When you stand on the west coast of Haida Gwaii, the former Queen Charlotte Islands, nothing lies between you and Japan except the great expanse of the North Pacific ocean. Currents from across the ocean kiss the shores of Haida Gwaii, washing up all kinds of interesting treasure.
The most common find on the beaches used to be the glass floats used on Japanese fishing nets, but lately all kinds of artifacts have washed up, from enough dead jellyfish to make it look like a freak snowstorm has hit the beach, to hockey pads and Nike shoes spilled from passing freighters. Glass floats make great souvenirs; dead jellyfish don’t.
Occasionally, you’ll find the bleached bones of a dead whale, or a thick knot of rope. Litter on the beaches, such as the ubiquitous empty dish detergent bottles, are reminders that the world is awash in plastic. The west side of Haida Gwaii is dotted with pocket coves and beaches, most of which cannot be reached by road, but you can spend a day combing beaches around Rennell Sound.
To reach the shores of Rennell Sound, travel north from Queen Charlotte City on gravelled Skidegate Main Line Forest Road for about 25 miles (40 km). The road divides north and south along Rennell Sound. Watch for beach access points in either direction.
Beachcombing along McIntyre Bay and North Beach can be very rewarding for those seeking to combine the excitement of searching for treasures with the exercise of hiking along the vast expanse of beach. Top treasures include Japanese glass fishing floats, sperm whale teeth, scallop shells, razor clam shells, sand dollars, and agate gemstones.
The shores of the islands are littered with thousands upon thousands of driftwood logs, cast ashore like matchsticks by the ferocious storms that lash the coastline during the winter months. Most of the logs are lost by the logging industry – breakaways from logging booms while under transport to mills and transport barges – and now serve a valuable role in reducing erosion along the sandy stretches of shoreline.