Today’s post is about my visit to Swishwash Island. It’s not every day that you get to make new friends, explore an uninhabited island, dig holes and then get rescued by the coast guard! If all those things happen, I can confirm you’ll have probably had a really good day!
I am still not completely sure why I got involved in this madness. My friend Lori is currently studying to save the world. Well, I think it’s otherwise known as ecological restoration – but that basically means saving the world right? Anyway, she sent out a plea on facebook asking if anyone minded getting dirty and digging holes with her on bank holiday Monday this week. I knew Marc had to work, and I didn’t already have plans, so I figured I could help them. Even if that meant I’d have to get cold and soggy. I have to admit I was slightly regretting my decision when I checked the weather on Sunday night! We were expecting heavy rain all day and there had been a weather warning about strong winds. Eep.
But I’d already said I’d help, so I woke up, and was ready in time for Lori to pick me up at 7am on Monday Morning(!)
Lori had contacted the Canadian Coast guard, and they had kindly offered us a lift over to the island. Apparently last time they visited, they managed it on a teeny inflatable kayak! I am glad I opted to join them on the day they rode with the coast guard! Swishwash Island was only a few minutes ride on the swish coastguard’s boat, but I could see the currents were very strong!
Swishwash Island is located at the mouth of the Fraser river near Vancouver airport. Earlier this century it was used as a dump for a huge amount of sand after the river was dredged. That sand is located in three massive patches that have clogged up the natural channels that used to shape the island. The ladies, Lori, Alyssa and Tamie needed to dig holes to work out how deep these sand dumps go. They can use that information to work out if it would be possible to restore the channels to improve the natural salmon habitats. At least I think that was the plan!
So, we needed to dig three large holes in different spots in each of the three sand banks. And we needed to go as deep as we possibly could! Steven and I don’t have any training about analyzing the holes; So we concentrated on digging impressive holes and let the other ladies measure and record all the data. Our first few holes were not bad (the second hole was HARD WORK, mostly because we kept hitting tree roots.)
After finishing at the first location, we had to walk through one of the channels to reach the main part of the island. This middle section of Swishwash Island was pretty in an un-tamed, straggly way.
We had an excellent view of the coast guards station!
We really improved at the second and third location. Steven and I started a hole together, then I left him to it while Tamie and I started another hole. While we were just getting going, Steven had dug down so far that he reached the water table! It turned out he used to have a part time job digging graves. He was easily the best hole digger out of us all!
It was pretty cold at first but the rain wasn’t even a fraction as bad as we expected! The weather forecast said the weather would get steadily worse, but it actually got better! We even saw a little bit of blue sky, complete with views of the seaplanes before they landed.
My very last hole (dug up with Lori) was amazing! It came all the way up to my boobs, and I had to kick off the opposite wall to attempt to jump out of the hole!
Our only problem was the return journey. The tide had risen so much that the coast guard couldn’t quite get close enough to pick us up. The remaining channels were now too deep for us to wade through safely, so there was no way for us to get back to our starting point. Eep.
In the end we all just had to get wet. My entrance to the boat was not particularly dignified. I waded out, and then the lovely coast guard bloke, Glen, hoisted me into the boat with my pink wellies in the air! One of my feet was completely drenched, but I somehow managed to keep one leg dry! Yaaay!
If you every fly in or out of Vancouver, look down at the Fraser river and you’ll probably see Swishwash Island! Although, you won’t see our holes. After the ladies had measured and recorded everything, we filled them all in.
So, that was my boating, hole-digging adventure on Swishwash Island. I had to admit that all that digging left my arms and legs pretty tired for the last couple of days. Still, I am so glad that I was allowed to be involved.