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Monday, August 31, 2009

The Blue Whale Project

blue whale, Victoria, BC, Canada, Beaty Biodiversity MuseumI'm back from my holiday now and will soon be posting a few photos of my trip. Thanks to all who visited and left comments while I was away. To get back into the Victoria Daily Photo mode I've posted the above photo of what I am amazed to discover is the largest animal ever to have lived, according to Wikipedia. Yes, even bigger than the biggest of dinosaurs. Blue whales are big. Wikipedia's fascinating article includes the following facts:

A Blue Whale's tongue weighs around 2.7 metric tons (3.0 short tons) and, when fully expanded, its mouth is large enough to hold up to 90 metric tons (99 short tons) of food and water. Despite the size of its mouth, the dimensions of its throat are such that a Blue Whale cannot swallow an object wider than a beach ball. Its heart weighs 600 kilograms (1,300 lb) and is the largest known in any animal. A Blue Whale's aorta is about 23 centimetres (9.1 in) in diameter. During the first seven months of its life, a Blue Whale calf drinks approximately 400 litres (100 U.S. gallons) of milk every day. Blue Whale calves gain weight quickly, as much as 90 kilograms (200 lb) every 24 hours. Even at birth, they weigh up to 2,700 kilograms (6,000 lb)—the same as a fully grown hippopotamus.
OK, but what's that got to do with Victoria. The blue whale whose vertebrae are pictured above has been visiting Victoria as part of the Blue Whale Project, which aims eventually to put the entire 26 meter skeleton back together and mount it at the University of British Columbia's Beaty Biodiversity Museum. It's a fascinating project about an extraordinary animal and I must thank fellow Victorian blogger Kathreen who first drew my attention to this project. Visit her blog, Digital Perspectives, to see more excellent photos of this project.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


Victoria, BC, Canada

Earlier this year I posted some photos of the Gonzales Observatory, which is no longer functioning as an astronomical observatory. Recently I visited a working observatory, the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory, sited on the summit of a small mountain overlooking the city. Above is a view of Victoria from the observatory. (Click here to see a view over the city from Mount Douglas, taken in November last year.)Dominion Astrophysical Observatory, Plaskett Observatory, Victoria, BC, Canada

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Glendale Gardens - Mushrooms

Glendale Gardens, Saanich, Victoria, BC, CanadaLast week I spent an afternoon at the Glendale Gardens in Saanich, about a half hour's drive from Victoria. I'm still on holiday so here's another photo from that excursion.

Friday, August 28, 2009

White Rock, BC - From the Pier

White Rock pier, BC, CanadaHere is a photo of the town of White Rock showing how it is perched above the Pacific shore. The photo is taken from the White Rock pier. Photographers are perhaps more aware than most that fully half of our landscape is the sky and its most prominent features are the clouds. Their colors, sizes, shapes and patterns add infinite and ever changing variety to scenes we see every day. I love the clouds in this photo.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

White Rock, BC - The Pier

White Rock pier, BC, CanadaI mentioned yesterday that one of White Rock's features is this long pier, a favored place to stroll on a summer's evening.

For those of you expecting photos of Victoria on this site, this is just a brief interlude with some photos from another part of this province, while I am on holiday.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

White Rock 2

White Rock promenade, pier, BC, CanadaI mentioned in yesterday's post that I like photos that seem to freeze a moment in time and I suspect that's why I like photos with clocks in them. The clock in this photo is on the Beach Promenade overlooking one of White Rock's best known features, its long pier. Those ominous clouds turned into a thunderstorm about an hour later.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Hold That Pose

White Rock, BC, CanadaI like it when a photograph catches a moment where everything seems suspended in time. Every photo does that to some extent but sometimes there seems to be a kind of tension when everyone holds their breath and just exists in a frozen moment. While on a recent trip over to the mainland (that's what we island dwellers call the rest of Canada) I spent a few days in a small beach-side town called White Rock. Above is the first of series of photos I took while visiting there.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Dave Harris on the Causeway

Dave Harris, one man band, Inner Harbour Causeway, Victoria, BC, CanadaOne of the things I'll miss about Victoria when I'm away is the entertainment on the Inner Harbour Causeway. Here's a photo of one of my favorite performers, Victoria's own legendary one-man-band, Dave Harris. Click here to visit Dave's MySpace page.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

On Golden Pond

sailboat, Inner Harbour, Victoria, BC, CanadaOne of the things I love about summer is the long evenings and the golden light that we often get in this part of the world. (We may get it in the winter too but I find the evenings too cold to investigate.) Above photo was taken from Ogden Point, looking across the Inner Harbour towards Esquimalt.

I am going on a short holiday for the next week so I have uploaded a bunch of photos from this summer's archives that should post automatically until I get back.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Glendale Gardens

Glendale Gardens, Saanich, Victoria, BC, CanadaAs can be seen above, the weather was not very inviting when we arrived at the Glendale Garden and Woodland Center but the sun broke through a little later in the afternoon. Sunny or not, this garden is a lovely place to visit. More accurately, these gardens, since there are a number of garden areas that flow into one another up and down a hillside overlooking a small lake. Below is a small sample of what's available. The Japanese Garden alone is well worth a visit. Glendale also offers courses in Gardening and an array of other services. Click here to visit their website.

Glendale Gardens, Saanich, Victoria, BC, Canada

Glendale Gardens, Saanich, Victoria, BC, Canada

Glendale Gardens, Saanich, Victoria, BC, Canada

Glendale Gardens, Saanich, Victoria, BC, Canada

Friday, August 21, 2009

Summer Finery

Bastion Square has wide variety of pubs, bars, restaurants and sidewalk cafes. Here is a shot of Chancery Lane, which leads out of Bastion Square. The tables to the right belong to the Blue Carrot Cafe, a great place to have lunch if you're in the neighbourhood. I've posted a photo of Chancery Lane before but not in its summer finery. Click here to see what it looks like in May.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Victoria Conference Centre

Victoria Conference Centre, Victoria, BC, CanadaJoined to the back of the Fairmont Empress Hotel is the Victoria Conference Centre, part of which is pictured above. I posted an interior shot last year. The conference centre also includes the Crystal Gardens (another Rattenbury creation), which is just across the street to the right in this photo.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Fairmont Empress Hotel

Fairmont Empress Hotel, Victoria, BC, CanadaIt recently occurred to me that though I have often included the Fairmont Empress Hotel in the background to shots of the Inner Harbour, I have not featured it on its own. Like two other landmark buildings that face the Inner Harbour, the Legislative Assembly and the Royal London Wax Museum, this hotel was designed by Francis Rattenbury and opened in 1908. As can be seen, it's an imposing monument of that chateau style of hotel built by the large railway/steamship corporations a hundred years ago. I've called it the Fairmont Empress Hotel in deference to the new owners but to those of us who live here, it will always be just "The Empress."
Fairmont Empress Hotel, Victoria, BC, Canada

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Vancouver Cantonese Opera

Vancouver Cantonese Opera, Victoria, Canada, Dragon Boat FestivalI couldn't finish posting about the Victoria Dragon Boat Festival without at least one shot of what is for me the highlight of the festival, the appearance of the Vancouver Cantonese Opera. Remarkable costumes, splendid performances, and an informed commentary make this a memorable event and I hope and trust they will be back annually.

An additional source of delight for me in many of the performances by other groups was the involvement of children such as these sweet young girls from the VFCA Sampaguita Filipino Dance Group.VFCA Sampaguita Dance Group, Victoria, Canada, Dragon Boat Festival

Monday, August 17, 2009

Dragonboat Races

Dragon Boat Race, Ship Point Pier, Victoria, BC, CanadaWhile wandering around under the pier looking for a good angle to capture the Lights of Courage that are an important part of the Dragon Boat Festival I was alerted by loud cheering that I was missing the climactic race. Actually, it may have been one of those serendipitous moments since this shot I grabbed from the underside of the dock nicely isolates the action.

Below is a post-race photo from where normal spectators sit to view the races.Dragon Boat Festival, Ship Point Pier, Victoria, BC, Canada

Sunday, August 16, 2009


I spent the afternoon at the Dragon Boat Festival and was entertained by performers from the Ocean Rain Chinese Arts Academy (above). They provided a selection of colorful dances from various regions of China. Pictured above is the Director of the Academy performing the Opera Dance. While much of the entertainment at the Dragon Boat Festival relates to Chinese culture, other cultures are also featured. Below is one of the dancers from the AIEWA School of Cultural Dances that specializes in ethnic dances from the Middle East and North Africa. Beauty in motion. My thanks to all members of both troupes for their fascinating performances.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Dragon Boat Festival

Ching Chung Taoist Church, eye-dotting ceremony, Dragon boat festival, Ship Point Pier, Victoria, CanadaThis weekend is the Victoria Dragon Boat Festival and on Friday the opening ceremony was held. Above is the altar on Ship Point Pier overlooking the Inner Harbour where members of the Ching Chung Taoist Church from Vancouver performed the traditional eye-dotting ritual that opens the festival.

It's an ancient rite that precedes every dragon boat festival. To begin, the Goddess of the Sea, the saints, and the immortals are invoked through the priests' chanting. Joss sticks are burned to cleanse and bless the arena of competition and competitors, and to charge the boats and their crews with the strength of a dragon.

The ceremony's climax comes shortly after, with the eye-dotting ceremony: this is when the spirit of the dragon is "awakened." According to Chinese mythology, the dragon sleeps in the mountains and travels to the water once awoken.

To "awaken" the dragon, the priests lead dignitaries down to the water's edge, where the dragon boats await. The guests take brushes in hand, dip them in pots of red cinnabar paint, and then dab the eyes on the "blind" figurehead of each dragon boat.

The boats are then decorated with special red ribbons that signify good fortune, smooth sailing, and blessings for the crew. At the end of the ceremony, the priests nourish and appease other souls who may have been present at the ritual by throwing them coloured beans - representing the five elements and directions. The priests also toss 18 ancient coins.
(From the Dragon Boat Festival website)
Below are the dragon boats that will race on Saturday and Sunday. The Dragon Boat Festival is held annually to raise funds for cancer treatment and research. It gets my vote as the best event of the year. Check their website for race times and the entertainment schedule.Dragon boat festival, Ship Point Pier, Victoria, Canada

Friday, August 14, 2009

Board of Trade Building 1892

The heart of old town Victoria is Bastion Square and I've been neglecting it a bit despite its many interesting and historic buildings. I hope to remedy this over the next few weeks. Here the Board of Trade Building catches the light of the setting sun.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Icon or Eyesore?

Johnson Street Bridge from Mermaid Wharf, Victoria, Canada
Johnson Street Bridge, Victoria, CanadaBefore I leave the Johnson Street Bridge for the pleasures of the Dragon Boat Festival this weekend I thought I might attempt to summarize some of the issues. Briefly, City Council has decided to replace this bridge and has applied for substantial funding from other levels of government. However, there is growing concern that this is not a good decision nor has it been arrived at in consultation with citizens. Issues of concern include:

  • Is there a need to replace the bridge?
    The city's engineering department says the bridge is safe. But it clearly needs a substantial refurbishment. A seismic upgrade seems necessary also. The estimate for repairs/upgrades is around $25 million, though the accuracy of this estimate has been challenged.
  • Is the bridge an important part of Victoria's image? This is very much a matter of opinion but many non-residents consider it to be an unusual and interesting feature of the city. Recently there was a full page photo of the bridge in an international airline in-flight magazine and there are numerous photos of it online. It is an unusual bridge.

  • Johnson Street Bridge, Victoria, Canada
  • Does the bridge have heritage/historical significance?
    Built in 1924 to a design by Joseph Strauss, a noted bridge designer, its heritage status would seem to be beyond question but I will refer you to an article by Architectural Historian Yule Heibel for a thorough discussion of this issue. Insofar as personal history is concerned, there is no doubt the bridge has nostalgic associations for many Victoria residents.
  • If it is to be replaced will its replacement be attractive?
    Even people not particularly in favour of keeping the bridge are concerned that the design of the replacement will be characterless, in a modern overpass style that will add nothing to Victoria's image. If it were well-maintained the present bridge would be much more attractive than in its present dilapidated state. If it were lighted at night it would be striking.
  • Financing
    The estimate for a new bridge is currently set at $63 million vs. $25 million for repair/refurbishment of the old bridge. However, most of the funding for a new bridge is expected to come from other levels of government under current incentive programs, so that the two options (repair/replace) would cost Victoria taxpayers roughly the same. There is some concern that if the external funding were not to materialize the city's residents would be left facing a large debt. There are also people who feel that replacing the bridge is not as important an issue as homelessness, for instance, and that we should be dealing with the city's urgent human social needs before investing more in infrastructure relating to cars.
Johnson Street Bridge, Victoria, BC, CanadaI have probably not done justice to any point of view in the above summary. All these issues and others are discussed in depth on the Johnson Street Bridge Victoria website and on the Vibrant Victoria Forum. Please feel free to correct any errors in the above or comment with your opinions and additional information.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

First Church of Christ Scientist

First Church of Christ Scientist on Pandora Street, Victoria, BC, CanadaMany of Victoria's most interesting buildings are churches and this striking building poised in a commanding location at the top of Pandora Avenue is no exception. One day I'll stop and see what the inside is like. I've not been able to find out any historical information on this church (yet!) but HERE is a link to their website.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Halfway to China

Willows Beach, Oak Bay, Victoria BC, CanadaAfter the mini-heat wave of late July our weather has turned cool, even cold some days. But whenever the sun breaks through the clouds, Willows Beach is still the scene of those timeless summertime activities.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Johnson Street Bridge Graffiti

Graffiti on Johnson Street Bridge, Victoria, BC CanadaThere's lots to read on the Johnson Street Bridge but the above note pasted onto a girder particularly appealed to my warped sense of humour. It raises tagging to a new level.
What's not so funny is that Victoria's landmark Johnson Street Bridge is slated for demolition. If you have an opinion about this or want to find out more, visit the Johnson Street Bridge Victoria BC website.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Johnson Street Bridge from Ship Point

Johnson Street Bridge from Ship Point Pier, Victoria, BC, CanadaFrom Ship Point Pier where this photo was taken, Victoria Harbour stretches away in two directions: to the left, past the green Laurel Point towards the harbour exit and Esquimalt and to the right inland to the Upper Harbour and the Gorge. The reason I like this photo is that it clearly shows the Johnson Street Bridge (far right, with one span pointed skyward) as a significant feature of the landscape. The large building centre right is the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe Resort and Spa. To the left of the Delta Victoria are condominiums on Songhees Point.
Check out the Johnson Street Bridge Victoria BC website for news and views on the fate of the "Blue Bridge."

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Johnson Street Bridge Responds to Imminent Demise

The message below, "...your government sucks", may actually have been exuded by the girders themselves as the Johnson Street Bridge's response to City Council's unilateral decision to scrap it.Graffiti on Johnson Street Bridge, Victoria, BC, CanadaCheck out the Johnson Street Bridge Victoria BC website for news and views on the fate of the "Blue Bridge."

Friday, August 7, 2009

Johnson Street Bridge 2

As the controversy over this bridge heats up and I spend more time photographing it I find I begin to like it more and more. I mentioned yesterday that the bridge is a lift bridge (it opens up to let tall ships into and out of the upper harbour) and these huge chunks of concrete act as counterweights to lift the center section of the bridge. I read somewhere that the balance is so nearly equal that the bridge is lifted by a 75 horsepower motor. It seems amazing to move this much concrete and steel with such a small motor. In this photo we are looking down the rail and pedestrian side of the bridge. Not visible beyond the cement divider on the left are the lanes for cars.

Click through to Johnson Street Bridge Victoria BC website to get the latest updates on bridge issues and to voice your opinions and ideas.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Johnson Street Bridge

Painted rivet head on Johnson Street Bridge, Victoria, BC, Canada

I had an old bridge
And its name was Blue
Betcha five dollars
Its a good one too....

I mentioned in an earlier post that plans are afoot to replace Victoria's Johnson Street Bridge, also called "The Blue Bridge". This is fast becoming a contentious local issue since the bridge is thought by many to be a valuable heritage artifact. It's a bascule type of lift bridge designed by Joseph Strauss, who also designed San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. There are numerous other issues involved including some doubt as to whether the bridge needs to be replaced or can be repaired. If you live in Victoria you should be interested since you are going to be paying for whatever is finally decided and it's a big ticket item. Some concerned citizens have set up a website, Johnson Street Bridge Victoria BC, to gather opinions and information. It's a good place to find out more, voice your opinion and get involved.

(The photo above is a heavily painted rivet head on one of the Johnson Street Bridge girders.)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Symphony Splash, Inner Harbour, Victoria, BC, CanadaHere's a confession: I don't like crowds. I like most individuals I meet but put 40,000 of them in a small space with me and I start looking for a way out. Some people are energized by crowds. I just get debilitated and exhausted. Clearly the people in the above photo don't feel that way. They've all assembled on the grounds of the Legislative Assembly Buildings, the Empress Hotel and the Inner Harbour Causeway to listen to the Victoria Symphony Orchestra hold its annual Symphony Splash concert. The orchestra plays on a stage erected on a barge that floats in the harbour just off camera to the right. This was only one of many special events held over the long weekend to mark the BC Day holiday on Monday. Before getting entangled in the above crowd I attended another musical event in Victoria's Centennial Square, the Victoria Electronic Music Festival, definitely a different slice of the musical pie. Another Victoria blogger, Davin Greenwell, has posted a bunch of good photos of this event, at which he was a participant as well as an observer. Visit his blog to get a good feel for the flavour of the VEMF. Below are a couple of shots I took at the VEMF, with some experimental processing....Victoria Electronic Music Festival, Centennial Square, Victoria, BC, CanadaVictoria Electronic Music Festival, Centennial Square, Victoria, BC, Canada

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


Couples on Ogden Point Breakwater, Victoria, BC, CanadaThis is one of those photos that I'm going to invite YOU to decide what it's all about.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Emily Carr House

Emily Carr House, Victoria, BC, Canada

Emily Carr, one of Canada's most famous artists and authors, was born and spent most of her life in Victoria. Pictured above is the house where she was born in 1871, when Victoria was a very young settlement. I have blogged about this house before but last time I visited there it was closed and I was unable to see inside. To the right is one of several rooms downstairs that have been restored and refurnished as much like the original as possible. The curators and their family live in the upstairs portion of the house. They are very helpful and pleasant and make a visit to the house a pleasure. There is a wealth of information about Emily Carr at the house and on the Emily Carr House website and both are well worth a visit.Room in Emily Carr House, Victoria, BC, Canada

Today is BC Day and I take this opportunity to wish my fellow British Columbians a good day.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Karen Hough

Karen Hough, French horn player, Victoria, BC, CanadaI am constantly amazed by the variety of street entertainment on display here during the summer months. I've listened with pleasure to instruments I've never heard before such as the didgeridoo and the dulcimer. Above, however, is an instrument most of us are familiar with though it is seldom played in the streets, the French horn. Wikipedia has a good article on this instrument and informs me that the International Horn Society prefers to call it simply a "horn" rather than "French horn." Whatever it's called, one cannot mistake its mellow tones and when Karen Hough plays, all the traffic noises and busy-ness of the downtown evening fade into the background. If you're lucky enough to catch Karen playing, take advantage of the opportunity to listen to a fine performer on an instrument we rarely hear solo. Karen also plays in the Ensemble Pacifica and in the Vancouver Island Symphony Orchestra.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Calm Harbour

Inner Harbour at night with Legislative Assembly Buildings, Victoria, BC, CanadaVictoria has the warmest climate in Canada. That doesn't mean it's particularly warm. It's only warm compared to the rest of Canada, a notoriously cold country. We seldom have warm nights since most of the city is close to the water and the Pacific Ocean is cold and tends to deliver a cold breeze most evenings, even in mid-summer. This July, however, we have had a few genuinely warm evenings, even close to the shore and some nights, such as pictured here, there has been only the merest breath of a breeze. Though most Victorians are groaning about the excessive heat, I love it since it means I can roam about at night and take photos like this without feeling like a martyr.