The artist’s work Johnstone Strait Traffic depicts a pod of orcas traversing the channel under the shadow of coastal mountains.

Painting spurs investigation by artist

PORT McNEILL-Gordon Henschel goes in search of identity of orcas, mountain portrayed in his painting, 'Johnstone Strait traffic'.

This painting really has two subjects: the whales and the mountain. To find out the real name of each of them takes a little digging.

Orcas have been around long before humans hit the scene, often being considered a nuisance because they fed on the same fish we sought.

During the last few decades, when we first started becoming more aware of the complexity and individuality of this amazing creature, we began to realize they could be identified and that they moved about in families.

Painting them used to be easy because few people, myself included, could tell one whale or pod from another. During the seventies, Dr. Michael Bigg, a researcher from the Pacific Biological Station in Nanaimo, began to change all this by inventing a system of identification based on photographs. Whale watching has become a huge activity pursued by hundreds of thousands, with a great many of them becoming expert at recognizing exactly what they are viewing.

I have always used photos or videos for my reference in painting them, but I can no longer take my favourite shots of individuals and make up my own pod. It just wouldn’t be correct to do so. I try to use photos of pods and whales within those pods when I paint them and make notes when I am photographing them as to what pod it is.

Sometimes I have to check with the experts, in this case Larry Roy, the owner and operator of Discovery Expeditions.

Larry has spent endless hours with pods of whales on his kayak tours and assured me that the pod in this painting is A8. Before you try to identify individuals, it all begins by counting the total number of members within the pod and then the males and the females.

The other subject needing identification in the painting is the mountain. As long as I can remember I’ve heard it called “The Elephant” because of its shape. Back in 1978, as I sat in Ramona Knorn’s backyard in Kokish and painted it in oils, I inquired as to what the name of the imposing mountain was that faced the community. The answer was always the same, “Oh, that’s The Elephant”.

Its presence has probably been felt most of all by the many generations that have worked in its shadow. In the days when Kokish was still a vibrant community, The Elephant was still unlogged; its shape as the head of a gigantic pachyderm much more pronounced. Today it takes a more imaginative eye to see the resemblance, but it’s still there, particularly when viewed from the ocean. It is, in fact, a reliable landmark for ocean traffic since it can be recognized from afar.

Its proper name? Neither innovative nor imaginative, it is named Mt. Holsworth.

This painting is called Johnstone Strait Traffic and rightly so, for Johnstone Strait is a major ocean highway on the mid coast. Used by virtually all ocean-going vessels from skiffs to cruise ships, it is nonetheless a highway for the hundreds of orcas that frequent our waters each year and has made Johnstone Strait synonymous with whale watching.

Now why couldn’t they have called it Orca Strait?

Gordon Henschel owns an art gallery in Nimpkish Heights. www.henschel.ca.

 

Just Posted

North Island Midget Eagles get their feet wet against Alberni Valley Bulldogs

The North Island Midget Eagles travelled down island to face off against the Bulldogs.

Candidates illuminate different visions of Port Alice’s future

The candidates were asked if they believed the pulp mill could run again.

VIDEO: Terry Fox Run returns to Port Hardy for the first time since 2016

All told, Port Hardy’s Terry Fox Run raised $2,200.30 with more still coming in.

2019 FEDERAL ELECTION: Meet the candidates for the North Island-Powell River riding

In an effort to inform the North Island-Powell River riding constituents, we… Continue reading

Port Hardy celebrates Pride Day at Sacred Wolf Friendship Centre

In the evening, FISH TACO: A Seaside Drag performance was held at the Quarterdeck Pub.

VIDEO: Drone footage documents work to free salmon at Big Bar landslide

Video shows crews working to remove rocks and wood, and transporting salmon by helicopter

Man who crushed Nanaimo RCMP cars with stolen truck gets more jail time

Majore Jackson, 34, sentenced to two more years in jail in provincial court in Nanaimo

Defense says burden of proof not met in double murder case against Victoria father

Closing statements begin in trial for man accused of killing daughters Christmas 2017

B.C. dog breeder banned again after 46 dogs seized

The SPCA seized the animals from Terry Baker, 66, in February 2018

Surrey mom allegedly paid $400,000 for son in U.S. college bribery scam

Xiaoning Sui, 48, was arrested in Spain on Monday night

Three dogs found shot dead in Prince George ditch

The three adult dogs appeared to be well cared for before being found with gunshot wounds, BC SPCA says

B.C. party bus company to be monitored after 40 intoxicated teens found onboard

Police received tip teens and young adults were drinking on party buses and limousines in Surrey

Rick Mercer calls out Conservative candidate in B.C. for fake meme

‘Not true. All fake. Please Stop,’ tweeted Rick Mercer in response

Bear killed in Kimberley after chasing girl, wreaking havoc on town

This particular brown-coloured bear has been the subject of many calls this summer; very food habituated, CO says

Most Read