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Official Blog of the Great Bear II

First class wilderness adventures and holiday cruises on the coast of British Columbia.

Current | 2022 | 2021 | 2020 |2019 | 2018-2016 | 2015 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006-2004

Monday July 12, 2021


Marine debris Marine debris found on a shoreline during the Marine Debris Removal Initiative #MDRI. Photo Credit: Francoise Gervais

After an introduction from a fisherman friend to the mother of artist Tiare Boyes, Eric promised to bring home buoys from the Marine Debris Removal he was heading out to take part in. As you will learn in Tiare's story and see in photos here, Eric fulfilled his promise to bring home some buoys he found, labelled with where they came from which is what Tiare shares with each piece of art she creates, using these buoys as her canvas.

This is a story about the daughter in a fishing family, who is also a scientist, a diver, and an artist, whose connection to the ocean is as strong and steady as the tides... and... a story about how she turns Ocean Debris into Ocean Art. Being a part of this epic Marine Debris Removal Initiative #MDRI, that despite the implications, gives us hope, especially when we learn about people like Tiare whose passion for the ocean, inspires not only her art, but her ongoing "dedication to actions that help keep our coastal waters healthy."

Tiare "Buoys"

Tiare gathers floats and buoys to reclaim and paint on. Example of the Tiare's beautiful paintings.

I am an avid diver and an underwater photographer who loves nothing more than to swim through kelp forests in our coastal ecosystems here on Vancouver Island and I am dedicated to actions that help keep our coastal waters healthy.

I also grew up in the fishing community here on Vancouver Island. My dad started fishing to put himself through his master's degree in marine biology at UBC and my mom met my dad while working as a salmon trolling deckhand. When it was my turn to go off to school, I paid my way through an undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies at UVic and then a master's degree in Marine and Coastal Management through going to sea harvesting wild Pacific halibut. Today I work closely with organizations such as the Marine Stewardship Council, an independent fishery assessment organization that helps people make sustainable seafood choices in the supermarkets and in restaurants and I am an advocate for the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially SDG 2: Zero Hunger and SDG 14: Life Below the Water.

I have always been both a conservationist and an advocate for sustainable fisheries and addressing global food security issues. These concepts should not be at odds.

I know our Ocean is facing major human-created challenges such as acidification, temperature rises, over-fishing and plastic pollution. With all these huge problems going on sometimes I feel quite helpless as to how to make a positive difference.

Rope with Tiare's painted buoys. Smaller floats that Tiare has painted.

Marine debris from the fishing industry is a major contributor to ocean pollution, but I want to highlight that not all fisheries create Ocean pollution, and we can be very proud of many of the fisheries in BC, some of which are world leaders in accountability, monitoring and innovative integrated fisheries management policies.

But our local beaches are covered in marine debris, some of it from fisheries and I wanted to help do something about this.

I source old fishing gear, either donated by local fishermen, or collected by beach combers. Instead of throwing these old floats into the landfill, I divert them from the waste stream and turn them into art. I paint kelp forests on these recycled buoys because it is my vision of a healthy marine ecosystem. We are lucky to have many such kelp forest in our clean waters here on the West Coast of Canada.

This is my way of making a tangible difference to the health of our blue planet and my way of dealing with that feeling of being helpless in the face of such large-scale problems.

Large buoy that Tiare has painted. Tiare taking floats out of the bag.

This year I partnered with Great Bear II Ocean Adventures, a local ecotourism company who participated in the coastal clean ups this summer. Eric and Trish, owner/operators were kind enough to collect an entire helicopter lift bag full of floats for me to recycle. Their heroic efforts and the selfless efforts of all those involved in our shoreline clean-ups help keep our coastal environment clear of marine debris so that marine wildlife can thrive and you can enjoy plastic-free beaches this summer.

I donate 10% of the proceeds from sales of these recycled floats to the Ucluelet Aquarium's Marine Debris Initiative, one of many incredible organizations on our coast fighting to keep our Ocean healthy and plastic free.

I'd like to send a huge life bag full of gratitude to Trish, Eric,
and all those involved in keeping our coastal ecosystems healthy.

Thank you for working towards a better future!

~Tiare Boyes

If you would like to purchase a piece of Tiare's artwork, please visit tiarebuoys.com to see what she has for sale, currently she has a waiting list for pieces as each one takes over 10 hours to complete and each original piece is painted by hand. You can contact her to get on her waiting list.

Follow her on instagram and Clubhouse: @tiarebuoys to see her photography and follow her current projects!

ZZZ On the back of our Great Bear II, Eric and Tiare bring back a HUGE bag of floats and buoys. Photo Credit: Tiare Boyes

Sunday June 27, 2021


Shoreline - Photo Credit: Cindy Lewis

204 metric tonnes of marine debris removed over two 20-day expeditions.

Marine Debris - Photo Credit: Cindy Lewis "On the Slippery Back of a Dragon" is by talented Photographer and Chef, Cindy Lewis, who is normally creating beautiful food for our guests and crew.

In May and June, Cindy joined us to take part in the Marine Debris Removal (MDRI) project working on the very outer coast of the Great Bear Rainforest in the territories of the Kitasoo Xai'xais People of Klemtu and the Gitga'at People of Hartley Bay.

In addition to our Ocean Adventures crew, on our MV Great Bear II, crews from 4 other boat based tour companies, crews from Spirit Bear Lodge in Klemtu, crews from the Gitga'at in Hartley Bay and crews from Gitxaala in Kitkatla took part in the debris clean up. The tug and barge was from Heiltsuk Horizon and the helicopter is from Airspan. Fox Disposal in Port Hardy, the 7 mile landfill operated by Mt. Waddington District, and Ocean Legacy have supported the clean up by receiving and processing the debris, including that which is being recycled. A huge thank you to Heiltsuk Tribal Council (Bella Bella), Kitasoo Xai'xais (Klemtu), Gitga'at (Hartley Bay) and Gitxaala (Kitkatla) in whose territories the clean up took place. The project was supported by the Wilderness Tourism Association of BC (WTABC) and the BC Ministry of the Environment's Clean Coast, Clean Waters Initiative Fund.

A total of 204 metric tonnes of marine debris was removed, over two 20-day expeditions. While the majority of crew members on other boats worked one of the two 20-day expeditions, our crew chose to work both expeditions which meant they could avoid additional COVID-19 related quarantines once the initial 14-day quarantine was completed.

In the weeks and months ahead, we will share stories and photos with you about MDRI 2021, sharing facts, figures, and what we hope this project inspires.

Here is Cindy's story, "On the Slippery Back of a Dragon" which we hope will help everyone understand that this was no walk on the "beach"!

"On the Slippery Back of a Dragon" by Cindy Lewis

Marine Debris - Photo Credit: Cindy Lewis When I first heard about the Marine Debris Removal (MDRI) project, I had envisioned cleaning up miles of sandy beaches along the coast of British Columbia, working hard but in a beautiful location for a great cause!

After the first few days, it became clear that this was much bigger than I expected, especially after spending time working on the slippery, rugged, rocky shores along the outer coast of the Great Bear Rainforest.

On our first day, it seemed harmless enough, as we slowly meandered around islets in the aluminium skiff to find the safest place to get ashore.

Beautiful kelp pulsating in the water, a sea otter swimming by, and the charming little islands with the beautiful green forests set the stage.
Flowers - Photo Credit: Cindy Lewis Flowers growing out and mosses covering buried marine debris..
Knowing that these islands are part of an ecological reserve for a variety of nesting seabirds was definitely inspiring.

It wasn't until we climbed out of the boat and up and over the jagged rocks (thankfully with gloves to grasp each rock), that I thought that this was more like climbing on the back of a wet dragon!

(Once safely ashore, I contemplated my future on this project and wondered if I should ask to be replaced by someone that might be more sure footed. As the days wore on, I never did enjoy climbing the wet, slippery rocks, but I got the job done.)

This ecological reserve, created primarily for the nesting seabird colonies, made our job here seem especially urgent, but there was much to consider while working here.

To avoid predators, the seabird parents leave their nesting burrows in the forest floor of these islands during the night, to fish for their young. Even as we were gathering marine debris during daylight hours, we stayed away from the burrows, dug deep into the forest floor, to avoid scaring the seabird parents away from their nests.

Along the edges of the forest near high tide marks, some debris is deep in the ground, covered by moss, with lilies growing out of it. It felt like we were constantly making decisions about taking the buried debris and risk ripping plants out or leaving the debris buried.

Rugged Shoreline - Photo Credit: Cindy Lewis Find the crew members. Hint: one has an orange jacket. These are no "beaches".

Getting off these slippery, rugged, rocky shores and safely back to the skiff was always a relief to me. I was very happy to help rid this beautiful, wild part of the coast of some debris. Also knowing what a special location this is and that we had special permission to be there, was priceless. Since working along the shores of this ecological reserve, we have cleaned other shorelines along the central and north coast.

(Our crew agreed that we are not to call these slippery, rocky, rugged shorelines ""beaches" any longer and anyone that does, actually has to pay a dollar if we say the word "beach".)

I get great satisfaction picking debris. I still haven't found a glass ball (antique glass fishing floats from Japan), but this is what keeps me going as I bang my shins, get poked by branches and bitten by flies. I can't wait to see what the next half of the journey brings.

Old Glass Float - Photo Credit: Cindy Lewis The antique Japanese glass fishing float that Cindy found on a beach during the 2nd Expedition.


The Marine Debris Removal project for 2021 is now completed and Cindy is back home, with bruises, bumps and bug bites healing nicely... and with the old glass float that she did find on the 2nd expedition.

A HUGE THANK YOU to everyone involved, for your commitment and hard work in often very challenging conditions. A special thank you to our crew for diligently following Work Safe BC regulations and staying safe out there on the "slippery back of a dragon", as Cindy best described.

From BC Parks, regarding nesting seabirds (and others):

"The following numbers are from the first version of the Ecological Reserve Guide published in 1993. Eight species of seabirds nest on these islands. An estimated 2000 pairs of Leach's and fork-tailed storm-petrels nest on the forest floor at scattered locations where substrates are suitable for burrowing. In excess of 7000 pairs of Cassin's auklets and 1500 of rhinoceros auklets, as well as burrow-nesters, utilize open forest and grassy slopes near shoreline. A colony of 50 pairs of tufted puffins, the only significant breeding site along the Mainland Coast, is present on grassy slopes on one of the islands. A population of about 250 pairs of glaucous-winged gulls nest on exposed headlands, while an estimated 50 pairs of black oystercatchers utilize rocky headlands and some beaches as nest sites. At least two pairs of peregrine falcons nest in trees here, the only recent occurrence of such nesting known in North America. Their usual nest sites, steep cliffs, are lacking but food in the form of seabirds is abundant, therefore the falcons have resorted to using old bald eagle nests."

Forest where seabirds build their nesting burrows - Photo Credit: Cindy Lewis
Forest where seabirds build their nesting burrows.MDRI 2021 photos by Cindy Lewis.

Learn about blue-listed Cassins Auklets:

Learn more about yellow listed Rhinoceros Auklets:

Learn more about Leach's Storm Petrels:

Learn about Fork Tailed Storm Petrels:

Friday, May 28, 2021

Looking forward...

Wolf Scout 2022 will be a beautiful year in which we get to welcome you back to some of THE most soul stirring places on earth!
Relaxing by a Waterfall Adventure, renewal and lots of photos taken to remember the moments! It's been a struggle.. but we're almost there! In the meantime enjoy the photos and please keep in touch!  We love hearing from you!

Harlequin Duck in breeding plumage Salmonberries

If you live in B.C. and aren't yet on our list of people that may want to travel with us if we are allowed to offer trips to British Columbians, please be in touch soon:

Young Female Grizzly Bear

Join us... and discover how "you're connected with everything."

Friday, May 14, 2021


Salmonberry Blossom

An enlightening and soul-touching piece from our Heiltsuk mentor and friend, ‘Cúagilákv (Jess Housty):

"The salmonberry plant has nourished and healed Indigenous communities of the Pacific Northwest coast for countless generations, but its significance goes far beyond its value as food."

Salmonberry Bush
‘Cúagilákv (Jess Housty) says in part:

"The stewardship pathways they" (Jess's children) "are building with salmon, salmonberries, and our other nonhuman kin open them to lessons about reciprocity and interdependence that I know will inspire patience and careful observation. From that quiet place, respect and wisdom will grow. And if there is one lesson I have carried forward, one lesson I hope to instill in my children, it's the importance of thriving together."

I promise you will see Salmonberries for much more than food and photos when you read Jess's story in full:


Handful of Delicious Salmonberries

Sunday, January 16, 2021

Golden Grasses

Moments in Nature that Inspire Us...
Waking up
"I believe the best way to begin reconnecting humanity's heart, mind and soul to nature is for us to share our individual stories."

~J. Drew Lanham

Sitting quietly in our zodiac against the bank of a river in the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest, breathing in the earthy, early morning air, we wait in quiet anticipation of what this morning will reveal.

As the sun begins to peek over the polished granite walls that rise thousands of feet out of this river estuary, golden grasses and gulls, are softly lit by the advancing light. The gulls warm in the sun and awaken, their cacophony breaking the quiet as they make their way to the river for breakfast.

Duelling Gulls 1 Duelling Gulls 2

Already at the river, the Eagles warn the approaching clouds of gulls, not to get too close to the salmon carcasses they have already claimed, undoubtedly left there by the masters of this domain. The dance begins with Gulls challenging each other and even a stoic Bald eagle, while keeping eyes on an encroaching Raven. As if to demonstrate his absolute claim, the eagle sinks his talons further into the head of a Chum salmon carcass and stands resolutely.

Bald Eagle Claiming his salmon Bald Eagle leaving Gulls & Ravens to it

As the rituals continue to pervade this soul stirring river estuary, we hear the tell tale sound of large, soft paws walking on gravel and river rock. Around the corner in the river above us shuffles a very well fed, male Grizzly Bear with sleepy eyes.

Coming to the river for breakfast

As he approaches where we sit, Eric begins talking to him in a low, soft voice.

This handsome bear stops, looks at us, sniffs the air and then lowers himself into the neck deep water of the river behind us, as if needing the cold water to wake himself up.

As he sits in the river, he assesses his surroundings, including us. "Who are we and can we be trusted?"

He soon lifts himself out of the river and lumbers slowly but deliberately across the nearby gravel bar, to a huge Chum salmon carcass, some yards in front of us.

Can we be trusted?
Our thumping hearts are not thumping in fear, but in the excitement of what we have been gifted. With complete trust in our intentions, this big guy walks from salmon to salmon, sniffing them, gently pawing them, and then finally settling on one that is just right.

Choosing his Salmon Delicacies of fatty salmon underbellies and skin are prized finds along this river. Taking a piece of skin near the salmon's head, in his teeth, and with one behemoth paw on the head of the salmon, this obviously experienced bear strips the skin of the salmon, in one piece, from head to tail. With each mouthful that he eats, the bear lifts his head and slowly savours every morsel.

How to remove Salmon skin After some time passes and this gentle giant has had his fill of salmon, he shakes himself, licks his lips and continues slowly down the river and out of sight, leaving us listening to the music of his large, soft paws on the gravel and river rock.

Enjoying his Salmon breakfast A hush remains over the zodiac as we all process what we have just witnessed, including the true nature of this huge male Grizzly Bear.

Every move this beauty made was made knowing we were there, and trusting that we would just sit peacefully, and quietly while he ate. Like his ancestors before him, this bear's intuition is finely tuned.

On this day, this bear taught 4 people, new to Grizzly Bears, and reminded two of us, that these bears are not the man-eating monsters that their killers want us to believe, but intelligent, intuitive, trusting, trustworthy bears, just being bears.

Continuing down the river We hope that you enjoy our "Moments in Nature that Inspire Us" that help remind us who bears and other wildlife really are. We also hope you will join us in sharing these stories in an effort to have more people learn or be reminded that we are not separate or superior to nature, but a part of nature.

Golden Grasses

Join us... and discover how "you're connected with everything."

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