistic & ambidextrous west coast Indian helping to save Canada's west coast from a disastrous government.. ugghh .. I best get busy ...
Mound, I didn't cross the Strait in a kayak, I've cruieed around rhw edges, on the island side in a kayak. I crossed on a Norwegian crewed freighter a couple times when that and RivTow barge were the only way to get a vehicle on or off the islands. Sorry for the lack of clarity.
Once on the freighter with my pickup (with kayak on a rack loaded on the foredeck) I sat in the lounge below the bridge and watched waves break over the prow and wash over my truck and it was a fairly nice day, but the swells were at least thirty feet. This wasn't really a storm at all. This was the Northern Prince which made weekly trips serving Masset, QCCity, assorted logging camps on the north coast and Haida Gwaii originating and returning to Port Hardy. The schedule was always extremely flexible depending on the tides (and the loading/unloading) and weather. One could cool their heels in PR or Masset from twelve hours to a day or more past the scheduled sailing time.
There is a fascinating story of a Haida war canoe being towed to the railhead at Prince Rupert for shipment to the World's Fair in Chicago (I think that one) and with the carver and his wife by their own insistence aboard the cedar canoe the tow line to the tug broke when the weather blew up. Eventually the tug gave up on the canoe and quuit looking for it and focused on surviving themselves only to get to Rupert and find that the Haida and his wife had jerry rigged a sail and beaten the tug (steam powered as I recall) to port by hours!
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