A while ago (April 4), the BC Artificial Reef Society sank a ship in the waters of Gambier Island (in Howe Sound). Dad’s friend Ken owns a boat, and invited Dad, me, and and Ken’s friend Matt (along with Tundra the dog) to see the ship sinking then climb Burt’s Peak, an obscure mountain on Gambier Island.
We drove to Porteau Cove and launched the boat. After a rainy boat ride around the western side of Anvil Island, we entered Halkett Bay on Gambier Island, where the boat was about to sink. The website had said that the boat would sink a few minutes after we arrived. After we waited a few minutes, someone checked the website, and it turned out that they’d changed the sinking time: we had to wait an hour and a half.
If you’re wondering why a boat was being sunk in Howe Sound, I’ll explain. Decades of fishing, boats, and toxic runoff from the nearby Britannia mine (now the Mining Museum) had killed off most of the sea life in Vancouver’s closest fjord. Now, efforts have been made to contain the toxic metals and slow overfishing, and some of the sea life is returning – Dad and his friends once saw a bunch of dolphins near Gambier Island – but Howe Sound is far from healthy.
Sinking boats to create reefs (sea life grows on the boat, and there is far more space for critters to hide and seaweed to grow) has worked in many places around the world. It creates new habitat for sea life and reduces the amount of trash that ends up in landfills.
In BC, the BC Artificial Reef Society has sank many boats, and they have all improved the local habitat. In Howe Sound, they bought the old USS Annapolis and planned to sink it in January. However, an environmentalist group argued that the paint left on the Annapolis would contaminate the water- it took until March to prove this wrong. It was sank on April 4th and the public was invited to watch from a safe distance.
We were stranded on a wet and cold boat for an hour and a half, it seemed. However, things got better. Ken’s friends Dan, Karyn and Ari were there, and they invited us onto their boat. The rain cleared, it got sunnier, and we ate some muffins.
The boat was supposed to sink after twelve airhorn blasts. We all jumped to our feet when we heard the first blast, but after two they stopped. We assumed that something had been left on the boat, and they had to re-check it. I reached for the bag of chips, and
The first bomb went off. I grabbed my camera and started recording. Twelve was just too big a number for them, it seemed.
A few more bombs went off, and soon the boat started sinking. It was remarkably level until the end, when only the tip was left above the water. Soon that, too, was gone, and all that was left was a few jets of bubbles escaping from the windows. These ended as the Annapolis sank deeper and deeper in its watery grave.
We went to Dan, Karyn and Ari’s cottage, below Burt’s Peak. After a quick tour of the cottage, Dan showed us a hiking trail that led to a small pool on the edge of a waterfall. After a few minutes at the pool, we said goodbye to Dan, crossed the river, and embarked on our adventure.
After a hike through the forest and a large area of downed trees, we reached an official trail. We hiked along the trail for a while, then hiked to the peak.
There’s no official trail up Burt’s Peak, although it was easy to hike up since there was not much underbrush. Like the rest of the island, the summit was covered in beautiful moss. It was mostly treed in, although there were some views of Bowen Island and the mainland.
On our way down, we passed by marshy Lost Lake, the source of the creek feeding the pool we’d seen earlier. The lake was once far bigger, but plants and soil have been reclaiming the land. The marshy ring around the lake was home to sundews and newts, but since it was getting a bit dark, we didn’t see any.
We returned to the trail, which dumped us at a beach near the cottage. Since there was a lot of bushes in the area, we decided to walk along the beach. This went well at first, but then the beach ended and we had to wade through Howe Sound. After seeing Ken, one of the tallest people I know, up to his neck in water, we decided to wait on a beach and let Ken get the boat.
As we went back to Porteau Cove, it got darker and we were all freezing.
My video of the HMCS Annapolis sinking can be found at