Sunday, January 26, 2003

I was down at the library on Friday catching up on some local reading when I found myself totally absorbed in map hanging on the wall. This was no ordinary map of Bowen Island, but it was the original map designed, researched and drawn by Dr. Kathy Dunster for the Salish Sea Atlas Project. The Atlas brings together around 30 maps of islands around the Georgia Basin. The maps are created by island artists and represent the values and treasures of each island.

Most of the maps are extraordinary representations of the islands. Our map is hand drawn, coloured and lettered with an inventory of every creek and brook, each lake, the major and minor landmasses and every lot on the island. It is perforated with cut outs of Great Blue Heron and Blacktailed Deer prints, and it contains a text about what we value as islanders.

It didn't take me long to get immersed in copying down the names of the creeks, dozens and dozens of them that I didn't know existed. And while some are named for people and old island families (Collins, Henderson, Davies, Dorman, Malkin), and some have more obvious nomenclature (Hungry Deer, Drinking Cougar), others are named for more whimsical inspirations (Dharma, Dogma, Bang, Clink, Eco, Anarchy, Cartographer's, and my all time favourite Stream of Consciousness).

So I was copying down the names, when who should arrive, but Kathy Dunster herself, and so I had a good half hour conversation with her about the map, the Atlas and other Salish Sea stuff.

She also passed on some interesting news. In the past 10 days Kokanee Salmon have been discovered in Grafton Lake (aka Trout Lake, according to the map!). Kokanee are landlocked sockeye salmon. The live, breed and die in freshwater, unlike their anadromous cousins, who spend their lives at sea, before returning to freshwater to spawn.

Genetic tests are being performed on the fish now to try to link them both with a related sockeye population and to figure out how long them may have been in the lake. Most of the sockeye populations in the Strait of Georgia are gone now, but there are a lot of records about the populations that once bred in the Georgia Basin. Having a little clutch of Kokanee on Bowen is a significant piece of our living natural history. It's also going to mean some changes in order to preserve the population and give it a chance to continue to thrive as it has done for hundreds or possibly thousands of years.

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