Thursday, July 18, 2013

Peckford Island

The Wadham Islands are a collection of five little islands about 10km north of Musgrave Harbour. I hadn't planned on going there, but then I noticed them on my map and something clicked in my head, although I couldn't quite figure out what it was that was clicking. I knew I'd heard a story connected to them, but for the life of me couldn't remember what it was.

So I made a phone call to a local business and asked about going out there. "Nope," I was told, "There's no boat tours in Musgrave Harbour. There's no way to get out there. You won't be able to do it." And then a long, silent pause, followed by "…unless you talk to Darren." Five minutes and one phone call later all the arrangements were made.

(I should point out here something about local terminology. My map calls the five islands the Wadhams, and two smaller islands farther out the Offer Wadhams, presumably because they are farther off. Darren calls the more distant ones the Wadhams, and the inner ones by their individual names - Copper, Duck, White, Peckford and Green Islands. This is just one of many examples of the local dialect being in disagreement with the "official" geographical names. In another location I was told by an old fellow that the surveyors who showed up to look at the place after confederation just gave the features whatever names they felt like, and those are the ones that have made it into official, though not local, use.)

Darren gave me directions to his house ("Keep going down the road until you sees the b'ys" - simple but totally effective) and we had a chat about where exactly I should go for a couple nights. In the old days the Offer Wadhams were the big settlement, but Darren said the sea was dangerous there, that the islands were small and very rough, and that there weren't any beaches where I was likely to find shards. He suggested Peckford Island, the largest of the inner islands (though still only 2.5km long), where there are some beaches, a lighthouse, and a cabin that he built about 10 years ago.

Darren's a youngish guy but he has all the stories of a grizzled old sea captain. I think he has fished all his life, he does search and rescue exercises with the coast guard helicopters, and when biologists or scientists want to make a trip out around the bay he's usually the one to take them. This led to a conversation about his last passenger to Peckford Island, a biologist named Janet Russell. Janet was studying birds out there, but got the idea of fixing up the old lighthouse and turning it into an artist residency sort of thing. Soon my brain started chugging along, and I began to piece together that this was Janet Russell, the woman behind Rattling Books who I had been talking to several years ago while I was planning to go to the Grey Islands. You know that feeling you get when you finally figure out something that's just beyond your ability to recall it? Yeah, that. Janet made many trips out there, but Darren hadn't heard from her in the past couple years, so unfortunately it seems like the residency thing is off for the moment.

When Darren put me ashore he double checked to make certain I really wanted to do this. He said I was going to be very, very alone, and he was sure I was the first person on the island in two years. He hadn't even been to his cabin in that length of time. Naturally, I was fine with this, in fact it is what I was looking for. And it turns out that Peckford Island was the first time on this whole trip that I felt really, really alone. On Woods Island and in Grand Bruit there were always a few people around. Little Bay Islands was a bustling little community, and even on Sandy Point, though I was alone, I could look across the bay and see activity on the other side (Eugene even told me he was keeping an eye on me with his binoculars while I was out there).

There weren't a lot of shards to collect, but there were enough to make a few works.

I got more interested in just photographing shards in the sand after they had been dispersed:

There were also some old sheds out there, built for fishing long after resettlement, but still old and dilapidated. I had fun shooting them in this really monumental composition, making them look like something more than what they are:

Many of the sheds were built about 10 metres back from the shore, but the hurricane we had a few years ago, Igor, eroded the shoreline so much that most of them now are teetering on the edge. One in particular is currently spilling its contents onto the beach, which made for some great pics:

And I was really happy to find the remains of this old house on the north side of the island:

Darren, and almost every other single person I have met this summer, have been so nice and helpful and interested in what I'm doing. When Darren picked me up again he offered me breakfast and a shower, and told me to contact him if I was ever in town again. It's a message I keep hearing over and over.

1 comment:

  1. Mike, I so enjoy reading your stories. I see that Corelle is everywhere.

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