Because John Coldwell Has An Inquiring Mind . . .

I just recently married a lovely Filipino lady here in the Philippines. The marriage was held on the beach at the Drill Shack Resort just outside Dumaguete, Negros Oriental, Philippines – actually closer to Dauin.

While in the Dumaguete area I met a Canadian friend, Brian Waddington, who used to live on a lighthouse near to mine at McInnes Island, BC. Brian wrote on August 27, 2012 on his Blogpost:

Because John Coldwell Has An Inquiring Mind I Will Publicly Embarrass Myself And Give Him And His Bride To Be This Story As A Wedding Present

John was the senior keeper at McInnes when I became the junior keeper at Ivory. He retired after 32 years as a keeper. He now runs a truly informative website about the life of a lighthouse keeper on the west coast of Canada. If you have ever wondered about the life of a keeper click on his name.

From left to right; workshop and senior keepers house, junior keeper house and garage, landing platform (red pole) control shed for hiline.

Ivory Island is a lighthouse on the north-west coast of Canada. Thirty plus years later I still dream of Ivory. To say it was a seminal time in my life is simply an understatement. Ivory was where I found the start of my spiritual path. Ivory is where the only child I have helped to conceive and father was created. I met my first two spiritual mentors while I was there. Ivory Island introduced me to the Thomas Crosby V which led me to Haisla village which allowed for the occasion where I met my future wife which is why I now live in the Philippines.

Some of my memories are sublime, some are joyous, some are mysterious but this one is just plain embarrassing. First you need a little background information. There are basically two ways to deliver anything to Ivory – helicopter or ship. Helicopter is quick and easy but not so good for heavy or bulky goods.

When goods are brought in by boat the cargo ship anchors, lowers the work boat and they bring the goods to where the ‘hook’ is lowered via the hi line. (look very closely at the first picture, just above the control shed you will see the hi-line running from the tall red pole down towards the water). Once the work boat crew secures the cargo to the hook it is picked up, wound in, lowered, unhooked and the hook is lowered again for the next load. Simple if everything works right not so simple when it doesn’t. This day it didn’t.

Perhaps I allowed the hook to pick up too much speed as gravity pulled it back to the water. Perhaps the stopper and the hook did not mate properly because a gust of wind moved the mechanism at a crucial point. In any case instead of doing what it was supposed to do the hook plunged into the water. Luckily this occurs with some frequency so the work boat was well clear of the rapidly descending hook. The other times this had happened I simply wound the hook in the way a fisherman reels in his line. The hook comes up sets itself properly and then I would again lower it so the work boat could hook up another load.

This time the hook snagged on something. With no way of knowing if it was snagged on a sunken log, a small easily moved rock or something worse I decided to apply a little more power and see what would happen. Bad decision! All of a sudden guy wires are snapping and the tower is starting to bend. No more cargo came ashore that day. What did come ashore a few days later was a five man work crew from Prince Rupert via helicopter with most of what was needed to fix the hi-line.

I say most… what they did not have was the bit for drilling the holes needed to do to put in the new anchoring pins. The drill bit was flown up from Victoria via helicopter. My bad choice was starting to get expensive. It got even more expensive after they had drilled four (if memory serves) five foot long 2 inch wide holes for the pins and then spent a day or two trying to hammer the 2 inch steel pins into the 2 inch holes.

For the next few days the work crew enjoyed a mini vacation while they waited for the proper sized drill bit. It is just possible that this had become such an embarrassment of errors to one and all concerned that they could not fire me without firing some bosses too. In any case I was and am ever so thankful I wasn’t fired.

There you are John my wedding gift to you, your future wife and your web site. Hope you can use it and it brings a smile to your face.


Thanks Brian. We could not have had a better wedding gift!

“MV Queen of Prince Rupert” Aground in Gunboat Pass 1982

“MV Queen of Prince Rupert” Aground in Gunboat Pass August 25, 1982

MV Queen of Prince Rupert - photo John Morris

Before you read the story, I must fill in a few details. My wife Karen and I were on McInnes Island lighthouse at the time of the incident. A week before the incident below we picked up the voice of the lightkeeper Henry Bergen at Dryad Point on our scanner in the house. In a loud and agitated voice he was calling “Queen of Prince Rupert! Queen of Prince Rupert! This is Dryad Point! Dryad Point! You are going the wrong way!” The reply came back that they were on a navigational exercise and they had everything in hand.


Now the story from Harvey Humchitt1 who was on board the ship a week later . . .

It was a typical Friday in Bella Bella. My mother and brother and I had been preparing for a day trip to Port Hardy before the start of school. The trip to Port Hardy was on the “MV Queen of Prince Rupert” which took 6 or 7 hours from Bella Bella to Port Hardy. For me back then it was a holiday in itself. Continue reading

Grocery Mishap at Kains Island (Quatsino) c.1975

CCGS Sir James Douglas

 The landing under the hook (aka highline) at Kains Island was a large basin at the back side. It looked like a very large boulder had been washed out from the hole. It was a bit tricky if the swell was running to bring the station inflatable in safely but we never had a accident in my three years on station. 


Ocean Sea foam - photo unknown photographer

After a SE winter storm the hole would fill up with kelp stems broken off the surrounding reefs by the large swells. The swells then pounded this kelp into a tan-coloured foam which drifted all over the ocean and blew up into the trees and hung there like lichen. It was quite light but sticky to the touch.

One winter day we were expecting the supply ship with groceries, mail, etc. One of the Coast Guard buoy tenders arrived rocking and rolling in the swells in Quatsino Sound. Over the side went the workboat and then began the process of off-loading the supplies into her. We could see the orange-suited crew members on deck and in the boat but could not recognize anyone. 

Lowering station boat into the hole - note the foam - photo retlkpr

As we watched the workboat pull away from the shelter of the ship we were called on the radio by an unknown voice that the boat was on its way in. We acknowledged and commented that this appeared to be a new mate. Always fun to see how much experience they had unloading under a highline. 

The boat rolled across the half kilometer distance between us and the ship, sometimes disappearing completely in the swells. The mate brought the boat closer to shore and lined up with the small bay, all the while ploughing a path through the foam which was pushed aside by the bow. As the boat neared the gap the mate rode a swell in under the hook and all but completely disappeared! 

We could see well from the winch shed and the highline deck but only heads were showing in the workboat – the rest had completely disappeared! During the night the storms had lashed the kelp to pulp and filled the gap with sea foam to almost a metre deep! The workboat rode in on the swell and right under the foam. 

The gap from seaward at low tide - photo retlkpr

 Pushing the foam aside, the crew grabbed the lowered hook, slipped on a set of slings and signalled Haul Away. As the bonnet sling left the well of the workboat it also left a nice clean spot in the boat. On landing on the highline deck above, it was discovered that everything was covered with the sea foam, but, all was OK on the inside of the cartons of groceries and bags of mail although a bit sticky on the outside. The foam, although appearing quite dense, was actually quite dry and no harm was done. 

The mate was a little more cautious when he came in with the second load. 


 More information about the sea foam. Below is the content of an email I received in March 17, 2008.


Suddenly the shoreline north of Sydney was transformed into the Cappuccino Coast . Foam swallowed an entire beach and half the nearby buildings, including the local lifeguards’ centre, in a freak display of nature at Yamba in New South Wales .

One minute a group of teenage surfers were waiting to catch a wave, the next they were swallowed up in a giant bubble bath. The foam was so light that they could puff it out of their hands and watch it float away.

Boy in the bubble bath: Tom Woods, 12, emerges from the clouds of foam after deciding that surfing was not an option

It stretched for 30 miles out into the Pacific in a phenomenon not seen at the beach for more than three decades. Scientists explain that the foam is created by impurities in the ocean, such as salts, chemicals, dead plants, decomposed fish and excretions from seaweed. All are churned up together by powerful currents which cause the water to form bubbles. These bubbles stick to each other as they are carried below the surface by the current towards the shore. As a wave starts to form on the surface, the motion of the water causes the bubbles to swirl upwards and, massed together, they become foam.

The foam ‘surfs’ towards shore until the wave ‘crashes’, tossing the foam into the air.

Whitewash: The foam was so thick it came all the way up to the surf club

‘It’s the same effect you get when you whip up a milk shake in a blender,’ explains a marine expert. ‘The more powerful the swirl, the more foam you create on the surface and the lighter it becomes.’ In this case, storms off the New South Wales Coast and further north off Queensland had created a huge disturbance in the ocean, hitting a stretch of water where there was a particularly high amount of the substances which form into bubbles. As for 12-year-old beach goer Tom Woods, who has been surfing since he was two, riding a wave was out of the question ‘Me and my mates just spent the afternoon leaping about in that stuff,’ he said.

‘It was quite cool to touch and it was really weird. It was like clouds of air – you could hardly feel it.’

Children play among all the foam which was been whipped up by cyclonic conditions.

Supplies for Cape Scott Lighthouse 1975

CCGS Sir James Douglas - photo F&O Canada

 In 1975 we (myself, my wife Karen and our two young children, our dog, cats, and all our furnishings) were on our way clockwise around Vancouver Island from Quatsino lighthouse to Pachena Point on board the CCGS Sir James Douglas with acting Captain Tom Hull. This was a grocery run so the trip was already pre-planned and we were just passengers. 

The seas were not high but as we rounded Cape Scott, the northern-most tip of Vancouver Island, we began to roll in the southwest swell. As we motored around into quieter waters on the inside of Vancouver Island, we were still being tossed around by occasional large ocean swells.  Continue reading

Groceries at Green Island c.1975

Cloo-Stung - photo Barry Duggan

The Cloo-Stung was a catamaran of the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) used for delivery of personnel and supplies to Prince Rupert area lighthouses in protected waters. The groceries were delivered to the Coast Guard base in Prince Rupert from the local stores. These were then packed in slings (large canvas or net circles with ropes attached to allow them to be attached to a hook) and loaded onto the Cloo-Stung. Continue reading