Saturday, August 9, 2008

Grey day, bright colours.

Today, a change in the weather: heavy, grey skies and showers. We decided to go into Vancouver and – believe it or not – go for a ride on the Skytrain, which is a small, light rail transit system that links Vancouver with some of its suburbs. Neither child had been on it before, though both watch it with fascination bordering on awe as it scoots by on overpasses. As a commuter you learn to loathe it for its grubbiness and other insufficiencies. Nevertheless, genius! For the kids as much fun as Play Land and at only a fraction the cost! We drove to Waterfront, deepest darkest downtown, where the cruise ships land, and parked in an underground lot. Then we boarded the Surrey train, which heads east and south of Vancouver, crossing the Fraser River, but transferred in New Westminster to stay north of the river and loop back to Vancouver farther north, through Burnaby. In the second train the kids got to sit in the front window and pretend to drive. (Skytrains usually have no human driver. They are directed by computers and magic.) This has been a preamble to explain how I managed to take the following pictures:

A Fraser River Island, taken from Skytrain window, New Westminster, BC. Click to see the purple.

Through downtown New Westminster, the Skytrain is actually a Subterraneantrain. Once it leaves downtown and goes topside again you get a view of the Fraser River, about 15 miles from the river’s mouth. There are bridges to see – Skytain Bridge to Surrey, Patullo Bridge, railway swingbridge, and up ahead the Port Mann Bridge – barges, dredges and log booms, but what caught my biologist’s eye was the Christo and Jeanne-Claude-like blanket of magenta surrounding two small islands.

A Fraser River Island, taken from Skytrain window, New Westminster, BC. Port Mann Bridge in the background.

These islands are young, dynamic, low-lying, silty affairs, covered with airborne colonizers (notably, black cottonwood), bird-poop-borne colonizers (notably, Himalayan blackberry), and waterborne colonizers, (notably, and prettily, purple loosestrife). The first is native, and becomes a very impressive tree, the favourite nesting platform of Bald Eagles in the Lower Mainland. The other two are Old Worlders, well-known as invasive species in these parts. Ecology aside, the magenta was a colourful contrast to the predominant grey of the day.

North Vancouver, from Canada Place.

Back at Waterfront in Vancouver, we walked around Canada Place to show the children the docked cruise ships (which at this time of year run up to Alaska and back). Those vessels are honestly too big to photograph from so close. So I pointed my camera across the Burrard Inlet to North Vancouver, to the mysterious sulfur piles, as yellow as yellow can be, much yellower than the yellow float plane in the foreground. The sulfur piles were --like the purple loosestrife -- out of place, but provided a welcome splash of colour on a gloomy day.


Wanderin' Weeta said...

MY son told me about that purple island last year, but when I was over there on the SkyTrain, later, I didn't see it, and only half-way believed him. I thought it must have been a trick of the light.

But, he was right; it is purple! Thanks for posting the photos.

Laura said...

Yup, computers and magic for sure!

My daughter loves the skytrain as well. I dont think you start to loathe it untill you have to comute on it daily! But the veiws, oh they are stunning. They are talking about bringing it out my way (Coquitlam Centre) which would be lovely. As it stands it takes 45 minutes on the bus for us to even get to the skytrain....Hmmmm, maybe thats why Im so grumpy by the time I get there.

Beautiful photo's, especially of the purple island :)