After a delay due to snow I got a chance to head down to Ogden Point on Thursday, March 10. For those not familiar with Victoria, British Columbia when I say “snow” I am talking about maybe 6 to 8 inches. That is enough to keep most of us at home for a snow day as we are not accustomed to the accumulation of white stuff. Ogden Point was the last tour in the restoration walk series offered by UVic. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend two others: Esquimalt Lagoon & Viaduct Flats. This walk was led by Val Schaefer, Academic Administrator of the Restoration of Natural Systems Program, School of Environmental Studies at UVic.
|Ogden Point Breakwater - taken today - in better weather...|
Unfortunately we did not get lucky with the weather on March 10. Walking on an elevated concrete sidewalk, albeit wide, with rocks and ocean on either side combined with fairly strong winds is not really ideal. At one point I got splattered with the spray of a particularly frisky wave. Also, a look at the sky made it pretty clear that there was rain on the way. Accordingly, our walk was somewhat abbreviated, but in keeping with the previous tours the first order of business was a brief history lesson.
The Ogden Point breakwater construction was completed in 1916. It is 762 metres (2,500 feet) long and comprised of over one million tons of rock and 10,000 granite blocks, each weighing more than 10 tons. The construction of two piers and a cargo warehouse was completed in 1918. This construction was related to the opening of the Panama Canal and an expected increase in deep-sea traffic. Up until the 1980’s there were rail facilities at Ogden Point used primarily for shipping wheat and lumber. Fast forward to the present and you have helijet operations, cruise ship docks, dive shop, cafe...the list goes on.
The Ogden Point Enhancement Society (OPES) was formed in 1996 and has been responsible for much of the beautification that you see when you visit Ogden Point. Recent projects include the installation of information kiosks, one at Confederation Point (near Pier A) and one near the dive shop and cafe. The first kiosk focuses on cultural history while the kiosk near the dive shop offers ecological information including beautiful pictures. For a list of initiatives undertaken, past and present, and a more detailed history of the breakwater, you can check out the OPES website. Looking from the kiosk near the dive shop you get a great view of the beautiful Land and Sea mural painted on the inside wall of the breakwater by Darlene Gait, of the Esquimalt Nation, Butch Dick, of the Songhees Nation, and six student artists-in-training. My picture does not do it justice, but you can get a sense of how much effort must have gone into this project.
|Land and Sea Mural|
A restoration effort by the Veins of Life Watershed Society saw the placement of nearly 100 reef balls next to the breakwater in order to create new habitat for marine life. A graduate student from the UVic School of Environmental Studies will be monitoring them to document the types of sea life they support. During the walk in March we were treated to sightings of a couple types of star fish, common mergansers and black oyster catchers. Not bad considering the weather.
The main reason I went down to Ogden Point today was to pick up a copy of Val & Anny Schaefer's book, Ogden Point Odyssey, which is a great resource for anyone interested in the history and current uses (official and unofficial) of Ogden Point. There is also an extensive section about the marine life, birds and mammals that you may find in our area including many beautiful, underwater pictures shared by divers. For information on Ogden Point Odyssey and its authors you can visit http://www.urbanecology.ca/. I used some of the information from this book in my posting today and also confirmed many facts that Val brought up during the restoration walk.
The secondary reason I went to the breakwater was to take my kids. It was windy again today and I was thankful that they actually wanted to hold my hands since, while very cool, the lack of railings on the breakwater makes me nervous. Due to the wind we did not make it all way out to the lighthouse, but after a cold, windy walk, and viewings of imaginary mermaid tails, it was a treat to go to the cafe for a snack and drink. We then proceeded down to the beach to explore the little tidal pools full of sea anemones and barnacles. On our way up from the beach we stopped briefly at the big sundial in the sidewalk (you can see it in the first picture) before heading home. It was a great way to spend some time together and reintroduce them to a place we have not been in awhile. Next time we will have to pick a warmer day...