Skip to content

Light touch gives up Coast secrets

Halfmoon Bay author Andrew Scott has a light touch with the facts.

Halfmoon Bay author Andrew Scott has a light touch with the facts.

In his latest book, Secret Coastline II: More Journeys and Discoveries Along BC's Shores, about to be launched at the Sunshine Coast Arts Centre in Sechelt, he blends a wealth of information about the natural history, geography and people of the B.C. Coast into bite-sized articles, suitable for a quick read.

Though the 24 articles and essays are crammed with interesting details - everything from the complex vocalizations of the mating whale to the social phenomenon of a communal oyster fest on Cortes Island - they never overwhelm the reader but reveal that Scott employs a writer's true power, that of being a good observer.

"Secret Coastline is a mixture of natural history and travel," says the amateur naturalist and historian.

It's not a guide but an inspiration and reference for other travellers who want to explore some of B.C.'s lesser-known islands and inlets. The book is strongest in its natural history presentation: grizzlies and salmon, blue grouse and Garry oaks. Even the humble mosses that cover our Coast are given their 15 minutes of fame. In fact, an article about moss opens the book; it's a curious choice for a lead item given that it's not as dynamic as other themes: bears, wolves and whales. From the point of view of Coast residents, this book is fascinating in that it talks of local people and places we all know. Have you ever been curious about those little islands that can be seen from Gospel Rock or wondered who lives on dark Anvil Island as you sail past on the ferry? Scott also spends time on Savary Island and the Thormanby Islands recounting their colourful histories. He explores the extent of Sakinaw Lake and he paddles up Sechelt Inlet to see the sites of former back-to-the-land communes. It feels very close to home. The book is based on Scott's ongoing columns in the Georgia Straight, but he hastens to tell us in the preface that each of the articles has been expanded and updated from its original submission. An underlying theme of the book is ecotourism. Can the environment afford to have boatloads of visitors trampling these secret places? Scott is a seasoned professional in the magazine industry after serving for many years as editor for Western Living and the Globe and Mail's city magazine network. His last book, Painter, Paddler: The Art and Adventures of Stewart Marshall, was nominated for a 2004 B.C. Book Prize, and he is best remembered for the companion volume to this latest one, Secret Coastline, published in 2000, a bestseller in B.C.

Scott speculates that the book was popular because the many first person kayaking narratives could be enjoyed by the armchair traveller who might not want to risk such an expedition. Scott feels that most people have the ability for these wilderness trips. He's still enjoying them himself and, as he points out, "I'm a 57 year old and I'm no athlete." Secret Coastline has one page of maps. It's better than nothing, but a book of this type that darts about the province's coastal communities really needs more and better maps for the reader. The many good photographs, a skill Scott has been developing over the years, help immensely.

Publisher Whitecap Books will be hosting this première book launch at the Arts Centre from 7 to 9 p.m. on Thursday, June 2. Admission is free and refreshments will be served. Scott intends to read from his work, show a few slides and mingle with the many Coast people who are mentioned in the pages of this book.