MIRANDA BROOKWELL / Youth Correspondent
“A large volume of adventures may be grasped within this little span of life, by him who interests his heart in everything” — Laurence Sterne
I’ll admit that one of the most difficult tasks I have ever experienced was allowing myself to leave Vancouver Island. To leave the green, lush forests, crashing waves, and mild temperature was nothing short of absolute torture. As much as I adore Alberta, I can’t say I’m a real fan of our current weather. The drizzling rain of Vancouver Island (although I did return with a cold), was far more endurable than the snow I returned to. But the climate was only the beginning. Allow me to fill you in on our extremely memorable, “big kid” field trip.
I knew it was going to be a good trip when we actually managed to leave the school on time. That in itself is a gigantic feat. We organized our baggage in our seats that would be our home for the next 24 hours and settled in. There were a couple short stops along the way — a bathroom break here, a snack break there — but eventually the laughter and chatter subsided (for the most part) and the majority of us got some sleep. I felt so disorientated every time I awoke. Not only is it rather difficult to sleep on a bus seat when you’re almost six feet tall, but it was completely black outside. Half of the time I had no clue where we were stopping or what direction we were going. It was a very odd feeling. But when we were awake, we had time to talk and create a lot of inside jokes. Everything is exponentially funnier when you’ve been awake for 19 hours.
Once we’d taken a gorgeous ferry ride across to the island, we made stops to hike and stretch our legs a bit. We geared up and took a long walk in the rain to see a waterfall, and also stopped at Cathedral Grove to look at some trees that were more than 500 years old. It was absolutely breathtaking to see scenery that isn’t an everyday thing for us prairie folk.
By the time we arrived at the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre it was late, so we went right to bed after a quick orientation. We all stayed in cosy dorm rooms and had a solid eight hours of much needed sleep. Then our adventures began — the days started with hot breakfast while looking out over the canal and across to West Bamfield, the part of the town that is accessible only by boat.
Our two days at the centre were filled with a variety of presentations and excursions introducing us to the field of marine biology. In my opinion, the most interesting event was learning about the huge variety of undersea invertebrate creatures and getting to brave the touch tank to give them a feel.
It was really interesting, but an anemone gripping my finger with a tentacle was a little alarming. Thankfully, I administered payback with some serious tickling. They really don’t like that. We also got to learn about marine bird species, the variety of fish in the area, and some oceanography techniques, such as testing the clarity and salinity of the ocean. Due to the tsunami that had just happened in Japan, even the ocean floor on the west side of the island had been slightly churned up. The warning was a two out of three on their scale, and was in effect for our area for most of the first day. Luckily, it was lifted soon enough that our plans could continue as usual.
We took a boat ride out to the open ocean for some “dredging,” where a large bag is used to drag up whatever organisms are on the ocean floor. There were sea stars in bright pinks and oranges, brightly coloured shells with crabs living in them, spiky purple and pink urchins, and some seriously fat sea cucumbers, which are possibly the nastiest creatures you will ever see. Even though the wind was crazy and it was a bit chilly, it was an awesome experience. One of our fantastic teacher chaperones, Mr. Feschuck, was even gutsy enough to wear his shorts for the duration of our trip – including the boat ride. I had on three layers of clothes, a toque and a garbage bag dress. I dream of being as tough as he is.
This field trip was definitely unforgettable. I know I can speak on behalf of all the students who went that it was a great time and we are very grateful for the opportunity to experience something so new. Great food, nice rooms, and peaceful isolation out in the middle of nowhere was somehow exactly what a lot of us needed. We learned so much in such a short amount of time, and yet I had more fun and more laughs than I’ve had in quite a while. To be honest, once I got back home, I was missing the bus and my cosy makeshift bed on the floor.
I’m so glad I went, and I’d like to give big thanks to Mr. Feschuck, Mrs. McTaggart, and Mr. Sather for chaperoning us and putting up with our craziness. You guys are the best.
There are a lot of places that I would love to travel to, but I know that Bamfield, B.C. with the friendly people, abundance of wildlife, and relaxing atmosphere, will definitely be a place to which I will return.