National Geographic : 1933 Jul
THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE in the northwestern sky threw weird and fantastic shadows over the uneven sur face, making it seem alive, sinister, menac ing; and the water lapped gently against the nearly perpendicular wall of rock. Straining to see into the eerie darkness, we circumnavigated the island. Not a scrap of beach. Then we turned west ward, having little to guide us now but the distant lights of Anacortes, for the sky was just enough overcast to exclude even the brightest stars. Should we paddle on to the town, still several weary miles away? The only alternative was a night of drifting in the canoe, and that did not appeal. Seeming to sense our growing nervousness, the pup whimpered softly. Choosing what seemed the lesser of the two evils, we headed for Anacortes. We were slipping past the mass of black shadow that was Guemes Island when the bow paddler paused. In the midst of the shadow she thought she saw a deeper blackness. It was but the difference be tween blackness and absolute blackness, but there it was. That meant a ravine, probably a cove. Paddling slowly, we headed in. Grad ually the blackness on either side deep ened, telling us that there was land close alongside. Not only was there a cove, but we were in it! A SHRIEK OVERHEAD We rested paddles and listened. The silence was as oppressive as the darkness. The flashlight was packed, neither knew where, nor wanted to hunt for it. An other slow stroke; a pause. Suddenly the heavy silence was split by an ear-piercing shriek in the air directly over our heads. Kayo howled in terror. Both of us wanted to, even though the beat of huge wings told the rational part of our minds that it was only a great blue heron, dis turbed by our penetration of his lair. Another slow stroke. "Back-water !" A gray shape, vague and ghostly, loomed above the bow-a driftwood log six feet in diameter. In all probability the log meant a beach at low tide. We nosed up to it, and in the same instant that the stem touched the log the keel ground on the six inches of beach that were still exposed. Never, we thought, had mariners been so glad to get ashore. We hauled the duffel and then the canoe across the logs, prepared a hot meal, and spread our sleep ing bags on the debris that had collected between two logs, the only level place available. Even in next morning's daylight the cove retained much of its weirdness, the trees on the slope above throwing long shadows over the beach and the still water. CHARTS OFTEN INADEQUATE So in Anacortes we bought large-scale charts. Later, in Nanaimo, Prince Rupert, and Ketchikan, we bought more, a total of twelve, always the largest scale available. Even these were often inadequate and, especially through long stretches of British Columbia, woefully incomplete. Above Milbanke Sound we paddled for three days in an unceasing rain through totally uninhabited country. Far from the steamer lanes, there was not a cannery, a fishing boat, a hand-logger's raft, not even a deserted shack to give us a night's shelter from the rain. For all we could tell, Nakwasina's slim oak keel might have been the first to part these waters. If a hydrographic boat had ever gone through, it must have been at high speed in a fog, for long stretches of ragged coastline, deeply indented with bays and passages, were indicated only by wavy or dotted lines. Following instructions given by the owner of the Onawa (see text, page 7), we followed an uncharted passage through what is shown on the charts as Roderick Island. Often we poked into bays and coves not even hinted at by the charts. All credit to the chart-makers, however, for where time and money did not permit of fairly accurate surveys they have indicated the lack. "Rock reported," they say. "Position doubtful"; "Passage reported"; "Anchorage reported." And then the hun dreds of miles of wavy and dotted lines. Several charts bear such warning notes as this: "Caution. The coast between Mil banke Sound and Estevan Island, as now shown on this chart, is very much in error. This chart should not be depended upon for navigating this area, pending its re charting from recent surveys." From a canoeist's point of view, most of the errors, omissions, and vaguenesses of the charts are delightful.