Friday, May 26 2006 @ 09:50 AM PDT
I've just returned from another trip to Hornby Island on my Goldwing to visit and work on the computer hardware connected to the camera in the now world-famous live eagle nest camera.
Update One of the reasons I wrote this was to extend the experience of the nest to people who will never visit Hornby. The trip there is by no means the longest or most boring I've ever taken, and it certainly is nothing like visiting the Antarctic or something - it's just an out of the way place that happened to already have a camera in an eagle's nest in a tree as well as high speed Internet fairly close by.
People who live 3 ferry rides from a major city and 2 ferry rides from what others consider civilization do so for any number of reasons. Some of them do it because of the beauty and some do it because of the solitude.
The fact is that the Internet breaks down distance to the point where any point on the planet is less than 1 second from any other point - by wire.
The eagle nest we view could be anywhere on the planet - or at least anywhere within several hundred miles of where it actually is. Even though we know exactly where it is, it still is invisible by any means we employ other than the camera painstakingly installed when the eagles were not there.
I've given you a vicarious trip to the nest. Please respect the privacy of the island inhabitants and try to resist the urge to arrive in droves. If nothing else you'll save the locals from having to deal with more than the normal rush-minute (when the ferry arrives/departs)
On the other hand, please do visit the area. Parksville, Quallicum, Comox, Courtenay, Campbell River, Port Alberni and all the places in between (my favourite is Coombs - where they have goats on the roof of the local emporium). Fanny Bay - oysters! Lots of places and all have eagles. I spotted what has to be a 1 ton nest just North of Quallicum on the new Highway - in a tree to the West out in the middle of an open area. I was doing 110kph in a rain storm and was past before I could even think about stopping (and no turn around for miles) but I have to go back and take some pictures next time I'm there
Anyway, it is hard to put the stuff back into Pandora' s box, but at least we've tried :)
Because I have to use the BC Ferry system to get to Hornby, I like to go on my Goldwing as much as possible. It is a bit less expensive to be sure, but it also means I don't have to wait if the ferry is busy and I get on/off first in most cases (unless I'm really late getting to the terminal). Note that some of the pictures here are from a previous visit so the computer isn't on the back of the bike.
Saturday, April 1, I again visited the site and took with me a new encoder (the computer that turns the composite signal and audio from the camera into the Windows Media format and sends it to the host site in Los Angeles run by Infotec. I left home at just after 5AM to catch the 6:30AM ferry from Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver, about 60km from home. The new encoder, wrapped in plastic and craddled in a sheepskin, sat on my passenger seat strapped on with bungy cords. The weather turned mildly ugly just as I hit the Iron Worker's Second Narrows Bridge and I probably should have stopped to put on my wet gear, but I persevered as I hate getting to the ferry "just in time".
We arrived in Nanaimo just before 8AM, and I managed to get from there to Buckley Bay in time to catch the 8:40AM ferry to Denman Island. The water was calm, almost glassy.
The drive across Denman Island takes only a few minutes. The island is very rural-looking, lots of trees and open spaces.
At the small terminal for the ferry to Horby, David Hancock had spotted a falcon chasing pigeons a couple of weeks previously when we'd both been there. I've also seen a number of eagles around what appears to be a nest to the East and around the point from the terminal. You have to stand close to the waiting hut to see that far around Denman. I've also seen eagles in the trees to the West and winging overhead.
The short trip to Hornby from Denman this Saturday was again calm, but the Island was overcast and clouds came down to hide the high bluff overlooking the ferry slip. Once off the ferry, I trailed a flatbed truck to the West end of the island where it finally pulled off, then continued around the end and back to the East, but now on the North side of Hornby. I was at the house about 10AM, having started 5 hours earlier at my home in Pitt Meadows.
Once I'd finished swapping out the encoder computer and tidying up some of the cables, I headed back. I had a bit to wait at the Hornby island terminal and spent about 45 minutes watching as many as 10 eagles at a time swooping and cavorting in the by this time fairly heavy wind above the bluff and in and around the trees to the North. There appears to be several more nests in the area but I couldn't see them directly.
By now the wind had whipped the passage up quite a bit, and I was glad the ferry people provide wooden chocks to hold motorcycles up when the ferry pitches. Once again on Denman, I took my time getting to the ferry terminal on the West side slip, knowing by now that I had at least 30 minutes to make the short trip. I called my sister-in-law in Parksville to say I'd be coming by and to inquire what the weather was like as I could see lots of storm clouds in that direction. Her comment was that although it was sunny there, I'd better prepare for rain on the way, so I spent my spare time putting my rain gear on again.
One of the ferry workers on the Quinitsa noted that I'd only been on the island for a few hours and asked when I'd be back. We got to talking and it turned out that he as well as most of the rest of the crew tuned in to the eagle nest each morning and loved it.
Once back on Vancouver Island I filled up my tank at the gas station near the ferry slip. At $108.9/litre I was glad I only needed 20 litres and the bike gets such good mileage. From there I crossed the old highway (now 19a) and went up the hill to the new 4-lane Highway 19, heading South. I got off at the Qualicum Beach exit and met the only really bad weather I'd hit on the whole way home - hail! It hit just as I turned right out of town toward French Creek where my brother and his familiy live, lasting for about 50' prior to the turn and 150' after - so I must have just hit the edge of the storm. I was afraid I'd have to stop and wait for the hail to clear before risking driving again.
I spent the next few hours visiting my family, and finally caught the 9PM ferry from Swartz Bay near Victoria at the Southern end of Vancouver Island.
I was home by just after 11:30PM, 6 ferry rides and 484km later. The nest video has been up continuously now except for a quick restart of the servers about noon today to force the archive file to cycle (something we'll schedule for night in the future). The birds have swapped off a couple of times while I've been watching and the audio is catching all manner of background sounds as well as their calling from time to time. All in all, a successful trip.