On the last weekend of June in 2014, a group of us went from the Museum at Campbell River to Telegraph Cove on a trip that would include a visit to Sointula – a quaint Finnish settlement on Malcolm Island, and Alert Bay, home of the N’amgis First Nations. We were blessed with excellent weather for the whole weekend – no wind and just a spot of rain in Alert Bay on Sunday.
We left on Saturday afternoon from Campbell River, with a museum guide (on this particular trip that was me, Catherine) discussing points of interest along the way.
We checked into our cabins at Telegraph Cove (see left) and were at leisure to stroll around and explore the Cove, and have dinner (I highly recommend the BBQ) .
The cabins we stayed in there have views over the water, and each has been lovingly restored with a nice sense of modern convenience coupled with a feel of the past. Every cabin has a story about the previous inhabitants, who were mainly employees of the sawmill that was in operation there throughout the 1930s to 1950s.
After breakfast at the Seahorse Café the following morning, we left Telegraph Cove on the Kuluta skippered by Roger McDonnel to cruise over to Sointula on beautiful Malcolm Island.
Sointula is a lovely coastal village that retains a European feel brought by the Finnish settlers who arrived there hoping to create a Utopia and independent lifestyle in 1900. Although the Utopian idea did not thrive, the settlers did and it is inspiring to see what these enterprising people and those who followed them have created. We were given rides from the dock by our hosts to the Sointula museum, with the option to walk back. Our hosts were very enthusiastic and happy to share and explain their history and home baking with us!
After this, we cruised over to neighbouring Cormorant Island where we were met at the government dock of Alert Bay by local cultural tour guide Lillian Hunt. With Lillian, who was born in Alert Bay as a member of the N’amgis First Nations, we learned of the lifestyle of the native people of the area and how they came to Alert Bay from their ancestral village across the strait at the mouth of the Nimpkish River.
We walked with Lillian to the U’mista Cultural Centre, and had a picnic lunch followed by an indepth and fascinating interpretation of the Potlach mask collection on display there. (Click on Alert Bay photos below)
We returned to Telegraph Cove in mid afternoon to catch our bus back to Campbell River. I heard many comments about how interesting everyone found the history of the area and this was gratifying for museum staff on the trip, since it is our museum’s goal to deliver history to the public! Somehow, being there in the heart of where some of the history of our coast developed is a very satisfying experience, especially since we had the opportunity to see an early and remote European settlement that is still thriving as well as a First Nation’s community rich with custom and working to retain and revitalize its past to ensure that these customs have a future.
The tour is organized as a historical boat cruise through the Museum at Campbell River and Discovery Marine Safaris. For cost and schedule click here