Jacqueline Windh and David Gilbert have teamed up with the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, the Spanish Embassy and some Nuu-chah-nulth partners to undertake an historical expedition of Vancouver Island’s northwest coast in June. SUSAN QUINN PHOTO

Kayakers to visit B.C.’s ‘secret coast’ first visited by Spanish explorers in 1770s

Jacqueline Windh and David Gilbert to explore forgotten history of Spanish exploration

Two Port Alberni adventurers are headed on a hiking and kayaking expedition to reveal the forgotten history of early Spanish explorations of Canada’s west coast.

Jacqueline Windh and David Gilbert will embark on a one-month journey starting Sunday, June 9 with a float plane dropping them at their starting point: the southern entrance to Kyuquot Sound. They will spend a month hiking and kayaking down the coast, arriving at Chesterman Beach on Monday, July 8. They will visit the remote, but historically significant, locations where pivotal events in the settlement of the west coast of Vancouver Island occurred.

“Most Canadians associate our colonial history with the English and the French,” says Windh. “Few are aware of the important role the Spanish played in the early explorations and first contacts with the Indigenous Peoples of the Pacific Northwest.”

(Even Port Alberni is named for Captain Pedro de Alberni, a Spanish naval officer who spent nearly three years in Nootka Sound.)

“Now a wild and nearly uninhabited region, two and a half centuries ago this waveswept coast was the hub of contact between four cultures: the Spanish, the British (led by Cook and then Vancouver), the Americans (with the two-year enslavement of sailor John Jewitt by Chief Maquinna) and of course Nuu-chah-nulth inhabitants,” she said.

Windh has been planning this trip for about a year. It started out as a simple adventure, and morphed from there. “We were thinking of doing a run down the West Coast Trail or something like that,” she said.

She is an elected Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, and thought about how she and Gilbert could pair their adventure with the RCGS. While looking at the West Coast, she began thinking about the history of the place, especially the little-known Spanish history.

“I’m not linear,” she admitted. “Things come (to me) from different directions.”

Once she had a concept, that gave them purpose for their trip and the research began.

“There’s an exploration that’s beyond the physical exploration of the land,” she said. “The rest of Canada doesn’t have a clue of that history.”

The RCGS agreed, and the pair will travel with an official RCGS expedition flag when they depart later this week.

Windh lived in Tofino for many years and recalled hearing oral histories from her Nuu-chah-nulth friends about first contact with Spanish naval crews. She hopes to share those Indigenous impressions with storytelling sessions and permission to write some of the oral history in a book.

She is excited to hear First Nations’ view of colonization of the coast. “I’m pretty sure the First Nations accounts won’t line up with what the Europeans said.”

While society has given weight to written accounts of first contact, she said people shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss oral histories that have been passed from generation to generation. She referenced John R. Jewitt’s account of Chief Maquinna’s two-year enslavement of the sailor: “Just because (Jewitt) wrote it doesn’t mean it’s more reliable than the oral histories.”

Windh, already a published author, plans to write a book on their expedition, featuring photographs of the historic stops as well as a written history. She hopes to integrate Nuu-chah-nulth history with written records of the European and American explorers. Her last book, The Wild Edge, published in 2004 in a similar format, is a Canadian bestseller.

The Royal Canadian Geographical Society, the Spanish Embassy in Canada, and the Wickaninnish Inn on the west coast (which is sponsoring the Nuu-chah-nulth storytelling portion of the trip) are all supporting this expedition, Windh said.

“I have secured some very prestigious sponsors for it as well as numerous industry sponsors—it’s probably the biggest thing I’ve ever done.”

Windh and Gilbert were at Clutesi Haven Marina on Saturday, testing out their refurbished folding kayaks and other gear. The kayaks fold into 20-kilogram (45-pound) backpacks. Windh first bought hers in 1992 as a reward when she finished her PhD (she is an Earth scientist); she has also acquired its twin from her mother.

The couple, ultra-marathoners, are used to hiking. They completed the Nootka Trail a couple of years ago and have explored the hills and mountains around the Alberni Valley too. This will be their longest trip so far.

Windh and Gilbert plan to end their trip on Monday, July 8, weather permitting, arriving at 10 a.m. at Chesterman Beach near Tofino.

For more information on their trip go online to www.secret-coast.com. While they won’t be able to post while they’re in remote regions of the Island, Windh will update the website when she can.



susie.quinn@albernivalleynews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Jacqueline Windh and David Gilbert have teamed up with the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, the Spanish Embassy and some Nuu-chah-nulth partners to undertake an historical expedition of Vancouver Island’s northwest coast in June. SUSAN QUINN PHOTO

Jacqueline Windh and David Gilbert give their kayaks and brand new paddles a workout on the Somass River before they embark on an expedition to Vancouver Island’s northwest coast in June. SUSAN QUINN PHOTO

David Gilbert and Jacqueline Windh hike the Alberni Inlet Trail near Port Alberni. The husband and wife adventure team are regulars on hiking trails in the area. JACQUELINE WINDH PHOTO

Just Posted

Facey nominated as BC Liberal candidate for the North Island riding

Liberal candidate Norm Facey has a background in forestry and manufacturing.

Some north Island forest service roads to get a minor facelift with COVID-19 recovery funding

Side Bay access road no longer ‘up in the bureaucratic air’ thanks to temporary budget increase

Port Hardy’s top cop says goodbye, last day will be Oct. 30

‘I want to pause, reflect, and give thanks for my experiences and time given here’

Cops for Cancer: COVID-19 can’t stop Tour de Rock

‘having the chance to come back and ride this year means everything to me’

Port McNeill mayor elected as Director at Large with UBCM

Gaby Wickstrom ran for one of five spots against 13 other candidates

BC Liberal Leader talks drug addiction in the Lower Mainland

Drug addiction and public safety a top priority says Andrew Wilkinson

Island Corridor Foundation launches survey on importance of Vancouver Island rail

“ICF remains 100 per cent committed to the restoration of full rail service on Vancouver Island”

Island RCMP remind drivers not to text after 19 tickets handed out in 90 minutes

The $368 fines were handed out Tuesday on Norwell Drive and Old Island Highway in Nanaimo

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Vanderhoof’s Brian Frenkel takes on top job in tough times

We can get through this, new local government leader says

Three years for serial bank robber who hit southern Vancouver Island branch

Lucas Bradwell was wanted for robberies in Abbotsford, Sidney and Vancouver

Local councils important, Horgan says as municipal conference ends

B.C. NDP leader says ‘speed dating’ vital, online or in person

Penticton woman sentenced to one year in prison for manslaughter of teen boyfriend

Kiera Bourque, 24, was sentenced for manslaughter in the 2017 death of Penticton’s Devon Blackmore

Most Read