Chris Hinkley and Elyse Kennedy take a breathier from paddling as they pose for a photo on their coastal journey.

Kayakers get the pipeline message

Alaskans on a long journey hear about the hotly-debated Enbridge pipeline proposal

A group of Alaska kayakers bound for the most southern reaches of South America arrived in Oyster River this past week bearing a message for all British Columbians: Protect a precious way of life on your coast; keep the oil tankers at bay.

In June, the group of 12 Juneau friends embarked on the experience of a lifetime, a 14,000 kilometre expedition modestly dubbed “A Trip South” that will take them to Tierra Del Fuego, Argentina, sometime in 2014.

The adventurers, aboard ocean-going craft designed and built by Seaward Kayaks in Chemainus, have visited several remote settlements on their journey down the B.C. coast and through the Inside Passage.

Expedition organizer Chris Hinkley, a 23-year-old mechanical engineer, says when he left Juneau the proposed Enbridge pipeline and the threat of oil tanker traffic on the coast was “on the back burner of my brain.”

Then, in narrow Grenville Channel, the expedition bumped into a retired engineer touring coastal settlements by boat. It was Brian Gunn of Campbell River, president of the BC Wilderness Tourism Association. He raised the Enbridge alarm and that really got the attention of the kayakers.

“The underlying focus of our trip is documenting interesting communities and the rich connections between people and their places throughout the Pacific Coast,” Hinkley says. “We are not a group of environmentalists out to document the pipeline fight, but we encountered so much passion we want to share it.”

When they reached Hartley Bay they realized something “special” was happening.

In Hartley Bay, at the mouth of  Douglas Channel about 80 kilometres southwest of Kitimat where a proposed shipping terminal will load Enbridge crude, the kayakers met Gitga’at councillor Cameron Hill.

“All of a sudden we realized this is an issue we have to talk about. Cameron has such a deep connection with his history, but he is also very knowledgeable about the modern world and understands how the whole pipeline issue came about and what the political game is all about.

“Hartley Bay is a place where stories matter, where children know how to smoke fish and love the taste of oolichan oil. This is a place where roads are made from wooden planks and grocery stores do not exist.  Whether time here is spent filleting fish or harvesting seaweed, an appreciation is born in the process.

“I believe that somewhere deep in every human lies a craving to connect to the natural world.  Hartley Bay embodies this connection. Its residents respect the resources that sustain their lives.

“As we continue our journey south, Cameron’s final thoughts have continued to resonate with me,” Hinkley says. “He told us: ‘There is no other way to say it, if the pipeline goes through, our way of life is dead.’”

Today, the kayakers are back on the water and headed for Chemainus where they will return their “borrowed” kayaks to Seaward Kayaks. Five of the original 12 adventurers will climb on bicycles for the trip through the U.S., Mexico and Central and South America.

Roads permitting, they plan to follow the Pacific Ocean as they head toward the southern hemisphere with the end goal being Tierra Del Fuego. “Our timeline and planned routes are very tentative because our focus is the adventure itself rather than the destination,” Hinkley says.

“Maybe we’ll even get to Antarctica.”

Follow the journey online at


Just Posted

B.C. BUDGET: Fare freeze, free travel for seniors on BC Ferries

A complete fare freeze will be put into place on major routes, and fares will be rolled back on smaller routes by 15 per cent

BC BUDGET: New spaces a step to universal child care

Fees reduced for licensed daycare operators

BC BUDGET: NDP cracks down on speculators, hidden ownership

Foreign buyers’ tax extended to Fraser Valley, Okanagan, Vancouver Island

BC BUDGET: Payroll tax replaces medical premiums

Health spending to increase $1.5 billion for drugs, primary care teams

Council makes decision on tackling Pier Street parking issues

West side of Pier Street will go down to one-hour parking, enforcement likely to increase

VIDEO: Top 10 B.C. budget highlights

The NDP is focusing on childcare, affordable housing and speeding up the elimination of MSP premiums

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Canucks blow three goal lead, lose to Avalanche in overtime

Vancouver struggled on the penalty kill, as Colorado scored all five goals on the powerplay

Widow of avalanche victim sues Golden lodge operator

A woman from Alberta is suing guides, their mountain guide association and the lodge operator for negligence

Vancouver Island job market ever-evolving

Various sectors driving employment in region will be represented at Black Press career fair in Comox Feb. 8

BC BUDGET: NDP hope to nix court delays with $15 million cash influx

Union says funding could stop sheriffs from leaving for higher paid jobs

Cattlemen urge B.C. to prevent erosion caused during 2017 wildfire season

Other concerns are fencing restoration and repair, and a lack of feed for cattle.

Patrick Brown’s Tory leadership bid fate looms

Brown’s bid to for Tory leadership to be decided on Wednesday

Duncan cousins found guilty of aggravated sexual assault

Assault so violent, victim required surgery

Most Read