British Columbia’s Volcanic Plateau
by Chris Harris & Harold Rhenisch
Book design: Bill Horne
In the high country of British Columbia’s Central Plateau lies the Motherstone. It is a land that few people have walked over or seen before. It includes a chain of shield volcanoes formed over a mantle hot spot rising from a depth of 2,900 kilometers, a sea of crystallized basalts stretching 300 kilometers from Anahim Peak to the Painted Chasm, a river of obsidian, underwater volcanoes sitting high up above the world’s only inland temperate rainforest, and a field of cinder cones still rising from among the trees they burned through when they were formed.
This book will undoubtedly become one of the most important natural history books published to date in British Columbia. It was researched and written by the award winning BC author Harold Rhenisch; verified by the scientific consultant, Dr. Mary Lou Bevier, of UBC; and photographed by the distinguished Canadian photographer and publisher, Chris Harris. This book is inspirational, highly informative, and stunningly beautiful. It provides us all with a deeper understanding of our Planet and the realization of how privileged we are to live in a province of such ecological richness.
Book Review by Sage Birchwater
Award-winning photographer, Chris Harris, and acclaimed writer, Harold Rhenisch, have teamed up to produce yet another stunning coffee table book portraying the majesty and poetry of the Cariboo Chilcotin. The long-awaited Motherstone: British Columbia’s Volcanic Plateau will be launched October 16, 2010 at a gala reception starting at 7:30 p.m. at Exeter Lodge in 100 Mile House.
Two years ago Harris and Rhenisch set the bar high when their first collaboration, Spirit in the Grass: The Cariboo Chilcotin’s Forgotten Landscape, was nominated for two BC Book Prizes categories. Harris says the quality of Motherstone surpasses that effort.
Both Harris and Rhenisch have the gift to inspire. They are each adept at pulling back the veil of everyday perception to reveal the essence of what makes our region unique.
Over the past twenty years, Harris has gone to great lengths to record profound images of the Cariboo Chilcotin landscape. He causes you to take a second or maybe a third look at the scenes you might pass by every day, and view them differently. That’s the gift of the artist. He also takes you to rare places few people get a chance to visit. Rhenisch with his pen, takes you on a poetic journey. Even when he’s writing prose. His creative genius helps you see with different eyes.
In Motherstone, both the writer and photographer invite you to join them on an expedition into time; to peek into the beginning, and wonder how the landform we call British Columbia, and specifically the Cariboo Chilcotin, was formed.
Rhenisch uses the scientific expertise of university professor Dr. Mary Lou Bevier to augment his gut-felt romantic impression of the region that embraces the mythological thinking of telling the story of being in a place. “It’s an interesting balance, the scientific and mythological,” Rhenisch says. “We had to have the science right, but at the same time it’s not a scientific book. We had to tell the story of being there. Science couldn’t do that.” When Chris began the actual work of photographing for Motherstone, he wasn’t sure what the project was going to look like. “All my books are total exploration,” he says. “I’ve learned to trust the process. Doors start to open. I just like being out there hiking, physical and free, exploring with the camera.”
Chris decided he wanted to walk the ground he intended to photograph rather than travel by horseback. “I’m a mountain person,” Harris explains. “Mountains turn me on. I’ve ridden through these mountain ranges before, but this time I walked through every inch of it. When you walk you feel like you’re touching the earth. You feel the energy coming up through the earth. Responding to that, creates imagery that really speaks to you.” Hiking from their wilderness base camp, Harris returned to the crater lake that inspired the project years earlier, and noted only slight changes to the landscape caused by gravity and erosion over a fifteen-year span. “Everything is moving,” Harris says. “I call them galleries. Freezing and thawing, rivers of rock moving towards the ocean. It’s as if the gallery is being hung every day. These masterpieces of totally undisturbed, patterned ground sorted by weight and colour, are six or seven million years in the making.”
Motherstone covers a vast region of volcanic activity from the edge of the Chilcotin Plateau where it buttresses up against the Coast Mountains in the west, to the North Thompson River basaltic columns in the east. Over a two year period Harris photographed hundreds of magnificent images across the region, then he handed the project over to Rhenisch. It was Rhenisch who came up with the term “motherstone” used for the title of the book. Going back three billion years, Rhenisch says British Columbia was formed by the drifting of continental plates. Chains of volcanoes formed along stress lines in the western Pacific, drifted east, and smashed into North America. “Very little research has been done on this region,” he says. “I spent three months researching to find out what the story was. Everything we have in British Columbia is caused by continental plate movement. Rock is a record of a dance that happens in time.”
Rhenisch says he spent a lot of time to find a way to tell this story. “It’s really the story of going out to the mountains and walking. We wanted the book to be the art of the mountains, where the mountains are creating the art. The earth is an expression of itself where you can walk across ground no one has ever walked on before. The earth is seeing itself for the first time through your eyes.” He says through the images in Motherstone you can look back to the beginning of time. “In fact you are standing in the middle. You’re part of it.”
Harris says the ultimate goal for his books is to create an awareness and appreciation for the value of biodiversity and beauty in his home region of British Columbia; the Cariboo Chilcotin.