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Sunday, April 3, 2011

Eco adventure cruising and the "disappearing" totem pole of the Kitlope in B.C.'s Inside Passage

   (c) By Jim and Barb Fox
Cruisers hear from Henaaksia elder Cecil Paul of the Killer Whale Clan in front of the G'psgolox replica totem pole in the Kitlope. (Photo by Kevin J. Smith, Maple Leaf Adventures)
 The schooner Maple Leaf is shown in front of a huge, unnamed waterfall in the Great Bear Rainforest's Fjordland area. (Photo by Kevin J. Smith, Maple Leaf Adventures)

   Cruisers looking for intimate eco adventures off Canada's west coast will have a rare chance to view the authentic and mysterious "disappearing pole of the Kitlope."
   Maple Leaf Adventures, which operates expeditions in British Columbia's Inside Passage and north to Alaska, is offering private tours on a classic tall ship that include viewing the famed 139-year-old G'psgolox totem pole.
   The adventure cruise company, based in Victoria, has arranged "special visits" for its guests to the historic pole on two Great Bear Rainforest trips in June, said publicist Maureen Gordon.

   Missing totem pole reappears after decades
   This historic monument has memorialized the dead and is not yet again on public view.
   At the site where it is kept, a Henaaksiala First Nations guide will tell the epic story.
   "We have been fortunate that Henaaksiala friends of ours have for years taken us and our guests down the longest fjord on the coast to the place where the replica G'psgolox pole stands," said Kevin Smith, president of Maple Leaf Adventures.
   Now cruisers can see the original pole that was returned from Europe five years ago after mysteriously disappearing almost a hundred years ago.
   "Commissioned by Chief G'psgolox in 1872 as a memorial to the people in his village who had died of introduced smallpox, the pole stood for decades until early one year, while the people still lived at their winter village, a Swedish consul living in Prince Rupert had the pole cut down and questionably exported," Smith said.
   It wasn't until the 1980s that the descendants of the devastated Kitlope people found the pole that was then a centrepiece in Sweden's Museum of Ethnography in Stockholm.
   "We feel that the return of the pole has created a relationship not just with Sweden, but also possibly a tool to bring back our culture, and to forge new relationships within our own country with non-native people," said Gerald Amos of the Haisla Nation at Kitamaat.
 Maple Leaf Adventures' cruisers view wild grizzly bears in a pristine fjord. (Photo by Greg Shea, Maple Leaf Adventures)
 Cruising among the fjords of the Inside Passage on the schooner Maple Leaf. (Photo by Kevin J. Smith, Maple Leaf Adventures)

  Maple Leaf cruises explore rainforest legends
   Other local legends explored on Great Bear Rainforest trips include the rare white Spirit Bears and hearing from researchers who documented the area's genetically distinct, salmon-eating wolves.
   The adventure cruises are aboard the Maple Leaf, a 92-foot (28-metre) classic schooner, that sails the coastal fjords.
   Cruisers walk the rainforest with an expert naturalist, view wildlife, including bears and whales, and soak in natural hot springs while gourmet meals and camaraderie between guests and crew round out the trips.
   Maple Leaf Adventures has been operating eco-adventure cruises in B.C. and Alaska since 1986 and donates money from each sailing to support coastal conservation measures.
   Destinations include Haida Gwaii, the Great Bear Rainforest, southeast Alaska and Vancouver Island/Gulf Islands.
   Such authentic and unusual experiences have earned the company a rating as one of the world's best adventure travel companies according to National Geographic Adventure, Frommer's and Explore magazine.

   Fish for salmon, halibut in Alaska
   Princess Cruises is offering an Alaska cruisetour fishing option in a new 14-day land/sea vacation.
   Participants can cast for salmon in the Inside Passage from Ketchikan, bottom fish for halibut near Juneau and go river fishing on the Kenai and Talkeetna rivers.
   The tour includes a seven-day Voyage of the Glaciers cruise through the Gulf of Alaska featuring scenic cruising in Glacier Bay National Park and seven nights in total at four lodges. From $3,248 US. www.princess.com; 1-800-PRINCESS
 An Alaska humpback whale puts on a show for the guests on board the ms Statendam of Holland America Line. (Photo by Jack Brennan, Holland America Line)

   CruiseTours explore Alaska, Yukon wilderness
   Holland America Line has 31 itineraries with fares from $929 (Canadian) from Glacier Bay and Denali National Park to the Kenai Peninsula and Yukon.
   All HAL CruiseTours, ranging from 10 to 20 days, combine an Inside Passage sailing with in-depth land tours to show the best of the wilderness, wildlife, native culture and history.
   Many tours also feature Canada's Yukon Territory with its Klondike Gold Rush heritage and pristine national parks such as Kluane and Tombstone. www.hollandamerica.com; 1-877-SAIL-HAL (1-877-724-5425)


   If you sail:
   Maple Leaf Adventures' Great Bear Rainforest (Inside Passage) cruises featuring the G'psgolox pole are June 5-12 (seven nights) at $3,880 and June 12-21 (nine nights), $4,990.
   Other rainforest trips are from April 26-May 4, $3,600; and June 23-July 1, $4,470.
   Prices include accommodations, meals, beverages, shore excursions and use of gear on board including optional kayaks. www.mapleleafadventures.com; 1-888-599-5323.

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Jim and Barb Fox can be reached at outtosea50@hotmail.com

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