A Treasure Hunter's Story:
A First Nations Fishing Weight

By Carrie Kurk

My friends call me Treasure hunter.  Underwater, my eye has a talent catching straight lines, odd colours and unusual shapes.  I'm ok with this, bringing up new dive lights, scuba knifes, old bottles and retro dive gear makes me a really happy girl.  When I go wreck diving, I descend to the sand below  the dive boat  to find a treasure trove of lost scuba gear  that has fallen off when they jump into the water.    I have found a few nice  LED lights this way, and the joy when I find it, is a really great feeling.  Dive operators take advantage of my finders skills to find their previous customers lost dive gear and have been rewarded with beers. 

 

Small First Nations Fishing WeightSometimes I'm really lucky and pick up things that look unusual and I later find out they are a piece of history.  When I first started diving almost ten years ago, (boy time flies) I was diving Chrome Island with Hornby Island Lodge when underwater I came across some flat round rocks that had perfect holes in the middle of them.  These look weird I thought, how did they get these holes right in the middle of them? I brought one up and asked Amanda about the rock I brought up.  She told me the holes were made by "Gribbles". What the heck? gribbles?  There's a creature that makes holes in rocks? I think she was messing with me. I did some research and found out that there is such a thing as Gribbles, they are a marine isopod from the family Limnoriidae (for anyone who wants to learn more). They bore into wood, seaweeds and sea grasses for food, but not rocks Amanda.... haha.

 

 Hornby Island' s geological history dates back 350 years with beautiful sandstone that has been carved out by the ocean.  When walking along the shore and diving underwater you can see these beautiful shapes and overhangs.  Could they just be sandstone rocks with lucky holes in them?

 

My husband Ab knew what they were, he said they were first nations fishing weights.  Hornby Island has a rich history with the first inhabitants being the Pentlatch band of the Coast Salish. They fished and hunted some 5000 years ago on Hornby Island. Shingle Spit, on the eastern shore, was the site of the Pentlatch's seasonal villages. They would visit seasonally to fish, dig for clams and roots and pick berries.  Truthfully I didn't believe him and kept the special rock in the dive shrine we had.  A year or so later we were visiting the Royal BC Museum in Victoria when Ab said "come over here I want to show you something".  We went into the First Nations Exhibit on the first floor and he brought me to a glass case filled with identical copies of my special rock. It was a first nations fishing weight!   My rock suddenly became an archaeological find! 

 

Carrie Kurk Holding A Large First Nations Fishing Weight Almost eight years later in June we were diving Dinner plate on Hornby Island, one of our most favourite dives. It's a shallow wall dive covered in life due to high currents during tide changes. There are beautiful overhangs that almost feel like you are exploring caves.  We were in a strong current along the wall having fun pretending we were driving a car, being a plane,  you know the silly stuff you do when you have no choice.  Cue the dramatic music, duh dun dun, when my eye picked up the sight of a huge oval shaped rock on the bottom of the sand next to the wall with a perfect hole in the top of it.  As I swept by, I grabbed the rock and placed it in my goodie bag, adjusting my buoyancy so I wouldn't drag  along the bottom. I was so happy I had found a piece of history. Underwater I heard the voice of Indiana Jones "this belongs in a museum!".

 

Close Up Of First Nations Fishing WeightOn the Skiff Rob explained that indeed it was a first nations fishing weight. He said that if I contacted the UBC museum, they may make a copy of the object and I would get to keep the original.  If they needed the original for any reason, they would contact me.  As soon as I got back to Vancouver I contacted the museum of Anthropology, and the desk clerk gave me three contact emails of people that may help me who worked at the museum. I eagerly awaited a reply. A few days later I received an email from a gentleman who  basically reminded me that it was against the law to remove archaeological artifacts. He stated that next time I must document the location of the object  and contact the right authorities to where it is.  I was really disappointed. I guess I was hoping they would say "come on over" and I could be proud that something I found as an explorer ended up in a museum.  That didn't happen.  Now, I totally understand the reasoning, but i think that stone probably would of stayed in that location in the ocean  forever lost, and me bringing it up gave it a chance to share its story with the rest of the world.  I just need to figure out what to do next. The stone now sits in a place of respect on our fireplace mantel. For now.