Iconic West Coast Orca Population in Crisis with Brian McHattie
Join Brian McHattie as he speaks about the orca populations of Canada’s west coast based on his summer 1993 volunteer work at OrcaLab on Hansen Island – work which led to a full-out passion for the species ever since! There are four distinct populations: the Northern and Southern Residents (around Vancouver Island), the Offshores (up into Queen Charlotte Sound and off Haida Gwaii) and the Bigg’s Transients (found throughout the coastal area). The Resident orcas are particularly fascinating to humans as they travel in matrilineal pods, tight knit family groups led by the mother or grandmother. Each clan has a distinct language, with sub-pods having specific calls unique to their family.
The disheartening part of the presentation covered the fate of the Southern Resident population off Vancouver and Seattle in the Salish Sea. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Vancouver Aquarium and Sea World removed over 60 individuals (out of an estimate population of 100 animals), with many moved to a life in captivity and others killed in the process. While the population did rebound slightly, a steady decline has occurred in the last decade due to a lack of food (declining Chinook salmon stocks with Columbia River dams preventing access to breeding grounds), a body load of contaminants (4 times higher than levels in Northern Resident orcas), and increasing boat traffic and noise affecting their use of echolocation. Another major concern is potential for an oil spill.
To learn more about this endangered orca population, please visit www.centreforwhaleresearch.com. Also on that site is some amazing drone footage showing orca behaviour.
The Journey of the Dawn Light with Dan Welsh
An enthusiastic Dan Welsh entertained 80 attendees at the Parks Canada Visitor Centre on the evening of Thursday November 28th. He provided a Power Point presentation augmented with original documents, framed diagrams, and numerous gestures regaling the history of his vessel, the Dawn Light.
The Dawn Light, formerly named the Leroy Brooks, Henry Stokes and Aburg, was built in 1891 at the Craig Shipbuilding yards in Toledo, Ohio. The vessel was first purchased by “Count” William Rehberg originally from Germany and this began a long and adventurous journey leading to its current ownership and mooring in Tobermory.
The Leroy Brooks was confiscated in 1894 by the Canadian Revenue Cutter, The Petrel, that was enforcing a fishing regulation between the U.S. and Canada and was temporarily held in Amherstburg, Ontario. The Petrel, as a result of this seizure, caused an international incident at this time as it was built in Owen Sound by order of the British Navy and had a gun mounted on its foredeck. Apparently, this violated an agreement between the British Empire and the United States (the Rush-Bagot Treaty of 1817 on naval disarmament).
The vessel visited the bottom of the Great Lakes’ waters three times.
The vessel visited the bottom of the Great Lakes’ waters three times. The first sinking occurred in the Detroit River in 1933 while towing another vessel. A retrofit was just completed in 1936 when it sank for the second time near Amherstburg. The third and final sinking occurred in 1980 near Penetanguishene under “mysterious circumstances” according to the local paper. The paper also noted that it took several attempts over 2 months to raise the vessel and this was finally accomplished by our own Rod Anderson.
The vessel was raised and retrofitted once again to serve as a live-aboard dive tour boat. The Dawn Light was subsequently purchased by Ray Davis around 1997 and it worked out of Tobermory as a dive tour boat. Dan was familiar with the vessel and purchased it from Ray in 2012. The Dawn Light is currently under retrofit to return to commercial service.
Dan was very keen when first approached to give this SoK Talk and it showed. After a number of questions, the presentation ended with a standing ovation…maybe the first ever at the Visitor Centre (?).
Charging Across North America
In early 2016 Alan and Ann Morgan took delivery of a Tesla all-electric car and set off on a journey from Waterloo, Ontario, to San Francisco, Vancouver and back home again.
Long distance journeys by electric car in 2016 share this concern with their counterpart in 1916 – finding the next refueling stop. An additional problem for an electric car is charging time; it can be minutes to days depending on the type of power outlet available.
Alan Morgan will describe the car and their journey in the first SOK Talk at 7PM, November 15, at the Bruce Peninsula National Park Visitor Centre. Admission is free.
Come to see what your driving future might look like.
Thinking Back Seven Generations - Key Historical Milestones and the Bruce Peninsula of Today with BPEG
Article authored by Joanne Rodgers, also published on BPEG site.
The Bruce Peninsula Environment Group and Sources of Knowledge co-hosted “Thinking Back Seven Generations — Key Historical Milestones and the Bruce Peninsula of Today” at Rotary Hall, Lion’s Head 2017. You can hear an audio recording of this meeting by clicking here. (audio recording available)
This event was a precursor to the Sources of Knowledge Forum to be held in May. Over 100 attendees were encouraged to reflect on the history of the Bruce Peninsula over the last 140 years and how it shaped and continues to shape life on the Bruce. Lenore Keeshig, a Nawash Band Member, local naturalist, storyteller and SOK Board member, explained that First Nations considered Treaties to be for trade, peace, neutrality, alliances, protection, use of territories and laid out the relationships between the partners. The indigenous inhabitants were members of the Three Fires Confederacy comprising of the Odawa (economic – entrepreneurs, traders), Potawatomi (Governance – Fire-keepers, Warriors) and the Ojibwe/Chippewas (Keepers of the culture). Treaties with the Crown saw the surrender of Saugeen Obijway (SON) Lands: The Royal Proclamation of 1763 recognized Native lands; 1764 Covenant Chain of Friendship was signed 24 First Nations at Fort Niagara. However, by 1812, the quality of the relationships between the Crown and the First Nations diminished. Treaty 451/2 (1836), so called because it was written on half piece of parchment, proceeded to surrender “1.5 million acres of the very richest land of Upper Canada”. The Crown was to provide proper housing, assistance and protect the Saugeen Peninsula forever. 15 years later, Treaty 67 Half Mile Strip, land was given for a road between Saugeen and Nawash. 18 years on, Crown stated it could no longer protect the land from settlement; this resulted in Treaty 72 whereby SON would get the proceeds from the sale of the land, to be placed in a trust fund for SON members to access twice a year. In 1857, Treaty No. 82 10,000 acre Nawash Reserve on the west-side of Owen Sound Bay was surrendered and described all the land not part of the Treaty, Neyaashiinigmiing is unceded, meaning it was not part of any treaty. Four years later in 1861, the Colpoy’s Bay Reserve of 6,000 acres was surrendered. Treaty 93 surrendered the area known as Colpoy’s Bay By 1889, lands surrendered included White Cloud Islands (Treaty 213/214); Fishing Islands (Treaty 222/223) and Griffith Island (Treaty 225/226). In closing, a tearful Lenore entreats the audience to be good to the traditional homeland of her people.
Dr George Harpur narrated Lynn Watson’s recollections of the great forest fire of the summer of 1908. Lynn remembers his grandfather Arthur Watson, sitting around the kitchen table talking about the destruction and hardships the fire caused. Many people were burnt out of their homes and lost the means to survive off the land. Arthur blamed logging practices of slash from the huge white pine and hemlock left lying on the forest floor, a bone dry tinder box waiting for a lighting strike and the right conditions to ignite the inferno from hell. Lynn’s grandmother Martha Watson recalled living in a lumber and fishing camp at Johnson Harbour when the fire started, escaping unto Lake Huron in a wooden hulled fishing boat with 4 year old Louis and two year old Myra and some supplies, the smoke so thick it was difficult to breathe, soaking blankets in water and covering the children, fearful of venturing far from land, as sudden winds could swamp their overloaded boat. Martha saw deer, bears, foxes, wolves, any wildlife that could outrun the fire jumping into the water and swimming out to rocky points of lands and shoal. It took 2 days before it was cooled down enough to return to land. James Rae, a Tobermory barber recounted that around the 1930’s, he could stand at Dyers Bay Road and the Bury Rod #6 Intersection, look in all four directions and see only fire killed trees. The positive side of the destruction meant the availability of fire killed timber to build rail fences to contain cattle and livestock and wood shingles were harvested from many of the huge cedar trees destroyed by the fire. Some barns were even constructed from the salvaged timber. By the 1950’s., there were still plenty of evidence of the destruction to the landscape; the trees were small and scrubby, and huge fire killed trees and logging sumps were charred and blackened by the fire. Lynn ended his reminiscing by saying we should all pray it never happens again.
Rick Salen of Blue Heron Cruises shared his personal experiences regarding the growth of tourism on the Bruce. In 1969, the Salens purchased the Mariner Motel in Tobermory, at the time most of the businesses were family-operated and extra staff was sourced from the area. The season was only July and August, the ferry service to Manitoulin with the Norisle and Norgoma had a total capacity of 70 cars. Scuba diving was a growing activity. Locally built wooden vessels took tourists fishing and for cruises in the local waters, including Flowerpot Island. The tourists would come around the fuel shack where Rick and his brother pumped gas to ask about boats to Flowerpot Island, After 2 years of this question, the Salens bought their first boat, 30 passenger Miss Tobermory in 1971. other operators with a total capacity for 90 people included Albert Smith on the Captain Ahab, Joe George on the Penguin and Don Kaufman on the Flowerpot. In 1974, the Chi-Cheemaun arrived and investments in infrastructure, motel rooms and restaurants followed. The ferry was the major draw. By mid 1970’s Fathom Five Provincial Park was established. The dive business flourished and then Gord Dinsmore brought the Fathom Five, Tobermory’s first glass-bottom boat which changed the face of tourism. Tobermory started to grow as a destination in itself. The shipwrecks, which people had been hearing about with the growth of diving, were now accessible by all. Within a few years, all the Flowerpot boats were glass-bottom. This steady growth did not come without complaint and controversy. Orrie Vail, a famous Tobermory fisherman, knife maker and self proclaimed discover of the Griffon, had his land expropriated for the new ferry dock; scuba divers and Gord Dinsmore had daily skirmishes over the shipwrecks; lineups for the ferry created traffic chaos and there were new controls by the Niagara Escarpment. With the increase in visitors came the need to invest in larger boats, parking lots and washroom facilities, with the biggest challenge being staffing. In the early years, the supply of local kids filled the jobs, now staff housing was required to attract people from out of town. The exponential growth of the last few years caught everyone by surprise. New Canadians, mostly Chinese and South Asians are now the major clients of the Flowerpot cruises. As in the mid-70’s, expansion of the ferry, the newly created Parks and resulting congestion took a few years to resolve itself, Rick believes Tobermory and the Bruce Peninsula are at this point again. He acknowledges there are problems to work out, but is confident that the right people are working away at solutions, and remarked how history always repeats itself.
The Riddle of the Quantum Sphinx with Perimeter Institute
Live webcast of the public lecture from the Perimeter Institute, with speaker Robert Spekkens.
Queen Snakes of the Bruce with Esme Batten
Presentation by Esme Batten, Nature Conservancy of Canada, on the mysterious life of the Queen Snake on the Bruce Peninsula.
Black Bears of the Bruce with BPEG
Dr. Martyn Obbard is a retired research scientist with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and an adjunct professor in the Environmental and Life Sciences graduate program at Trent University. He earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Western Ontario, followed by his M.Sc. and Ph.D. at the University of Guelph. Dr. Obbard’s research focuses on population dynamics, habitat use, movement patterns and the effects of climate change on large mammals.
Over the past number of years, he has led research on the Bruce Peninsula Black Bear population, a group believed to number between 300-350 individuals (note a 2018 bear survey is underway now). His work and that of his graduate students has proven that the local population is a genetically distinct species, separate from other black bear populations in Ontario as a result of their isolation on the Peninsula.
The population has been declining due to stressors such as recent increased road mortality, and the re-introduction of the spring bear hunt. Researchers believe that the Bruce Peninsula black bear population may become extinct within the next 50 years unless substantive conservation action is taken.
Dr. Obbard also focuses his research on polar bears in the Hudson Bay Lowlands of Ontario. He is one of the Canadian members of the IUCN/SSC Polar Bear Specialist Group and is a Chair of the Canadian Federal/Provincial/ Territorial Polar Bear Technical Committee.
The Bruce Peninsula Environment Group and the Sources of Knowledge Forum is very pleased to host Dr. Obbard at a special talk, Wednesday June 6 at the Parks Canada Visitor Centre in Tobermory, starting at 7:30 PM. Light refreshments will be served.
My Journey with Mental Illness and How You Too Can Survive with Brad Inglis
As part of the regular Sources of Knowledge Talk series, Tobermory United Church Minister, Brad Inglis joined us on February 27, 2020 at the Parks Canada Visitor Centre to speak about his own mental health challenges with the primary message being: many of us have similar challenges and it is ok, even mandatory to talk about it!
Brad began in his usual entertaining fashion by noting that his sermons are never longer than nine minutes so a longer speech beyond that was iffy, but never fear, he had brought enough carrot cake for everyone (“carrot cake hides all sins”)! He reminded us that we all have the capacity to stretch ourselves, and that in his case taking singing lessons with the associated endorphin rush (thanks Marty!) will help any shy, learned extrovert thrive!
Low self-esteem, depression, shifting moods and energy changes have been companions (not friends) to Brad his whole life, stimulating feelings of never feeling good enough. In Brad’s case, offset to some extent by childhood teachers finding him funny (as many of us do), even employing Brad to answer the school phone when office staff were busy!
From early on, Brad sought help: connecting with his family doctor, men’s groups, engagements with different forms of medication, and working with a therapist (talk therapy) who he continues to see today. As a boy growing up in Guelph he and his cohorts would make up stories about the Homewood Mental Health Centre, a scary place full of frightening crazy people. As chronic depression continued its grip on Brad, he found himself admitted to Homewood and it was … fine, and a place that helped Brad at a critical time in his life.
Following an intensive period at Homewood, Brad began ‘bitter days’ piecing his life back together, re-learning what he had lost sight of – self-esteem, learned compassion, humility, and re-developing his belief in a healing God with supports from family and friends. In 2010, he entered the seminary and in an act that was to change Tobermory forever for the better, began his student ministry in a place he had always loved.
Part of Brad’s presentation included a wonderful YouTube video, Black Dog – check it out. Brad closed by extolling the virtues of the Grey-Bruce Health Services system with strong supports on mental health, including staff at our own Bruce Family Health Team, including a social worker.
Depression will be with Brad likely for the rest of his life – his humble advice to all of us, either sufferers or those looking to help: talk about it, write about it, practice compassion, don’t give up, be gentle and nurturing, and rest when you need to. He closed by reminding us none of us need be alone in this caring community – let’s talk!
And with that in mind, noting the tough weather the evening of February 27, a number of folks have asked Brad to share a second talk and he has agreed to do so on Sunday April 19 at 2 p.m. at Tobermory United Church.
Plastics in the Great Lakes: Finding Solutions Together with Parks Canada, Georgian Bay Forever & Lake Huron Centre for Coastal Conservation
On June 26-27, the Sources of Knowledge and Parks Canada co-hosted a Friday evening Zoom talk on the damage micro-plastics are doing to the Great Lakes, followed by a community cleanup. For those of you who were unable to attend, here is a short summary of the findings and follow-up.
It is estimated that 22 million pounds of plastics enter the Great Lakes each year. Eventually all plastics break down into what are referred to as micro-plastics. These small pieces of plastic are often mistaken for food by insects, plankton, fish, and other aquatic life. Ingestion can cause abrasions or blockages, which can lead to outright starvation. Plastics spread toxins across ecosystems. Aquatic organisms can even get defects as they absorb pollutants into their skin and at the molecular level, which then get passed up the food chain. We learned that current research on Lake Superior, Lake Huron, and Lake Erie proposes that plastic concentrations observed exceed data collected in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch!
Brooke Harrison from Georgian Bay Forever reported on their project employing 100 Filtrol laundry filters with local Parry Sound residents to remove micro-fibres lost from your clothing ($160 each – filtrol.com). Brooke’s monitoring showed a recordable difference in micro-fibres in the municipal sewage treatment plant. Parks Canada has just purchased Filtrols for six laundry machines in the park! Brooke is working with University of Toronto professor, Dr. Chelsea Rochman – her graduate student, Lisa Erdl has determined that fish from the Great Lakes can have up to 40 micro-plastics in their digestive tracts.
Hannah Cann from the Lake Huron Centre for Coastal Conservation outlined their efforts at regular shoreline cleanups. Hannah reported that 80% of anthropogenic litter is plastics and 600 metric tonnes enter Lake Huron/year, ranging in size from nano (<1 micron) to micro (up to 5 mm) all the way up to mega plastics such as tires. With a 22-year residence time before water leaves Lake Huron this stuff tumbles around, breaking into smaller and smaller plastics. Hannah ended her talk with some positive news highlighting C.R. Plastics in Stratford who use 60 lbs of collected plastic waste to produce one of their Adirondack chairs, and Terracyle who will assist you in recycling many different kinds of plastics that don’t fit in our Blue Box programs.
Our Saturday morning cleanup was dominated by cigarette butts which from a quick Google search is sadly the case with almost all cleanups (4,723 butts in a 2019 Goderich beach cleanup!). Cigarette filters are made of cellulose acetate fibres which breakdown into micro-plastics and take decades to decompose. Filters also contain thousands of chemicals that can kill plants and animals. We don’t have to go on about how smoking is bad for one’s health – PLEASE, just pick up your cigarette butts!
On May 1-2, 2009, the Parks Advisory Committee hosted the 1st Sources of Knowledge Forum in partnership with Parks Canada, Bruce Peninsula Biosphere Association, Bruce Peninsula Bird Observatory, Friends of Bruce District Parks, Bruce Peninsula District School and St. Edmunds Public School.
This event attracted 117 participants. The theme for the 2009 Forum was ‘Coastal Heritage’ and included presentations, workshops and field trips by universities, government organizations, conservation groups, First Nations, schools and citizens and covered such topics as wildlife conservation as well as other issues affecting these and other Ontario national parks.
The 2009 Conference Proceedings have been compiled to make this knowledge available to anyone interested in learning about the natural and cultural heritage of the Bruce Peninsula and furthermore, to inspire action.
The second Sources of Knowledge forum was held May 14th and 15th, 2010 – again hosted by the Parks Advisory Committee in partnership with Parks Canada, Friends of Bruce District Parks, Bruce Peninsula District School and St. Edmunds Public School.
The theme for the 2010 Sources of Knowledge Forum was Wildlife, Research, Management, Conservation and Planning. A link to the entire PDF is provided.
This summer, over 20 resin turtle shells have been brought to life through the Painted Turtles art exhibit at the Parks Canada Visitor Centre. Local artists, including many from the Bruce Peninsula Society of Artists and members of the Saugeen Ojibwe Nation, have contributed time, talent, and creativity to raise awareness around turtle conservation. The shells range in design from colourful paintings to multimedia creations featuring beads, feathers, porcupine quills, and stained glass.
On Saturday, September 22nd from 7-9pm, Sources of Knowledge and Parks Canada are partnering to host a Silent Auction event for the turtle shells. The event also includes a special presentation from Wendy Baggs, Education Coordinator at the Ontario Turtle Conservation Centre (OTCC) in Peterborough. The OTCC is known as Ontario’s “turtle hospital,” rehabilitating turtles from across the province who have been hit by vehicles. Wendy will be bringing four live turtles with her for the presentation.
The third Sources of Knowledge Forum: Dark Skies, Bright Minds, was held in Tobermory, Ontario on April 29-30, 2011. Once again, the Forum celebrated the natural and cultural heritage of Bruce Peninsula National Park, Fathom Five National Marine Park and the surrounding communities by exploring the value and importance of our dark skies.
The event brought together local, national and international speakers on dark sky conservation, astronomy and ecology of the night. Artists, scientists and practitioners alike all shared their perspectives and reinforced the on-going efforts to recognize and protect the region’s dark skies.
The venue was filled to capacity and attracted 107 students, local residents, and others with an interest in this important and inspired theme.
The theme for the 2011 Sources of Knowledge Forum was Dark Skies, Bright Minds. The Table of Contents are listed here and a link to the entire PDF is provided below.
By all accounts this sold-out Forum was a great success – world class speakers, community voices, generous sponsors, and attentive participants. The Climate Change Forum Proceedings are available below.
CLIMATE CHANGE; WHAT MIGHT IT MEAN FOR THE BRUCE? was the focus of the 4th Sources of Knowledge Forum April 28-29, 2012 at the Parks Visitor Centre, Tobermory. Informative and thought-provoking presentations helped to improve our understanding of how our weather and climate are changing and the impact on health, safety, economy and the environment. Everyone in attendance had an opportunity to learn more about the effect of climate change on lake levels, tourism, recreation, agriculture and biodiversity as well as what it takes to adapt to changing needs and circumstances.
The Forum brought together an eclectic panel of speakers sharing their knowledge on various aspects of one of today’s most challenging subjects – CLIMATE CHANGE.
In addition to the plenary sessions during the day on Saturday, April 28th, there was a dinner, catered by The Green Door Cafe with guest speaker, internationally renowned Dr. Stephen Woodley.
On Sunday morning, April 29th at the Visitor Centre, Tobermory, the Peninsula Transition Group hosted a workshop with interactive and collaborative activities, and presentations on local projects and initiatives that align with Transition values.
In the afternoon there was a mini Climate Change Film Festival, hosted by Dr. Stephen Scharper at the Parks Canada Visitor Centre, Tobermory.
There was also exhibitor displays and an art show Changing Weather featuring Bruce Peninsula artists.
As Lake Huron-Georgian Bay continues to experience profound and novel change (e.g., driven by invasive species, lake levels, development, water quality, etc.), the context for coastal and offshore conservation becomes increasingly complex and uncertain. Although protected areas such as Fathom Five National Marine Park and Bruce Peninsula National Park are recognized for the central role they play in protecting natural and cultural values, their effectiveness to do so is being challenged and requires a rethinking of our stewardship efforts. The 2013 Sources of Knowledge Forum provided a platform for scientists, students, decision-makers, and the public to understand the changing nature of Lake Huron and discuss the means to better protect it.
Through presentations and workshops, topics covered at the Forum included:
Describe the changing and novel ecosystems of Lake Huron.
Review the status, benefits, and efficacy of aquatic protected areas.
Explore opportunities for place-based conservation.
Discuss the possibility of an international peace park or other network initiative.
Present contemporary offshore and coastal mapping and assessment techniques.
Beneath the Waves: Underwater Discovery in Fathom Five National Marine Park
This year’s Forum celebrated the long history, and bright future, for underwater exploration in the Tobermory area.
There are lots of rich and interwoven stories here. These include the early surveys by British and American navies, the rich history of diving in the area, the role of that dive community in the establishment of Fathom Five and the technologies such as Sublimnos that have been pioneered. This background is timely as we embark upon exciting new projects to better map our wrecks and monitor subsurface conditions. For example, laser imaging and advanced filming techniques are now being employed to produce 3-D and interactive models of the wrecks.
The field trip on Friday afternoon, May 2, featured demonstrations of subsurface mapping and diving techniques. Members of the Canadian Navy’s Experimental Diving and Undersea Group participated. Friday evening, Stephen Scharper from the University of Toronto hosted the annual film festival on this year’s theme.
Stuart Seldon on the early years of discovery around Fathom Five;
Dr. George Harpur: a pioneer in medical diving and hyperbaric medicine;
Andrew Leyzack: an expert on high resolution hydrography with the Canadian Hydrographic Service
Flora Davidson: of the Parks Canada Marine Archaeology Unit on modern methods of surveying shipwrecks;
Doug Elsey: pioneering diver and engineer on the 1969-71 Sublimnos habitat project with Dr. Joe MacInnis, who will provide a video-taped introduction;
Dr. Jim Rusak of the Ontario Ministry of the Environment on the Global Lake Experimental Observatory Network (GLEON);
The dinner on Saturday was catered by The Grandview, Tobermory and featured keynote speaker, Marc-André Bernier of the Parks Canada Underwater Archaeology Section. He gave a presentation on 50 years of Marine Archaeology carried out by Parks Canada personnel, including the location of HMS Investigator and the recent search for Franklin.
The first session on Sunday morning featured Lt. Troy Beechinor of the Canadian Navy’s Experimental Diving Group who described new techniques for deep diving. If you have ever wondered what those mysterious black-suited divers in black Zodiacs are up to, this was your chance to find out.
For the remainder of the morning, Dr. Gordon Nelson moderated a panel – Daryl Cowell, Scarlett Janusas, Eric Fowle, Jim Uhrinak – previewing the 2015 Forum on The Great Arc – a look at the social and scientific issues common to communities, like Tobermory, living around the rim of the Michigan Basin.