A Brush with Henschel: Stubbs Island and beyond

Throughout the centuries I wonder how many pods of whales that the spirits of Stubbs Island have seen passing in the volatile currents surrounding it.

It is many things to many individuals, including the sea life that plays on it and around it, probably because of its strategic location.

Centrally located, it provides the transition between Queen Charlotte Sound and Blackfish Sound while separating the two from Weynton Passage.

Literally every run of salmon from Chinook to Chum goes by its doorstep.

As a result all the life that surrounds the salmon follows the flow: eagles, gulls, murrelets, seals, sea lions, dolphins and whales; a veritable marine menagerie.

All the aforementioned things cover life above the water.

We mustn’t neglect the incredibly lush world of underwater creatures that the waters around Stubbs conceal.

Any accomplished diver will confirm the merits of this sea of wonder for it is considered one of the west coast’s prime diving spots, in spite of the tricky and sometimes treacherous currents that make it such a challenge.

A diver with the U.S. Navy once told me that he had covered all the oceans of the world and considered this area equal and better than any he had experienced.

This painting, called ‘Stubbs and Beyond’, includes some of the area surrounding Stubbs Island.

On the left is a peninsula of one of the Pearse Islands.

These islands, forming the charming mini archipelago directly southeast of Alert Bay, provide shelter not only from the summer westerlies that come belting down Broughton Strait but also the vicious south easterlies that are so often part of our winter burden.

Off to the right of the painting is the centre of interest, Stubbs Island’s unmistakeable shape, a mammoth of a rock that is a landmark to navigation.

So many different currents surround it that rarely are its waters calm enough for a boat to remain in one place for a second.

You are whisked away very quickly but often returned by a back eddy.

Fishing in and around the area is a trifle tricky for often your line is sucked up by one of the huge whirlpools that carry all sorts of debris.

Many a fisherman has lost hook line and flasher in this scary maelstrom.

Mt. Stephen, another landmark covers the top part of the painting.

Part of the Coast Range it can be seen from nearly every vantage point on North Island.

It is the three-peaked mountain that seems to dominate this line of peaks.

Many viewers believe they are seeing Mt.Waddington but in reality it is one of the smaller peaks in the Coast Range.

We simply see it as large because it is the closest one to us on Vancouver Island.

In order to view Waddington we would have to be flying about 1500 metres above Port McNeill or Port Hardy.

The orcas seen in the painting are there for a simple reason: food!

This area abounds in fish much of the summer and that is why the resident pods are so dependably viewed.

Rarely can you fish here without hearing the familiar whoosh of the orcas exhaling as they emerge from the depths; sometime directly beside your boat!

Here they are swimming in the direction of ‘Stubbs and Beyond’.

Comments: e-mail: gordon@cablerocket.com or website: www.henschel.ca

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