The Great Bear Rainforest

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to visit the Great Bear Rainforest. The GBR, originally known as one of the most special places in British Columbia and home to the illusive spirit bear, one of the major photographic goals of my trip, sadly has recently become a place which has received less positive media exposure as the object of desire of Alberta’s Enbridge company which is planning to end its Northern Gateway oil pipeline in Kitimat, just outside the Great Bear Rainforest. As if this was not bad news enough in itself, considering Enbridge’s record of leaky pipelines and a general tendency towards hubris in our species, Enbridge furthermore plans to send super tankers down the coast, a body of water which has a reputation of being exposed to really severe weather conditions and is difficult enough to maneuver even in favorable conditions. The idea behind all this is to open the Asian markets for Canada’s tar sands, which in themselves are another major environmental concern. Staying with the topic of having around 225 oil tankers a year cruise up and down a rough body of water along a pristine ecosystem, however, I do not believe that it takes a genius to figure out that this is calling for trouble (besides continuing the great Canadian tradition of trampling Native land claims under foot) – trouble that could easily reach the proportions of the Exxon Valdez catastrophe in the late 1980s when one of the ships runs on ground as it is bound to sooner or later. If you are as concerned about this as I am, Pacific Wild’s website might be a good place to start, but there are literally dozens of other groups opposing this madness, offering petitions to sign etc.
Now to my trip, though. It would be an understatement to say that the trip exceeded my expectations. Among the highlights were the chance to see and photograph spirit bears (initially a somewhat hyperreal experience considering how much I had read and image-searched earlier, but eventually a very special moment), see four humpbacks breaching almost in perfect synchronicity literally 30 or 40 meters from our boat, photographing coastal wolves (though from afar), seeing and photographing my first pine marten, and finally witnessing one of the most obscenely gorgeous photographic scenes I had ever seen: grizzlies in front of a rain forest scene with the early morning sun burning away the fog; a scene so perfect one could not have improved it with a brush and canvas – oh, and did I mention the two eagles sitting in the tree to the left?
Anyway, I will be silent so you can have a look at my images. There are more images from the trip on my website.

A bald eagle taking off.

Curious pine marten.

Black Bear on Gribbell Island.

My first spirit bear. Spirit (or Kermode) bears are black bears who carry a recessive allele that gives some of them white fur. There are only a couple white hundred individuals, most of them around Princess Royal Island.

Breaching Humpback Whale.

Grizzly Bear in the Great Bear Rainforest.

The first (and possibly last) arboreal seal I have ever seen.

Coastal Wolf in Rescue Bay. These wolves fish for salmon along the creeks and are pretty damn elusive. This image was taken with my 500 mm lens, but nevertheless turned out to be more of an animal scape.

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9 responses

  1. Gorgeous photos, Johannes!

    October 30, 2011 at 6:31 pm

  2. Thanks, Brennan, it’s an incredible area – hard to take bad ones :).

    October 31, 2011 at 12:09 am

  3. Lasse

    Kann ich mich nur anschliessen. Supratendenz an guten Fotos

    October 31, 2011 at 12:25 am

  4. Samuel LUDWIG

    I fear literature may become your second occupation …
    Smiles, Sämi

    October 31, 2011 at 4:39 am

    • I wish, Saemi, there’s even less money in wildlife photography than in literary studies :o).

      October 31, 2011 at 8:54 am

  5. Thanks for sharing this excellent writeup, and your wonderful images Johannes ! Really enjoyed reading and viewing about this incredible area of B.C. Very frightening to think that there could be Oil Tanker traffic down this sensitive coastline….when will we, as a species, learn to think ahead, instead of cleaning up after the damage is done!!

    November 1, 2011 at 10:31 pm

    • Thanks for the nice words and your concern, Randy. Please take a minute to send a message or do any of the other action suggested on Pacific Wild’s website, if you have the time.
      As for us learning to put ethics and common sense before money … I fear it may take a while, if it is ever going to happen.

      November 1, 2011 at 11:15 pm

  6. Bild Nr.6 mit dem Bär am unteren Bildrand sowie dem aufsteigenden Nebelschwaden und den Sonnenstrahlen im Hintergrund finde ich einfach grandios!

    Was das Thema mit der neuen Ölpipline und den Tankern an dieser grandiosen Küste angeht, ist das natürlich eine ganz heikle Geschichte. Da leicht zugängliche Ölquelen langsam aber sicher versiegen, sind nach und nach die schwieriger abzubauenden Ölquellen dran, was natürlich Probleme mit sich bringt, da diese oft in bzw. nahe unberührter Natur zu finden sind. Solange die Menschheit nach Öl giert, werden sich die Ölgesellschaften früher oder später durchsetzen, das ist meine Befürchtung. Kein Präsident der USA wird sich trauen, die Ölpreise durch Besteuerung weiter nach oben zu treiben, damit die Menschen auf dem amerikanischem Kontinent endlich lernen, mit diesem Gut sparsamer umzugehen. Nachdem, was ich bislang gehört und gelesen habe, ist der Sprit immer noch viel billiger als bei uns in Europa… Und sollten die Republikaner wieder die Macht an sich reissen, wird alles nur noch schlimmer werden. Solange staatliche und wirtschaftliche Interessen dahinter stehen, wird es sehr schwierig werden dagegen anzukämpfen! Aber wenn man es nicht tut, hat man schon verloren… Diese tollen Bilder werden hoffentlich helfen, weitere Menschen für den “Kampf” um den Erhalt dieser unberührten Natur zu begeistern!

    Gruß aus Freiburg
    Matthias

    November 16, 2011 at 12:11 am

    • Hallo Matthias,
      die Sache ist noch etwas komplizierter. Das Öl selbst kommt von den Ölsanden (Tar Sands) in Alberta. Die sind zwar auch eine Schweinerei, aber mit nichten in der Nähe des Great Bear Rainforest. Von dort soll es zwei neue große Pipelines geben, die Keystone Pipeline in die USA, um die Märkte dort anzuzapfen und deren Bau Obama gerade auf Eis gelegt hat, und die Enbridge bzw. Northern Gateway Pipeline, die in Kitimat enden soll und von der aus das Zeug durch den Great Bear Rainforest nach Süden geschifft werden soll. Der Hauptabsatzmarkt für das Rohöl, das durch die Northern Gateway Pipeline gepumpt und dann durch den GBR geschifft werden soll, ist Asien.
      Was Spritpreise angeht steigen die auch in Nordamerika. Insbesondere in den USA sind sie aber noch deutlich unter deutschem Niveau, auch in Kanada sind es gerade aber 50 bis 60 Cent weniger der Liter.

      Johannes

      PS: Schicke Bilder auf Flickr, ich schaue immer mal wieder rein.

      November 16, 2011 at 2:48 pm

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