Monday, September 21, 2009

My World Tuesday ~ Prince Rupert

Haida Gwaii is located in the Pacific Ocean about 100 km (60 miles) west of mainland British Columbia and about the same distance south of Alaska, however short of having your own transportation the only two destinations off the island are Vancouver, BC (2hr and $250. by Air Canada) or Prince Rupert, BC (1.5 hrs and $200. by float plane or 8 hrs and $30. by BC Ferries).
Just before Labour Day I went to Prince Rupert by ferry to deliver a pair of cats to a friend who has moved to the mainland. The only practical way to go was by BC Ferries as a walk-on passenger. It is not my first choice(I get seriously seasick) but the 72 hour trip didn't justify $400. + excess baggage fees for the cats, so the ferry it was.
Prince Rupert is a natural deep water port of approximately 15,000 people. Prior to the incorporation of Prince Rupert, Port Essington at the mouth of the Skeena River was the business centre of this area.

Charles Melville Hays , 1856 - 1912

Named for Prince Rupert of the Rhine, Prince Rupert was founded by Charles Melville Hays who was the General Manager of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway whose western terminus was at Prince Rupert. Charles Hays had many grand ideas for Prince Rupert including berthing facilities for large passenger ships and the development of a major tourism industry. These plans fell through when Charles Hays perished on April 15, 1912 on the RMS Titanic. Today it is the hub of land, air and water transportation for the BC north coast.It the wettest city in Canada with an annual average rainfall of 2,500 mm (100 in.)and is also known as the City of Rainbows. Like many communities of the Pacific Northwest coast, fishing (canneries) and logging were the economic drivers for this once thriving community. Today tourism and the anticipation of a new deep water port are what keep Prince Rupert hanging on. I don't travel to Prince Rupert often(I can't handle the ferry ride!) but when I need to escape for a few days I will come and visit this quaint waterfront community. The recent construction of a cruise ship dock has initiated the revival of the downtown core of Prince Rupert. This area, a railway right of way is known as Cow Bay, so named after a Swiss farmer, John Nehring who unloaded his dairy cows from a barge in this spot in 1908. The name stuck and has taken on a life of its own, like the name of this cafe...Cowpaccinos! When I first came to Haida Gwaii twelve years ago this harbour was filled with commercial fishing boats, now it is mainly recreational and sport fishing boats. I stayed at the Eagle Bluff B&B (in the photo below) on the harbourside. When I checked in my room I went out on my deck and was hit with the smell of steamed prawns being prepared on a fishing boat below my window. The fisherman invited me down to have a "cone" of prawns....I hadn't been on the west coast more than two hours! I have never forgotten that introduction to this quaint and friendly town.
One of the other wonderful things about Prince Rupert is its flowers. When I first came I walked the streets of Prince Rupert exploring and one of the things that struck me was all the flowers, especially nasturtiums. Prince Rupert is built on a rock island, little or no flat land and often a grey and dizzily place. The town council decided to cheer the place up so each spring in residents tax assessments a package of nasturtium seeds was included with the instructions to scatter them in rocky areas. The result are hanging walls of nasturtiums and colour. I'm not sure the tradition continues but planting bright flowers everywhere does. Like all fishing communities from time immemorial tribute to the hard working souls who challenge the forces of nature on the sea is an important part of Prince Rupert.All along the seawalk are these memorial plaques as a reminder to the many men and women who have lost their lives at sea plus the unusual memorial below.


In September, 1985, Kazukio Sakamoto left Owase, Japan, for a day of fishing aboard his boat, the Kazu Maru, and never returned. 18 months later the Kazu Maru was found empty and adrift off the Queen Charlotte Islands and was brought to Prince Rupert where it was discovered to have come from Prince Rupert's sister city, Owase, Japan. The people of Prince Rupert have restored the boat where it also stands as a tribute to all those who have been lost at sea in the Pacific.
Prince Rupert stands on Tsimshian(the "T" is silent) territory. This beautiful facility was built with federal money given to the Tsimshian people however like too often happens there was no money to run it so it had to be sold. It now houses the Museum of Northern British Columbia, highlighting ancient NW coast human and natural history.
One of the fascinating exhibits of the museum and Tsimshian is the Legend of the "Man who fell from the heaven" The above photo is a life size cast taken from the original at Robeson Point. The Tsimshian legend goes as follows:

"A young man was exiled from the village of Metlakatla for a forgotten transgression. Days later he returned to the village, mad with hunger and raved that he had journeyed to the sky and observed many wonders and feats of magic. He lamented that he could have remained forever but somehow fell and plunged from the above back to the village. The elders, while amused by the audacity of the young man's tale, were about to cast him out again when he offered, unexpectedly, proof of his unlikely exploits. He escorted the bemused villagers to Robeson Point and there showed them the crater his body had made when he struck the shore.
He was not only allowed to return to the village but was given a position of honour as shaman." from "The Man Who Fell From Heaven" by Phyllis Bowman

There is no beach in Prince Rupert but they have created a beautiful seawalk incorporating the old and the new.

Built in 1911, Kwinitsa Station was one of 400 identical rail stations along the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway from Winnipeg to Prince Rupert. Today, this fascinating structure is one of only four surviving stations, and serves as the Kwinitsa Station Railway Museum, telling the story of early Prince Rupert and the role of the railway in its development. It has a remarkable collection of Canadiana railway history. Not far from where I was staying at the Pioneer Hostel was this beautiful Sunken Garden, unfortunately when I found it, it was getting dark so most of my pictures did not turn out.

Click the links in this post for more information on this area.

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21 comments:

eileeninmd said...

Cool tour of Prince Rupert, it looks like a charming town. I enjoyed all the photos especaiily the last flower garden sho. Very cute! Thanks for sharing.

Jenn Jilks said...

Beautiful shots from a beautiful part of the world. My brother lived in Campbell R.
It's a great place.

Janie said...

Wow, what an interesting post. Prince Rupert sounds like a great place to visit. I love the story of nasturtium seeds with the tax assessment! So interesting about the town's founder lost on the Titanic, the annual rainfall and abundance of rainbows, the quaint buildings, etc. If I ever get up to that area, I'll stop there on my way to your beautiful island!

Powell River Books said...

I've only been to Prince Rupert. It was about 15 years ago when Wayne and I flew back from Alaska along the coast. When we pushed the plane back into the parking spot we hit our gear door on a tire filled with cement that was used as a tiedown. We contacted an aircraft mechanic, but he had to come out from town on the ferry. After much thought (you don't find many Piper Arrow gear doors in northern BC) he agreed to remove the door and let us fly without it. Prince Rupert was one place I always wanted to visit. It was part of a world map game I played as a child and I was fascinated by it's name. The mechanic gave us a ride to town so we could look around and spend the night.

Did they make you stay on the car deck the whole trip with the cats? Our ferries don't let any pets above the car deck, but I did see a small uncomfortable room "for dogs." - Margy

Regina said...

Nice place and great shots. Thanks for the tour.

LadyFi said...

I thoroughly enjoyed this tour of Prince Rupert - town of quaint houses, friendly people and flowers!

magiceye said...

thank you for the lovely tour of of prince rupert! thoroughly enjoyable!

Rob Inukshuk said...

A brilliant post. Well done for all the info and great pics. I still haven't made it up the BC coast and the more I read of your World, the more I need to visit. Thanks.

This Is My Blog - fishing guy said...

Carolyn: What a neat town but 100" of rain has to keep you soggy.

Stine said...

What a fabulous post! I've never been to Prince Rupert but NOW I want to go there. What a nice person you are to take your friend's cats by ferry to the mainland.Eight hours is a long ferry ride!

Snap said...

Oh, my ... what a marvelous post. Great tour of Prince Rupert. Makes me want to visit.

Deborah Godin said...

That was wonderful, to see the sights and especially the history and the tales. Beautiful Pacific memorial, too!

chrome3d said...

You could make a whole novel out of that place. Rainbows are fun but probably not every day. That story of the guy who left from that Japanese sister city was quite freaky. Beautiful memorials.

The Bodhi Chicklet said...

Some really great shots here. Love the rainbow! And love nasturtiums. I plant some every year here, they are my favorite.

Paul said...

thanks for sharing a very cool part of your world

SandyCarlson said...

Oh, what a neat place. I feel really spoiled by this post. I love the town.

Gaelyn said...

What a delightful community. Glad to see if getting a face lift. I'll bet it's gray there most of the time so the flowers are a nice touch. Too bad you get sea sick.

Barry said...

Wonderful introduction to Prince Rupert, a place I've never been lucky enough to visit.

The photographs were beautiful, thank you, and I enjoyed the story of the by who fell from the sky--and the proof of his tale!

Aly Beth said...

Your town seems overwhelmingly amazing!

Gattina said...

Very interesting post ! I didn't know that there is a place in Canada where it rains like in Belgium, lol ! This summer we are spoiled but usually it rains most of the time !

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