Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition

Skeena Swim Blog

Friday, August 14: Shannon blogs from Cassiar Cannery

Ali swam to the OCEAN!!! This is Shannon McPhail calling in for the very last night before Ali arrives at the North Pacific Cannery in Port Edward.

We’re camped at the Cassiar Cannery and feel as if we are being very pampered by the incredible view of the ocean and sleeping in the INCREDIBLE bed and breakfast houses operated by Justine Crawford. A good night’s sleep is just what the doctor ordered after several tough days on the river. Ali turned her jets on to make the long distances fighting tides and winds. There were days when it was all she could do to get herself out of the river, shivering so badly that she couldn’t take off her own gloves. The Skeena River has always inspired me and after seeing first hand what Ali has endured – my inspiration has increased exponentially.

This morning, we talked about the distance she had to cover, we knew that it was almost impossible, it was double the distance she swam yesterday (which was tough). Ali rose to the challenge and our canoe got very quiet watching her work her magic in the water. She never raised her head and relied on Chris Gee to keep her going on the right direction. We were silent because we didn’t think she could maintain that burst of speed…and yet she never relented. She would stroke 6 times before taking a breath and we watched our goal for the day get closer and finally surpassed! She swam though squid and kelp before she would admit that we were in the ocean. It was an emotional celebration on both the canoe and in the water and none of us truly realized at that moment what had just happened. We were just so amazed at the speed and determination she had just shown.

We pulled into the point that took us to Inverness Passage where the cannery is and had some lunch in the afternoon sun. It was there that we talked about the entire expedition and it started to sink in that Ali Howard had just accomplished what she set out to do. We recalled all the amazing gifts and blessings that communities, friends and families had given to us and all of us firmly believe there was a higher power watching over us. It always seemed that when we needed something it would somehow come to us, whether it was the sun to keep Ali from being hypothermic, a canoe to battle the winds of the lower river, advice from those that know the area and safe passage seemingly guided by the ancestors.

So here I am, sitting in the living room of this beautiful cabin, surrounded by the people that dedicated themselves to this river. It’s hard to imagine that it we won’t be together day after day any longer and while we share stories with incessant laughter we are all sad to see this end.

This river and the people that make it their home was all the motivation we needed to complete this journey. Every community had concerns with coalbed methane and oiltankers while others talked about cultivating a healthy economy from the resources we have. I think it’s fitting that we’re completing this journey at the North Pacific Cannery which was part of the commercial fishing industry that has struggled alongside the aboriginal food fisheries and sport fishing. We hope that this not only inspires people to safeguard this incredible place but that it will motivate them to become a part of the process and decision making when issues affect this watershed.

Thanks to all of you that helped us make our journey and sent your words of inspiration. We truly love this place and the people that live here…it’s our home and we will never stop working to keep the people, our salmon and our water safe!

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Posted by Joe Blow  on  08/17  at  12:05 AM

Where are all the photos and video?  Not all of us could make it.

Posted by Jeffrey Holland  on  08/17  at  08:01 AM

Congratulations all of you on a truly magnificent achievement(I can hardly wait to see the documentary).
Love and best wishes,

Posted by Amelia Shanoss  on  08/17  at  08:50 AM

Well congrats Ali for finishing your swim, I’m glad you made it safe to your destination. Well take care and hope to see you soon!!

Posted by shelly  on  08/17  at  11:45 AM

Congrats to all of you. I’m so proud of you Ali. What a great success.

Posted by Andrea Vickers  on  08/17  at  06:00 PM

Again I am moved to tears.  Thank you Shannon for your gift of writing.
We do live in an incredible part of the world and on an incredible river.  Thank you Ali and all the many people who pulled together to remind us all ... 
Blessings to each of you and big Congratulations to our precious Ali.

Posted by Anais Hamann  on  08/18  at  02:33 PM

Congratulations, Felicidades!!!! You are all super amazing, my heores! I am glad to have been a part of your journey this past month. We thank you all so much for your efforts and ambitions and commitment; so do the salmon. Hugs and kisses to you. Love Anais

Posted by Arleigh  on  08/19  at  03:39 PM

Alleluia, Congratulations ... and Slamgeesh,too!
I’ll never be able to look at the Skeena again without recalling the wonder of your accomplishment, Ali, and the marvellous team effort of 2009. We feel blessed by your experience and grateful to have been in Rupert for the finale! So many profound words were shared! Can’t wait for the documentary now, too!
Thanks, with hugs and high fives!

Posted by Gary  on  08/20  at  04:08 PM

Just like to say Congratulations on your amazing journey down the Skeena River.  Truely a statement appreciated by residents and communities along the Skeena.  Truely the Skeena River has evolved into a multi-cultural community that rely on the river for its resources.  And for the permanent First Nation communities it is a life line, a culture that depends on the health of the river.  Your trip reminds me of the Elders that spoke of the Spirit of the Skeena and how we should respect what gives us life.
Am’ma’ya Ali great job.