calvert island face

Carved face on a Calvert Island tree. Photo: Dan Leen.

I’ve mentioned Dan Leen’s excellent web page before.  When I was on Teredo N. with him I heard many excellent stories including how he came across a spectacular carved tree on Calvert Island, near Namu.  Finally I get to see what he meant.  This strikes me as the work of a trippy bush hippy (and maybe Dan himself, heh) more than a NW Coast thing, but it is fun nonetheless.

Incidentally, “Arborglyph” is a Frankenstein word melding Greek and Latin roots and should probably be replaced with “dendroglyph”, which is also easier to say.

14 responses to “Arborglyph

  1. The “Face” on Calvert Island was left by a fellow who was of German extraction and who was a millright from Ocean Falls. He came over on his trimaran and the boys and decide to carve that really interesting face. I know, I was the BC Tel radio repeater man living in a house around the corner. Sorry, I don’t remember his name but he was a clever guy. He built the trimaran while working at the paper mill over at Ocean Falls. The windows were all plexiglass about 1/2″ thick, maybe thicker. It was sail and power. My wife and I were impressed. We enjoyed Calvert way back 1971-1972, we stayed there a year.


  2. Hi Donn,

    Belated thanks for your comment. I actually saw the mosquito face this summer, it is still going strong! As you might know, the property is now being used as a research institute and is a veritable hive of cultural and scientific research, including archaeology.

    Did you ever sign the door in the “Doctor’s House” at Hakai? — that was found during renovations and the graffitti is being preserved as a record of 20th century remote coastal culture and connections.


    • Hi, no I never signed the doctor’s door at Hakai. Not even sure about what you speak. I made a few trips over to RW Large hospital and that has some interesting history behind it. I bought abook, Guns and Scalpel, that was quite interesting. It seems to have gotten lost among my years of collected stuff. Before taking over Calvert Radio site around 1971 my wife lived on Swindle Island for a couple of years down at its south end in Higgins Pass. We met someone you may have run into and he is now a friend right here in Victoria, an archeologist named Bjorn Simonson. Him and a crew of students from U-Vic and UBC came to the north end of the island to the south of us to do a dig on Indian garbage. Isn’t that what it is, piles of shells, bits of charcoal, etc. Heh heh. Those were three years that made some really great memories for my wife and I. We even had the Thomas Crosby 5 visit us several times and once while on Swindle we had the good fortune to have Dr Robert Robert McLure the head of the United Church sit on our living room floor. Bob said that the floor was where he was used to sitting, he had spent most of his life giving aid to the poor and humble of people in what we call third world countries. Anyway, he cast a whole different light on what I would consider a church leader. I really liked him, terrific fellow. We met many other interesting people up there too. I suppose the distance and location became a filter that only the hardy and persevering would make it through.


  3. Hi Donn,

    I’ll have to get the exact name for the cabin, my understanding was the long-standing doctor at Bella Bella had a cabin there for many years that also served as an informal place for fisherman and visitors to spend the night ashore, and that it attracted a lot of graffitti over the years. Some readers of this blog have the facts more at their young-person-fingertips though.

    I know Bjorn as well, worked with him on a few projects, mostly back in the 1980s. Haven’t seen him for a year or two now, but then that’s true of most people I know. I hope you kept a diary of your central coast life.


    • I have not been keeping a journal. My wife has been doing better in that regard. The church we attend, LDS, really tries to encourage us to keep a journal and especially keep a record of things that happen to us of a spiritual nature. We have been blessed with many of those instances. The object is to share that with family and descendents. and help them to grow together as a family unit. That almost works in our divergent group. 🙂
      Some of my childrens’ greatest memories is of us going camping together. My father had a trap line as a young man and also did some mineral exploration and timber cruising. All required extensive back woods skills and I used to pump him for tips on that sort of thing. Never did go camping with him though. I had to do that later as an assistant scout leader for 20 or so years in Victoria and Prince George. Living at Calvert and Swindle was almost like camping out. I had to know how to use a map and a compass or we’d have been dead. We would have been safe if we stayed at the cottages we were provided but that gets boring after a little while.

      My children have asked me to write down a journal and I have started one but it’s hard to recall everything at once, I have to go back and fill in.

      I was trying to remember the name of the place where the cottage was and where the lodge is now. Was that Keith Anchorage? When we were there there was no grafitti on the cottage. Anyone caught doing such a thing would have got no protection from the law, punishment would have been with a heavy hand. What a shame some people cannot behave themselves.

      All the best


  4. According to one of Heiltsuk elders, members of the Bella Bella village built a cabin for Dr Darby and over the years people used the cabin and renovations over the years, the door was hidden behind walls until Eric had renovations done. Visitors mainly from Ocean Falls and Bella Bella signed the door.


    • Is that the cabin that is at the start of the trail out to west beach? Stayed in it a few times as a kid in the 60’s and remember a note saying not to go to west beach after 1900 because the wolves all roamed around starting that time. Scared me as a kid anyway.


      • Sandra — yes I think so. Now it is in with the Hakai Beach Institute buildings and has been modernized, so I’m not sure exactly where the trail used to start and if the cabin is in the original location, but it is on the east side of the isthmus which separates the anchorage / dock in Pruth Bay from West Beach. It’s close to the arborglyph.


        • Sandy Ossinger

          The dock was provided by the Ocean Falls Yacht Club I was told. I remember it being very full and boats being tied side by side on weekends. We spent about 4 days there each year on my Dads holidays, and remaking days at Crab Harbour, and Koeye


  5. Thanks Elroy. I’ve seen the door and it is an incredible artifact of Central Coast history! It’s really to the credit of HBI they have preserved it.


  6. My goodness! That face is so scary yet wonderful at the same time.


  7. I am looking for the name and e-mail of the man that did the Mosquito Tree carving on Calvert Island. My partner and I lived on Calvert Island for three years building the trails to the south of west beach. An article comes out in October 2019 issue of “Our Canada” Magazine about our trails and the historic event that happened here during World War Two.


  8. Gordon Barons Email is


  9. there was lots of names of the people who came from ocean falls with their boats and put their boat name and their names on the old cabin just up from the beach,,, the trail to the west beach was near the cabin and went past the donut tree,, a cedar that had grown in a full circle back in the sixties,, we spent our summers going to quatshua and hiking to west beach as kids and enjoyed it,, would be nice to see some pictures of the walls of the cabin and the door,, as there was writing on all kinds of parts of the inside of the cabin by the locals who used it,, ps that is a picture much later then when the mosquito was made,


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