Hot Spring Island and the Ancient Haida Village of Tanu

Day 2, Leaving The Cabin.

Morning was bright and clear and there is a fantastic view from the front porch. We had a sumptuous breakfast of eggs, toast and sausage, then got suited up for the second day of our trip. Today we were heading for Hot Springs Island.

View from floating cabin

Though it was nice around the floating cabin, it was raining periodically on our way to Hot Springs Island, but we were bundled up in our layers so we were quite comfortable. When the sun shown through the clouds it created a nice rainbow over the mountains behind us. Generally speaking, I had seen a rainbow almost every day that I was in Haida Gwaii, I guess that's why a rainbow is part of their tourism boards logo, they really are a frequent sighting.

View from zodiac

“I think I see a spout up ahead”, “hawk eye” Laura shouted out from the back of the boat. She had spotted a humpback whale off into the distance and she guided the Zodiac over into its direction. September is usually late in the season for humpback whales, but occasionally you get the odd straggler still hanging around or making its way south to Baja California. The whale seemed to be staying in the same general area but did not want us getting to close to it. We watched for a while and we noticed it had a friend with it as well, we figured they were in this area feeding.

Relaxing At Hot Spring Island.

Little did we know, but Laura knew, we were right beside Hot Springs Island, so when we had enough of the whales we made our way to shore. Greeting us were three small Haida deer that must have swam over to the island. They seemed pretty calm with our presence, and as we walked through the forest trail to the hot springs one of the deer followed us for a bit and only turned away after we paid more attention to it.

Hot Spring Island deer

Since we were so late in the season there was no one but us at Hot Springs Island. This is one of the more popular spots around the Gwaii Haanas park, there usually a few more watchmen posted here to deal with the greater amounts of visitors. But this day, it was just us, the watchmen have gone home for the season and there were no other tour groups to be seen.

The infrastructure around the 3 hot spring pools is pretty built up, there are change rooms, shower rooms and a phoenix outhouse. The pools have been built up to hold greater amounts of water and are regularly drained and cleaned by the Haida watchmen.

Hot Springs Island first pool

The main pool is handy to the showers and change rooms, it is also the largest of the hot spring pools as well. But if you are looking for something more scenic and private, you can walk the clam shell lined path behind the main pool to the two other pools, one up on a cliff and the other down by the beach. The water was warm and it was a now beautiful and sunny day with the San Christoval Mountains as our backdrop and those two humpback whales swimming back and forth in Juan Parez Sound. This is one beautiful moment.

View from Hot Spring Island

View from the third pool

It was mostly me and Elrich who were really enjoying the hot springs, Laura joined us for a few minutes and Diane just soaked her feet for a while. Laura came and gently suggested we have lunch after an extended period of time and move onto to our last stop at the Hiada village of Tanu. This was probably the longest day stop we took on our whole trip.


Tanu is a larger village than Skedans but does not have the carved totem poles that Skedans had. Apparently Tanu was a popular pillaging site for archaeologists, some less scrupulous than others, a lot of the totem poles ended up being cut up and sent of to museums and private collections, and any poles left have long disintegrated into the ground. What is left is the sites for the homes and long houses that are greatly more visible than the ones in Skedans. There are some very large pits dug for the homes of the higher ranking people of the village, these were very important people in the society.

Tanu Sign

It just wasn't anyone who could have a deep house pit dug for themselves, you needed lots of help. According to Haida tradition, if you wanted to build a house it had to be raised in a day in order to appease the spirits of the earth. The spirits would be okay with 2 days as long as the pit was finished being dug first and then the structure would be raised the next day. So with the time constraints specified by the spirits you would need to have lots of friends to help you with the digging of the pit and the raising of the long house. If you did not have that many friends you would fore go the pit and just have the structure.

Deep long house dug out

Fallen over long house covered in moss

As Laura was rounding up our guided tour of the Haida village she motioned to a crab apple grove out on a point, this was where Bill Reid's ashes are buried. Bill Reid's ancestors came from Tanu and it was his final wish to buried in his ancestral village. The family requested that his grave marker be off limits to everyone, but have since relaxed that rule, they now only request that no pictures be taken. In fact some pictures have shown up on the internet and the family was quite upset, please don't take any pictures there.

Location of BillReid's grave

After paying our respects, we made our way back to the Zodiac and continued on our final stretch back to Moresby Camp. This segment of our trip was a little rougher so I had to fore go my royal seat at the bow and take up one of the saddle seats.

Louise Narrows.

We came to a spot called Louise Narrows, this area was dredged out between the Louise and Moresby Island so that smaller boats could pass through. It is fairly shallow in the narrow and if you look over the side of the boat can see colourful star fish and sun stars (they are like star fish but have many more arms). We also saw a bear off in the distance and it was taking a good look at us as we were of it. From Louise Narrows it was just a short jaunt back to Moresby Camp where we disembarked and got out of our rain gear and piled into the van for the trip back to Sandspit.

Louise Narrows

Sun Star

Seal haul out

Moresby Camp eagle

Eagle vs. Seagul


Susan from the Bayview B&B told me she notices a striking change in her guests that undertake an adventure such as this. Most of her guests are happy to be in Haida Gwaii, but some are not so. Perhaps they have frustrations in their personal lives, have been working too hard and/or suffering from a bit of culture shock, especially the people that come from the bigger cities and are used to a different pace. It is these people that Susan says she notices the most change in. They leave to go on their expedition in not the best of spirits and return a few days later with a large smile on their faces and a weight taken off their shoulders.

I must admit as well I was pleasantly surprised at my happy mood at the end of the trip, even if I wasn't fully conscious of it. I must confess further that I was one of those people from the city who has “seen” everything and there is nothing that could “surprise or impress” me. I am happy to report that I am now recovering from this mental affliction and I am once again finding the beauty and wonder in nature and other people. All it took was a grand adventure, and I hope you take one soon too.

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