Join me in the cold, dark, life-sustaining NE Pacific Ocean to discover the great beauty, mystery and fragility hidden there.

Every Breath You Take . . . .


Er – sorry about that. Thanks to the blog title, you likely now have The Police’s stalker-ish lyrics playing annoyingly in your head.

Let me take the Sting out of that for you.

The only lines of the song that apply to this blog item are: “Every breath you take” and “Every move you make” because  . . . this blog is about marine algae.

giant kelp DSC06372

Fronds of kelp ©Jackie Hildering

Yes, that’s right – marine algae; the plant-like material of our oceans that ranges in size from the phytoplankton that give the NE Pacific Ocean its emerald colour and soupy richness, to the giant kelp species that provide habitat as ocean forests.

Breathe in.  A conservative 50% of the life-sustaining oxygen in that breath came from marine algae.

These organisms are also attempting to scrub away the devastating impacts of our fossil fuel addiction, photosynthesizing carbon dioxide into oxygen and serving as carbon sinks.

Bull Kelp Forest

One of the images that started it all. ©Jackie Hildering

Life on earth simply could not survive without marine algae and this conclusion is valid even without considering their role as the basis of ocean food webs (and recognize that an estimated 50% of all species on earth are marine).

Why then, while we seem to have some understanding of how dependent we are on the terrestrial plants living up here with us, do so many of us appear to be ignorant of the vital importance of the marine algae that inhabit 71% of the earth’s surface?

Bull kelp forest in current © Jackie Hildering

Bull kelp forest in current ©Jackie Hildering

Why are we seemingly not as driven to save marine algae from the impacts of pollution as we are to stop deforestation? Is it that damn illusion that land is separate from sea?

Or, somewhere deep within or briny beings, do we feel a connection?

I have experience that suggests this might be the case.

It’s an accidental discovery . . . I never really planned to become an underwater photographer. Having the great privilege of living in this beautiful place, initially I focused largely (quite literally) on photographing big marine mammals. I was using charismatic megafauna to try to inspire conservation.

 © Jackie Hildering

But then  . . . I was gifted an underwater camera and quite early on, I started photographing kelp.

For me, kelp is the entry point into the marine world into which I love to disappear and its beauty has long intoxicated me. In fact, I have a kelp forest tattooed on my lower left leg!

But never, ever could I have anticipated the way the images would be received by non-divers. They have proven to be vital tools in “taking” people underwater with me and I believe no whale image I have taken has done as much to engage, create wonder, appreciation and, hopefully, respect and positive action for what lies below the surface.

© 2012 Jackie Hildering-5121314

Sun streaming through bull kelp forest ©Jackie Hildering

Why are these images received as they are?  Many answers are possible from a pure aesthetic appreciation of kelp’s form and colour to the fact that kelp forests are literally at the surface, recognizable but submerged in mystery.

But, maybe, just maybe there’s a deep connection born out of knowing that we are dependent on marine algae for every breath we take.

And that – gives me hope.

For more kelp images, please click here for my gallery.

Note: Seaweeds, kelp and phytoplankton photosynthesize but are (most often) not classified as plants. They are algae. For an explanation of the classification, distinction and scientific debate, see:  “The Seaweed Site – “What are algae?” 

5 Responses to “Every Breath You Take . . . .”

  1. Anonymous

    Thanks Jackie,
    I love kelp forests and everything they mean as well. I did not know you had a kelp tattoo on your leg, I have been thinking the same


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