South Moresby

  South Moresby is a 1495 km2 wilderness archipelago of the HAIDA GWAII (including Moresby Island south of Tangil Peninsula) protected in GWAII HAANAS NATIONAL PARK RESERVE. South Moresby, or Gwaii Haanas as it is known by the HAIDA, offers a magnificent setting. There is summer sailing and kayaking in the sheltered passages on its east side, hiking in the San Cristoval Mountains and visiting the cedar ruins of Haida villages, particularly Ninstints (SGang Gwaay llnagaay) on ANTHONY ISLAND.

Old forests of cedar and Sitka spruce harbour rare mosses and unusual animal subspecies providing evidence it was a North Pacific refuge from glaciation ca 75 000 to 10 000 years ago. In its intertidal zone are spectacular clusters of ocean life. On the water are huge seabird colonies, their raptor predators in nearby aeries. Sea lions make colonies on rocks and islets, and large whales migrate through HECATE STRAIT.

This rugged, storm-wracked setting was inhabited for many centuries, and as many as 40 Haida villages and camps were in Gwaii Haanas when Europeans arrived (first landing 1789). Contact for trade, initially in SEA OTTER pelts, led to SMALLPOX epidemics that totally depopulated the area, and extractive industries moved in.

Copper mines operated at Jedway and Ikeda intermittently from 1906, a whaling station at Rose Harbour (1910-48), and A-frame logging from ca 1925 on slopes handy to tidewater. British Columbia licensed 56 168 ha of South Moresby to a forest company in 1958, and clearcut logging proceeded on Lyell Island from 1975.

The 1988 Canada-BC agreement for the national park followed 13 years of controversy, even civil disobedience, over the exclusion of logging. Canada's $106 million investment compensated for cancelled tenures and lost work as well as supporting such facilities as the Haida watchmen base camps, and helped to develop tourism in Haida Gwaii.

The Haida nation put forth a claim to full possession of the islands in 1984. On 10 November 1997, with the claim yet unresolved, a BC court ruled that so long as their claim was outstanding, the Haida were entitled to use of the land's resources. The decision overturned an earlier ruling which allowed a BC government deal that gave exclusive rights over the forests of Haida Gwaii and parts of VANCOUVER ISLAND to MACMILLAN BLOEDEL.