Archive For The “nature” Category
A great blue heron stalks the Kitimat waterfront at MK Bay in a stormy fall rain squall.
The weather in Kitimat has been awful during most of the fall, cold, windy, rainy, foggy and generally miserable. Not unexpected in a La Nina year.
I went down to Kitamaat Village for the monthly bird count in a rain squall. So the visibility was pretty bad. As I was about to leave, a half dozen northwestern crows landed right beside me, in the pouring rain and stayed long enough for me to shoot their portraits.
It was forty years ago, in August, 1980, that a friend and I drove from Vancouver, BC, where I was living at the time, to spend a weekend at Florence, Oregon, which inspired Frank Herbert to write the famous novel Dune.
Like many at the time, I was entranced by Dune as soon as I picked it off a drug store bookshelf probably in 1965. It was sometime later that I read someplace that it was Florence that first inspired Frank Herbert to write about ecology when he originally visited back in 1953 when he was trying to write an article about a US Forest Service project to use dune grass to keep the sand in check. After all that research, as Herbert said in the collection of his essays, Frank Herbert, the Maker of Dune (1987): “Before long I had far too much for an article and far too much for a short story.. But I had an enormous amount of data, with angles shooting off at angles to gather more.” The result, of course, was the blockbuster novel, then more novels, then spinoffs by his son, a movie concept that was never made, an awful movie that was made, a pretty good miniseries and a new movie that we hope to see this Christmas (if there are movies in theatres).
That trip has been a wonderful memory for years, so to mark the anniversary, I found some of the old slides, taken on Kodak Ectachrome, with my old Minolta SRT101 and scanned them. For a some where the colour did not survive four decades, I converted to black and white.
Sand dunes are like waves in a large body of water; they are just slower. (Frank Herbert, “The Sparks Have Flown” in Frank Herbert The Maker of Dune).
A few morning shots of bees harvesting nectar from mountain cornflowers (centaurea montana) in my front garden.
For the Christmas Bird Count in Kitimat, there’s usually a lot of ground to cover in a very short period of time–that’s because here in the northwest daylight hours are limited as we get closer to the Winter Solstice. So we started before dawn, which is OK for those who are counting but not so good for photography.
The highlight of my day came at what is known as the Maggie Point trail to a gazebo overlooking Kitmat harbour built by members of the Haisla Nation. The problem is as you get older, hiking a trail in icy weather can be quite dicey, especially for me who has had minor hip problems since I was a kid. So with ice on the trail, I decided to stay by the cars and wait while the rest of the gang went to see what they could see from the gazebo. Then a swift flying bird landed on the branch not far from the parking area. I wasn’t sure what it was, but I began shooting with my SonyRX10iii which is 24 to 600 mm 35mm equivalent.
I wasn’t sure what the bird was, but I guessed it was a raptor since it sat there for almost ten minutes, surveying the area. At one point a crow flew by and the raptor didn’t budge. Then it swooped down over my head and into the bush. It was only then I checked the display to see the yellow rimmed eyes. The birders debated whether the raptor was a merlin or a sharp-shinned hawk and then came to the conclusion looking at the eyes that it was a dark red-tailed hawk.
And here are some other views from the Christmas Bird Count 2019.
All the images were taken in the morning up until about 11 a.m. I went home for lunch, ingested the morning images and then we went out again. But with heavy cloud cover, fading light and fewer birds, the afternoon session was a bust. No photos worth posting.
The 38.5 mile (62 kilometre) Canadian National Railways branch line from Terrace to Kitimat is one of the last working rail lines in North America that still uses wooden trestle bridges.
There are three large and three smaller trestles along the line, as well a large bridge built to cross the Skeena River at Terrace and three steel Pratt triangular truss bridges over the Lakelse, Wedeene, Little Wedeene Rivers.
Additional photographs are by Jim Thorne. All rights reserved. Jim also added some historic information for this blog.
In the late 1940s, the Aluminum Company of Canada (Alcan) began planning a smelter in Kitimat, to take advantage of the hydro electric capacity that would eventually lead to the reservoir behind the Kenney Dam that fed water through the mountains to the power plant Kemano.
As Alcan was planning and building Kitimat, the company signed transportation contracts with Canadian National Railways promising the railway would get one million 1950 dollars a year in revenue.
The branch line had go through the rugged terrain, come in to the town’s service centre, pass what was then an obstacle known as the Sand Hill and then on to the new aluminum smelter. (The Sand Hill, a glacial deposit, then reached all the way to the Kitimat River. For the past 60 years it has been used to support the local industries by supplying sand, gravel and concrete products and has now shrunk back from its original size.)
CN worked to build the new branch line crossing “difficult terrain of the area, including swamps, hard clay, rocks and watersheds.”
Canadian Transportation magazine reported in July 1952 that the branch line alone would cost $10 million 1952 dollars or $217,391.30 per mile.
Freight travel began as soon as the branch line was completed in December 1954. Temporary huts acted as the train station when passenger service began in January 1955 but were soon overwhelmed. A CN Station was built that would operate until passenger service ended in 1957 when the highway to Terrace was opened.
The “milk-run” freight trains were restricted to a maximum speed of 15 miles per hour (it’s 20 mph today) over the Kitimat Sub Division. Along the line CN serviced Lakelse Lake where there was a whistle stop in a clearing by the track. I still remember a vacation at Lakelse in the summer of 1957 when I was seven years old. Seeing the steam locomotive come around a curve out of the forest for the return journey was the moment I fell in love with trains and railways. The other “stations” (again really just clearings) on the timetable were at Wedeene, Dubose and Thunderbird, to pick up loggers, surveyors, fishers and hunters. The trip from Lakelse to Kitimat would have taken one hour and thirty minutes if the passenger train was running on schedule
Though passenger service is long gone, freight service has continued now for more than 60 years. Freight traffic increased in the early 1960s, then slowed as the market for aluminum slowed down. Freight traffic on the line peaked in the years when the Eurocan Pulp & Paper mill was operating (1969 – 2010). Wood chip cars comprised a major portion of traffic on the line. More traffic was added when Ocelot Industries (later owned by Methanex) came on line in the 1980s. In 2010, Eurocan closed and more than half the traffic on the line was lost. Then the Methanex traffic also came to a halt. Today, almost all of the remaining traffic is for Rio Tinto (the successor to Alcan). But CN may soon see new customers on the Kitimat Sub Division.
Today traffic is on the increase with the multi-billion dollar LNG Canada project beginning construction. There is a second smaller liquefied natural gas project planned. As well there is the proposed Pacific Traverse Energy liquefied petroleum gas project which would use tank cars rather than the pipelines planned for the LNG project. That means those more than 60-year-old trestles will even more trains in the future. Those trestles were rebuilt and reinforced in the 1990s to increase load capacity. In 1997, part of the Thunderbird ‘S’ trestle collapsed while being rebuilt and there was a fatality and several serious injuries.
Over the past few months, I set out to photograph those trestle bridges that are accessible. Some of them are deep in the bush and others can only be reached by boat.
The first challenge for CN was the main line was on the north bank of the Skeena River. First built as part of the old Grand Trunk Pacific, the line followed the river through Terrace and then on to the port of Prince Rupert. To reach Kitimat and hemmed in by mountains, CN had to build a switch back so that the trains would go into the Terrace yards, then switch onto the Kitimat branch line. That meant a new rail bridge had to be built alongside an older highway bridge.
Our track showing the road along the river south of the Wedeenes. There are three trestles, a small one over an unnamed creek, a larger one over Goose Creek and a third inside Kitimat beside Ninth Street.