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Ocean debris believed to be from Japan is posed for a photograph on Long Beach in Tofino, B.C., April, 18, 2012. (JONATHAN HAYWARD/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Ocean debris believed to be from Japan is posed for a photograph on Long Beach in Tofino, B.C., April, 18, 2012. (JONATHAN HAYWARD/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

2012 in review

The year that was in British Columbia Add to ...

The rowboat trip around the island was an adventure Mr. Kreek, a former Olympic gold-medal winner, had pursued to test his levels of endurance and to help raise awareness about the health of the world’s oceans. That journey, which was largely sponsored by the Canadian Wildlife Federation, saw the crew travelling 1,200 kilometres, rowing in shifts, 24 hours a day.

But now Mr. Kreek (who lives in Victoria), Markus Pukonen (of Tofino), and Jordan Hanssen and Pat Fleming (both of Seattle) are preparing to launch an ever bigger expedition: across the Atlantic.

The crew arrived in Dakar, Senegal, in early December, where they are preparing to launch for a row to Miami. The 6,700-kilometre voyage is expected to take 60 to 100 days.

Mr. Kreek and his friends are taking on the challenge not just to test their own physical and mental strength, but with the hopes that they can inspire others to experience new adventures of their own.

Mr. Kreek, who works as an inspirational speaker and conducts leadership workshops, said one key to the success of the Vancouver Island expedition was that the crew settled into a routine, and worked at communicating, so no frustrations built up.

“It’s a very regimented daily schedule,” he said of long-distance rowing. “So it becomes very rhythmical, meditative, reflective and comfortable.”

The team hasn’t posted a starting date on its website, but says they hoped to get away in late December, which would put them back on land, on the other side of the Atlantic, in early March.

Kits Coast Guard closing

The protests may have gone quiet, but leading B.C. politicians are not giving up on their bid to keep the Kitsilano Coast Guard base open.

“For the safety of British Columbians, the Kitsilano station must remain open,” B.C. Justice Minister Shirley Bond, who is handling the file for the provincial government, said in a statement.

The controversy began in May when the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans announced it was closing the station as well as three other B.C. Coast Guard communications centres due to budget cuts. Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield said mariners would remain safe due to various measures including a new inshore rescue boat station and a new hovercraft station at Sea Island in Richmond.

The federal department said this week that they remain committed to the policy

But critics argued the hovercraft is too far away to provide the rescue services of the station, which handles about 300 calls a year, and as 2012 comes to a close, they made clear they will fight Ottawa on the issue well into 2013.

“While the federal government has not committed to re-evaluating its plan to close the unit, we remain hopeful,” Ms. Bond said. “Our government remains firm in the view that while budget challenges exist for all levels of government and tough decisions are required, public safety must remain the paramount consideration.”

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson is also planning to keep up the pressure, noting that the city’s police and fire chiefs say “without question” that lives will be at risk if the station is closed: “I will continue to make the case to members of the federal government that the small amount of money they save in their budget is not worth the huge risk to people’s lives.”

An undead public service announcement

In May, the B.C. government’s emergency information team, using Twitter, began sending out a series of urgent messages about an undead apocalypse. They urged residents to keep at least half a tank of gas in their vehicle, plan an evacuation route, and keep an emergency kit with first-aid supplies – even though you’re a goner if a zombie bites you.

Justice Minister Shirley Bond signed off on the Zombie Awareness Week campaign, with some hesitation. It took three meetings to persuade her that the unusual media campaign would reach a segment of the population that tends to tune out public service announcements.

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