Tuesday, June 5, 2018

"The Golden Spruce" by John Vaillant


One place I want to visit is Haida Gwaii (formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands). This island archipelago is 90 km (56 miles) by ferry from Prince Rupert on the northern British Columbia coast.

Speaking of ferries, I get some of my best books about BC in the gift shop on the ferry between Horseshoe Bay and Langdale on the Sunshine Coast. That's where I found The Golden Spruce (Vintage Canada, 2006) by John Vaillant.

The Golden Spruce was a 300 year-old yellow-coloured Sitka spruce located on Graham Island in Haida Gwaii. It grew from a minute seed that sprouted around 1700 into a massive tree "sixteen storeys tall and more than six metres around." This amazing biological wonder was the result of a rare genetic mutation that thrived along the bank of the Yakoun River in a rich, fertile lowland called a "spruce flat."

Vaillant likens the Golden Spruce to the bumblebee which can miraculously fly despite having less than aerodynamic characteristics. With limited chlorophyll in its needles, the carotenoids (the same substance that makes fall leaves turn red, yellow and orange) shine through. Not surprisingly, this unique tree had special significance to the Haida First Nation. It also made it a prime target for Grant Hadwin, a former logger turned environmentalist. The Golden Spruce is the story of the tree and its demise at Grant Hadwin's hands in 1977 and so much more.

John Vaillant artfully weaves together the history of Haida Gwaii's discovery, Haida inhabitants, logging practices in British Columbia, and the life of Grant Hadwin. The author is a master at blending facts and background information into a story that grabs the reader. I enjoyed it very much even though the event itself was a sad occurrence. If you are looking for a book that gives an unbiased depiction of logging and life in remote areas in British Columbia, I highly recommend The Golden Spruce.

http://www.amazon.com/Gumboot-Girls-Adventure-Survival-Columbias-ebook/dp/B00MOPMJPS/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=&qid=The story of Grant Hadwin and the Golden Spruce was also made into an award winning film called Hadwin's Judgement in 2015.

Have I piqued your interest in Haida Gwaii? You might also like a book that is a favourite of mine, Gumboot Girls by Jane Wilde and edited by Lou Allison (Caitlan Press, 2014). It's a compilation of memoir vignettes of adventurous women who lived in Haida Gwaii and Prince Rupert in the 1960s and 70s. You can find out more about these women on their Facebook page Gumboot Girls.


I was featured on Stone Cottage Adventures for Words on Wednesday for writing tips, stories, book reviews/tours, poetry, blog posts, current events/facts, and publishing books. - Margy

10 comments :

  1. I love to visit remote islands with cool history too. Thanks for the recommendation!

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    1. You are welcome. I love taking our ocean boat out to the island and around Desolation Sound. I just like to do it in the shoulder season when the majority of tourists have gone home. - Margy

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  2. This kind of stuff is so discouraging. I remember our first visit to Vancouver Island in the late sixties there was a big argument going on about "clear cutting there. It make me sick to think of those beautiful mountain stripped to the bon...:(

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    1. Fortunately where I live the local logging company uses better practices. They replant and move around so nothing is clear cut. - Margy

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  3. What a shame to destroy such an amazing tree. It must have been gigantic to see. Glad you enjoyed the book though.

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    1. The author said sixteen storeys. That is massive. At 10 feet in an average storey that's 160 feet tall. - Margy

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  4. Fascinating story about the Spruce … I have added this book and the Gumboot Girls to my reading list. Thanks for your recent visit to my blog - laughed out loud at your comment!

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    1. Glad I could brighten your day, and reading list. - Margy

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  5. So sad that an environmentalist cut this amazing tree down. Guess I'll have to read the book to find out why!!!

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    1. He wanted to make a point, but it was such an awful way to do it. - Margy

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Thanks for stopping by. Comments, questions, and suggestions are always welcome. - Margy