the Degree Confluence Project

Canada : British Columbia

27.7 km (17.2 miles) N of Earls Cove, BC, Canada
Approx. altitude: 37 m (121 ft)
([?] maps: Google MapQuest OpenStreetMap topo topo250 ConfluenceNavigator)
Antipode: 50°S 56°E

Accuracy: 32 m (104 ft)
Quality: good

Click on any of the images for the full-sized picture.

#2: the marina we left from. #3: mark and his boat, mooring at the confluence area. #4: one of the many waterfalls buried deep behind the trees. #5: the surrounding area, taken from a clearing about 30 meters from the confluence. #6: the GPS.

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  50°N 124°W  

#1: the confluence, taken from the boat.

(visited by Steve Simitzis)

03-Aug-2001 -- the narrative i've included below comes directly from a letter i wrote to a friend that week. i've included notes where it helps the story along. i brought two cameras with me, one digital and one film - both were soaked from the ambient wetness of the confluence area. note that while the confluence sits on land, the only way to get there is by water.

... next stop: 50N 124W.

even the gas station attendants are friendly. i ask them for directions and they're curious about where i'm going and what i'm doing. small town folks want to know everything about outsiders. i am vague but nice about it. there are only so many times in one day i can muster up the energy to exclaim the spiritual implications of an online database that samples and unifies all global points through photographs and words. so i reinvent myself as a ficticious photographer. simply saying "i'm a photographer" is enough for most anyone who asks.

i head north on hwy 101. it's much like our 101 through mendocino county except that the twisty highway is surrounded by pine trees rather than redwoods, and runs much closer to the ocean. fog and mist floats apart, revealing bits of water inlets and island views. i feel like i'm watching a nature peep show. everything surrounding me is so beautiful that it's erotic.

i arrive at the next ferry terminal north. if i remember right, this is the saltery cove ferry that connects the sunshine coast to the powell river area. there must be a marina nearby, i reason. i ask around. the BC ferries operator tells me to drive east 6 miles into egmont and i can hire a water taxi from there.

egmont is barely even a town. egmont consists of a handful of cabins, the marina, and the backeddy pub. and egmont is also my gateway to the confluence - it's the last point on the map i can drive to. as it turns out, it's impossible to drive to the confluence, even though it's on land. the rainforest is too thick and no logging roads exist anywhere nearby. so i flip on my GPS and load up the cameras (film for the analogue, batteries for the digital). my gut tells me that everything begins here.

the bar in the backeddy pub is everything you'd expect in a small town bar. it's rustic and quaint. a few townies are playing pool. everyone turns their heads as i walk up to the bar. i feel like i'm in a movie.

i ask, "where can i hire a water taxi around here?" the bartender tells me i should walk downstairs to the office and ask the woman there.

the office is more like a general store. the woman is completely confused by everything, especially the phone that keeps ringing. "everyone always has something - never get a moment of peace around here - where the heck - oh great - i can't find anything here - yes can i help you."

i explain my story: "i'm a photographer." it's 3pm now, and i want to hire a boat to take me up jervis inlet up to the mouth of britain river (about 25km up the channel) so i can take some pictures, then come right back. the last ferry leaves langdale for vancouver at 8:20pm and i need to make it back in time. i explain all this and she calls for the water taxi.

the water taxi service is really just some guy named mark who owns a boat. his wife, linda, does all the scheduling and dispatch on their cordless phone. the desk woman ("darlene, dar for short, but NEVER charlene") says he can show up at 4:30pm. (i overhear her say "does it help that he's this cute blonde guy?") 4:30pm: 2 hours there and back, a few minutes to shoot pictures. no problem. plenty of time to make the last ferry into vancouver; i could still make olympia later tonight. mark shows up a half hour late. 5pm now. i can still make it, though secretly my intuition tells me i won't.

i introduce myself to mark and climb into his boat. i tell him all about the project, and his curiosity is piqued. we open up to each other a bit. mark is a good sailor. he has all the right gear and charts, but mostly he uses his instinct. i can't decide if he's a virgo or a scorpio. for that matter, he starts to remind me of dan [my mother's boyfriend] - a scorpio with lots of virgo in his chart. they have the same manner at sea, the same style of dress, the same mysterious approach to everything, the same fingers and hands.

conversation is heavy from the get-go, as we talk about the thin boundary between life and death. at this point i realize that i've put my life completely into the hands of this unknown sailor. his gaze turns deep and i begin to wonder about his fantasy world. for all i know, he could be crazy and i could be an easy target. so i lighten up conversation; i ask if he's married, if he has kids, etc etc. small talk. small talk to shift conversation away from death and transformation, back towards the lighter things.

i start to clue into the fact that he also doesn't know what to make of me, but he's equally intrigued. he tells me all about the old caves, where the ancient native tribes would paint murals after the hunt. he's explored many of the secret caves along the shore and recites all the details to back it up. i still can't decided between virgo or scorpio.

we arrive at the shore of the confluence point. he hitches the boat to the rocks so he can hike up with me. this reassures my paranoid side, which had been busy at work crafting delusions of him sailing off without me. after a quick scan, we decide that the confluence point is "up in the bush". up in the bush is canadian for "you have to dig through thick trees and vines and rocks and mud". oh and also, up a steep incline, over the rocks, up past the ridge. he says "are you ready to be a mountain goat?" how did he know i was a capricorn. of course i'm ready.

my camera gear is strapped on. we dig our way up the side of the hill, grabbing branches and rocks and trees and vines, pulling our way up, sliding around, slipping, stopping to rest in clearings. the GPS signal goes in and out. we climb through waterfalls. we are both completely drenched and laughing and exploring. this is somewhere between male bonding and vietnam.

an hour and a half of this, and we're finally near the confluence. we switch to his GPS because mine isn't calibrated for british columbia. now we're about 100 meters away, and he goes back to redock the boat closer to where i'm at. he's a much more experienced hiker than i am. i am, without a doubt, from the city.

we get as close to the point as satellite reception will allow [49 degrees 59 minutes 59.1 seconds north]. the view is amazing. i can't even describe the feeling of being up there, high up above the water, after the grand search for arbitrary coordinates. i take photographs. my cameras are waterlogged but still working. though i am unsure of the focus.

i'm about to take another photo of the GPS, when suddenly mark hears things. bears. breaking twigs and bear groaning sounds. he yells at the bears then tells me "let's go right now" with a look of life or death in his eyes. without questioning why, i join him in the fight-or-flight, running through the recently impassable vines and slippery rocks, trying not to fall, trying not to become food. we finally reach a clearing and stop running. he points out a large pile of bear shit as proof that they've been nearby. we climb back down to the boat, breathless, still marveling over the adventure and the success of the adventure. i flip through the digital photos and breathe deeply. there are high-fives and water bottles.

lesson learned: trust your guides. always trust your guides.

we head back and get to know each other more. he tells me about his strong connection to egypt; how he someday wants to leave canada to see the pyramids, how he wants to live on a sailboat and sail around the world. i tell him a few of my stories in exchange.

it's 8pm. the ferry is an hour and a half drive away. i'm stuck on the sunshine coast tonight, like it or not. i secretly like it. the thought of being trapped in this small town with no way to get back feels exciting. mark offers to let me stay at his cabin with him and his wife. i agree to it, knowing full well that everything only gets more bizarre from here.

we're at the backeddy pub and things are rocking. busy night tonight, busier than usual. the fishermen, sailors, and tug boat crew swarm around the pool tables. tourists and a few locals sit at the tables. i sit at the bar. mark sits a few stools down. just about everyone else at the bar works at the pub or at the marina. dar is here too. the guy sitting next to me doesn't move or talk, except to sip on his beer. iris, the owner, is slammed tonight. she's the only person working so she's manic. i wait patiently and eventually a menu drops in front of me. lucky for me, the universe is on my side tonight. somehow, someone had the forsight to include boca burgers as a bar food choice. [note: i'm vegetarian]

iris calls me "honey" and "sweetie" as she takes my order and delivers me beer - a dream come true. i settle into my food and just listen for all the local gossip, sometimes adding my two cents. dar complains about the store, how they should never have hired that 16 year old. "i drink more this year than i did last year." i hear about rick, the local crossdresser, who everyone calls cupcake. i hear about competition between water taxis. i hear about the creepy vietnamese tourist that rammed his tongue in dar's ear. i hear just about every bit of dirt this small town can dig up.

i'm the stranger in town so the folks at the bar engage me in conversation. we start off light, talking about the differences between living in the country and living in the city ("i'll walk through the ghetto anytime of night, but bears? no way."). then i hear all about how everyone smokes pot and grows to make extra cash for the winter. everyone at the bar understands the inner workings of hydroponic technology and how to wire your home so all the energy consumption on your electric bill doesn't raise attention. we talk about medical marijuana and the differences between US and canadian law. i use the phrase "police state" and the bar nods knowingly. linda shows up and joins in the conversation. i suddenly become the center of attention. women in their 40s are flirting with me, shamelessly, at a bar in the middle of canada.

i move over where linda is sitting so we can hear each other. the conversation quickly moves to astrology and metaphysics. linda is 48, an aquarius, and married to mark, the virgo with venus in scorpio (aha! mystery solved). they both have moon in taurus. as an aquarian, all she wants to talk about are astrology, computers, the internet, and grand visionary ideas. i'm all for it. this is the conversation i never expected to have tonight. i drink three beers and gab away with linda until midnight. we talk about relationships, past and present, and the balance of male and female energies in everyone.

we also catalogue our views of music, physics, and psychic experiences, while swapping names of authors and book titles. some overlap, some conflicts. all in all, good solid aquarian rambling. she asks me why i think we're here (we = the human race). i tell her my soundbites, rooted somewhere between my spirtual and scientific beliefs.

"this is what i think it is. and i'm telling you this because i know it's true. we are here because we are a gene splicing experiment, put on earth by aliens," she explains to me, with full conviction and authority. she tells me all about the wingmakers , a group that's supposedly at the center of this conspiracy theory involving aliens, the NSA, and a cdrom encoded with all the answers. the cdrom was found in a cave, and was delivered to us from the future. i decide to believe every word. i mean, why not? what else am i going to do tonight.

i follow linda and mark back to their cabin. on the way home, they pick up their 8 year old daughter named breezy. we pull into their "driveway". the driveway is really a quarter mile long dirt road through the trees. i wish for four wheel drive: the dirt road is full of hazards and deep puddles.

the cabin is very rustic and very remote. once we park at the end of the driveway, the next step is to walk a couple hundred yards down the hill. it's dark and the hill is steep. the staircase to the house is really a series of rocks, tree trunks, pieces of ladder, and the occasional rope to help you climb down. we are greeted halfway down the stairs by their pet wolf named seth.

seth is huge. seth is like a person in a dog suit. he has giant ears and sad eyes. once at the house, i am greeted by their pet goose and grey kitty named sandles. the kitty and i bond instantly. the goose nips at my pants. their cabin is as rustic as it gets; there's even an outhouse. the indoors are really the outdoors with some wood overhead. i make tea and we all continue various threads of earlier conversations. i chat about sailing with the virgo and conspiracy theories with the aquarius. breezy demands to watch "gremlins" even though it's past her bedtime.

at this point, i realize that mark and linda interact with me and with each other in exactly the same way as dan and my mom. (and notice that their astrological makeup is very similar - he: virgo/scorpio. she: aquarius.) it's like i was karmically drawn to the random sailor and his eccentric wife just so i could stay overnight and relive scenes from my childhood.

i brush my teeth and find the spare bed in the laundry room. i fall asleep reading printouts of alien invasion theories she pulled from the bookshelf.

i wake up. linda makes coffee. mark shows me his 35 foot sailboat (sleeps 4, with kitchen and bathroom) that he wants to sell so he buy something bigger to live in. they try to convince me to stay just one more day (just one more day!) - it seems that i make friends very quickly. i swap email addresses with my newfound backcountry friends. i sip coffee while linda tells me all about wolf psychology, and why they make such good pets.

finally i get myself ready to leave for the ferry. i say several goodbyes and thank-yous for the place to stay. 8 hours later, i'm in olympia.

 All pictures
#1: the confluence, taken from the boat.
#2: the marina we left from.
#3: mark and his boat, mooring at the confluence area.
#4: one of the many waterfalls buried deep behind the trees.
#5: the surrounding area, taken from a clearing about 30 meters from the confluence.
#6: the GPS.
ALL: All pictures on one page
On land, about 40 m from the coastline of Jervis Inlet.