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

Posts from the ‘Biodiversity’ category

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It’s been quiet here for a while with it having been a very busy spring . . . summer . . . and fall with presentations, surveys, and other trips taking me to other places on British Columbia’s beautiful coast.

Now, I’m back. I’m solidly back for the winter to the little place on the planet where I have the extraordinary privilege of knowing individual fish to individual whales. This place that drew me in so many years ago. This place I love more than any other.

I thought I would share today’s photos taken while going out for a dive from Telegraph Cove.

Photos of home.

At the Surface

Bull Kelp Forest at slack tide. NE Vancouver Island in the background. ©2017 Jackie Hildering.

The World Below

Mountain of life just below the surface. Includes an Orange Peel Nudibranch feeding on Red Soft Coral. Nudibranch species to 50 cm. ©2017 Jackie Hildering.

Colour. Beauty. Fragility. Mystery. Right below the surface. ©2017 Jackie Hildering.

Holdfasts of Bull Kelp. ©2017 Jackie Hildering.

The Forest

Sun streaming through the Bull Kelp forest. ©2017 Jackie Hildering.

Surfacing

Dive buddy Callah McCarroll during our safety stop. ©2017 Jackie Hildering.

Dive boat at the surface. ©2017 Jackie Hildering.

Returning to Shore

Was able to ID Humpback Whale “Hunter” on the way back. Known to us at the Marine Education and Research Society since 2011 when s/he was already an adult. ©2017 Jackie Hildering.

Come Away With Me . . .

For you: photos and a two-minute slide show from my recent days aboard Maple Leaf Adventures‘ MV Swell in my own backyard – the Broughton Archipelago on NE Vancouver Island.

The work while aboard? Striving to be a conduit of understanding for the life around us: Freckles the Humpback who was acrobatic for over an hour; the Black Bear cub in a rain-soaked, moss-covered Cedar with lichen draped over his/her ear; the Pacific White-Sided Dolphins leaping over a Humpback and then surfing in a ship’s wake; the giant Steller Sea Lions growling at a frequency the resounds far and deep; the Bald Eagles tearing apart the salmon that feeds this coast; and . . . so much more.

With the recent diesel spill further to the north on BC’s Central Coast, it all felt even more fragile. I feel even greater urgency and importance to try to capture the excruciating beauty and balance here so that it might enter more human lives and increase true awareness and true action.

Know and celebrate your connection no matter how many kilometres you are from the life in these images.

See the common life-enhancing solutions: reducing demand for fossil fuels; reducing use of dangerous chemicals; increasing values based on the longterm health of the environment our lives depend on . . . that’s where happiness, health and empowerment lie.

Don’t be despondent because tipping into the pit of despair will truly bring darkness.

Do it . . . . come away with me.

MV Swell built in 1912 with major overhauls by Maple Leaf Adventures to be both very comfortable and have a reduced carbon footprint / be energy efficient.

MV Swell built in 1912 with major overhauls by Maple Leaf Adventures to be both very comfortable and have a reduced carbon footprint / be energy efficient.

Pacific White-Sided Dolphin in the rain. ©2016 Jackie Hildering.

Pacific White-Sided Dolphin in the rain. ©2016 Jackie Hildering.

Freckles the Humpback Whale (BCY0727) breaching. ©2016 Jackie Hildering.

Freckles the Humpback Whale (BCY0727) breaching. She was acrobatic for over an hour.
©2016 Jackie Hildering.

Freckles the Humpback (BCY0727) tail-lobbing. ©2016 Jackie Hildering.

Freckles the Humpback (BCY0727) tail-lobbing. ©2016 Jackie Hildering.

Freckles the Humpback Whale (BCY0727) breaching. ©2016 Jackie Hildering.

Freckles the Humpback Whale (BCY0727) breaching.
©2016 Jackie Hildering.

Lacey Falls, Broughton Archipelago. ©2016 Jackie Hildering.

Lacey Falls, Broughton Archipelago. ©2016 Jackie Hildering.

Juvenile Bald Eagle water dripping off beak. Imagine the sounds and smells I cannot relay in this image - the rain falling on the Ocean; the calls of eagles, ravens, various ducks and gulls; and the air thick with the smell of Chum Salmon that fought their way back to the river where they were born to ensure their offspring have the best chance of a healthy environment by fertilizing it with their own bodies. ©2016 Jackie Hildering.

Juvenile Bald Eagle water dripping off beak. Imagine the sounds and smells I cannot relay in these images – the rain falling on the Ocean; the calls of eagles, ravens, various ducks and gulls; and the air thick with the smell of Chum Salmon that fought their way back to the river where they were born to ensure their offspring have the best chance of a healthy environment by fertilizing it with their own bodies.
©2016 Jackie Hildering.

Wet juvenile Bald Eagle takes flight. ©2016 Jackie Hildering.

Wet juvenile Bald Eagle takes flight. ©2016 Jackie Hildering.

Black Bear cub with lichen draped over his/her right ear

Black Bear cub with lichen draped over his/her right ear – peering down from a moss-covered Cedar, salmon musk thick in the air; moisture dripping off his/her fur and everything else including us . . so clearly this was the rainforest, fed by salmon.
©2016 Jackie Hildering.

Close-up. Little Black Bear Cub peering down from moss-covered Cedar. ©2016 Jackie Hildering.

Close-up. Little Black Bear Cub peering down from moss-covered Cedar. ©2016 Jackie Hildering.

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See his/her tongue sticking out and the lichen over his/her right ear? ©2016 Jackie Hildering.

Merganser running to before flight. ©2016 Jackie Hildering.

Merganser running to before flight. ©2016 Jackie Hildering.

Humpback Whale being mobbed by Pacific White-Sided Dolphins. S/he was repeatedly trumpeting, presumably in exasperation. ©2016 Jackie Hildering.

Humpback Whale being mobbed by Pacific White-Sided Dolphins. S/he was repeatedly trumpeting, presumably in exasperation. ©2016 Jackie Hildering.

Morning light. ©2016 Jackie Hildering.

Morning light. ©2016 Jackie Hildering.

Argonaut the Humpback in the morning light (BCY0729). ©2016 Jackie Hildering.

Argonaut the Humpback in the morning light (BCY0729). ©2016 Jackie Hildering.

Happiness . . and purpose. I'm on the right on MV Swell. Photo by Captain Alex Ruurs.

Happiness . . and purpose. I’m on the right on MV Swell. Photo by Captain Alex Ruurs.

Two-minute slide show with more images.

 

 

And -the faces and voices of the people most directly impacted by the fuel spill on BC’s Central Coast. The impacts of this, of “only” a tug sinking, it makes so very clear that there has to be a ban on tanker traffic and that we all have to reduce the demand for fossil fuels for so many reasons including that it literally fuels the demand for tankers on our coast.

At a loss for words . . .

If a photo is worth a 1,000 words, will these 14 photos be worth 14,000?

Will they do more than “capture” a moment in the life of our marine neighbours?

Will they communicate the emotion felt when I pushed the shutter button: the overwhelming awe; the relief of humility, feeling smaller and more insignificant when witnessing the wild; and the gratitude and motivation at having second chances with these ambassadors of our life-sustaining seas?

I add them to the 100s of other photos shared in the hopes that, somehow, they relay what I cannot find the words to adequately express.

Into the world they go – to you.

These 14 photos were taken in less than 24 hours in one small area of the cold current-fed waters around NE Vancouver Island while I was aboard with Maple Leaf Adventures.

First three photos: Humpback Whale “Inukshuk” (BCZ0339) exploding out of the misty water. He was acrobatic for over 15 minutes. Threatened population.

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Female mature Bald Eagle near nest in lichen-draped Cedars.

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“Sonora” (A42) chasing salmon with her 4 offspring. “Northern Resident” Killer Whales are a Threatened population.

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Pacific White-Sided Dolphins in mirror-calm seas this morning, socializing in a group of around 300 individuals.

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Submerge . . .

Come away with me . . . spend 3 minutes submerged in the shallows of the eastern North Pacific, photographing jelly species.

There is no place I’d rather be than here, learning about the richness and wonder of life in these cold waters.

With huge gratitude to Roger McDonell – underwater videographer and dive buddy supreme – for having taken this video.

 

 

 

Video taken during our weekly dive as the Top Island Econauts Dive Club.

What’s At Stake – Images Speaking Louder Than Words

Three minutes of images speaking louder than words . . .

This short slide show of my images testifies to the astonishing marine biodiversity of Northern Vancouver Island and what is put at risk with projects like the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project which would bring super-tanker traffic of toxic bitumen and condensate to B.C.’s fragile coast, and to the waters on which we depend for oxygen, food, buffering of climate change gases, aesthetics and so much more.

I have submitted this slide show for inclusion on “Hope, the Whale”, a 25′ whale sculpture being brought to the Vancouver Enbridge public hearings (January 14 to 18, 2013) “to symbolize the expansive and growing community of people with a vision of an oil-free coast in BC. The sculpture is designed to be a welcoming, collaborative, visual, interactive and peaceful approach to supporting a healthy environment. The whale will amplify our a collective messages of hope and a vision for a healthy ocean, water, land, communities, green economy, cultures and people.” See this link to contribute your message.

For more information, see my testimony to the Joint Review Panel included in my blog item “Super Natural or Super Tanker?” at this link.

The Reason You Can’t See to the Bottom . . . .

The 1.5 minute video below is my attempt to bring the astounding biodiversity of the cold, rich waters of the NE Pacific Ocean to the surface.

If there is one thing I hope to achieve with my photography, it is to shatter the perception that — because you can’t see to the bottom — there must not be much life in these waters.

The opposite it true.

The reason you can’t see to the bottom is because there is SO much life.

Please feel free to share the video liberally. Hopefully it will enhance people feeling a connection to the ocean, wanting to undertake further conservation, and understanding what is at stake with high risk projects that worship short term-economic gain at the cost of long-term environmental devastation — like the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline Project which would bring super tanker traffic to British Columbia’s precious coast.

 

 

I have contributed the video to the David Suzuki Foundation’s “Pacific Ocean Stories” campaign which is directed at the very objectives I mention above. Contribute your Ocean Story here. It need not be anything involving great effort, just a photo, drawing, poem or statement capturing your connection to the Pacific Ocean.

Infinite thanks to Hunter Molnar Stanton for her expertise in refining this video.

Two Dive Day

August 7, 2011

It seemed appropriate that, to relay the remarkable diversity of the two dives, I should let images speak louder than words. 

The most exceptional find was a baby grunt sculpin – no bigger than my finger tip.

Come underwater with me, just for 3 minutes to share in the awe.


Extraordinary Privilege – From on high to down deep.

Humpback whale BCY0768 viewed lunge feeding from 700+ feet above the whale. Telephoto and cropped. Photo: Hildering

Do you have 2.5 minutes?

I’ve compressed the highlights of my marine adventures of  that last 24+ hours into a little slide show. What an extraordinary privilege it has been.

Yesterday, while in a helicopter some 1,000 feet above them, I watched humpback whales lunge feed. 

Today, on the way to our weekly dive, there was a bit of a diversion . . . 3 matrilines (family groups) of fish-eating killer whales needed to pass before we could proceed.

While getting into our dive gear, in the sunshine, a few Pacific white-sided dolphins swam by. 

Then . . . there was the dive with so much more beauty and bounty.

Sometimes, I feel like I might explode with the wonder and privilege of it all. 

Thankfully, I have avenues like this to share and to feel like I might be able to make these adventures count; to enhance understanding and conservation for all this beauty and biodiversity.

Please share in the wonder with me.

Click this link to go from high above the northeast Pacific, into her depths.

(Last video in the gallery at this link). 

Diamondback nudibranch (sea slug) among red soft coral, sponge and brooding anemones. This specimen only about 5 cm long. Photo: Hildering


The Need to Dive

The Marine Detective in a bull kelp forest. Photo: G. Miller

Due to weather and other circumstances, I did not go diving this weekend. As a result, I feel rather “undone” and out of sorts.

It has become essential to my well-being to submerge in the North Pacific at least once a week.  Is this because I am addicted to the nitrogen buzz? Do I need the rapture that comes with descending into such natural beauty and wonder?  Is it because I get to “check-out” of my terrestrial life for a little while?  Does diving move me into a meditative state?  Do I miss my fishy and sluggy friends? Do I need the inspiration and perspective on what it truly important in life?  Or is it because I was a sea lion in a past life and have not made the full transition to a human existence?

All of these factors may in part cause my desperate need to dive but Dr. Joseph MacInnis states it all so much more eloquently and powerfully in this excerpt from the introduction to his book “Saving the Oceans” (text which I wrote on the first page of my first dive log).

“Of all the acts that confirm our unconscious need to reconsider Nature, few are as symbolic as descending into the ocean. As scuba divers . . . we step off the land, leaving behind our urban alliance with concrete and asphalt. Underwater, our survival hinges on containers of portable air. Inside this strange inner space, we become weightless, drifting toward our aquatic origins.

As trespassers in this other world we are more susceptible to shifts in thinking and emotion. Our eyes are captured by unfamiliar colours and patterns of light and shadow. The pressurized air sliding in and out of our lungs reminds us of our mortality. And from this, it is not a large intuitive leap to consider the mortality of the planet.”

I need to dive!!


Diving After the Storm – My 600th Dive

Today, despite a powerful storm, I completed my 600th dive (thank you dear buddy, Jacqui Engel).

Vermillion rockfish.

Six hundred dives is not such a big deal if you are a warm water diver. However, the vast majority of my dives were in the cold waters of Northern Vancouver Island and, it does feel like a big deal.

I only started diving when I was 36. Now, at age 47, I have been diving less than 11 years and have thereby averaged a dive per week over this time. It’s the equivalent of about 19 days underwater.

I am not usually boastful (I think) but it seems really significant to acknowledge this milestone and to try to share why diving is so important to me.

In an attempt not to be too earnest though, I try to express “Why Dive?” by way of some bad poetry.

Why Dive?

Opalescent nudibranch.

Constricted by my dry suit,
Thirty pounds bound to my waist,
Hunchbacked by my cylinder,
A mask suctioned to my face,

I leave the world we’ve cultivated,
To attempt to meet our every whim,
To where Nature’s voice can still be heard,
Far above civilization’s din.

No governments, no borders,
Nor economies present.
When down here, I’m reminded,
Of life’s depth and true intent.

I’m an awkward and brief visitor,
In this world of colour and perfection.
I fill with humility, wonder,
Passion and quiet introspection.

Red rock crab near a sand-rose anemone.

For Mother Ocean is home to life,
Older than mammals can comprehend.
I’m grateful that I may learn from her,
Leaving solid ground when I descend.

Diving brought me greater purpose,
Love, vision and camaraderie.
I think that what some find in a church,
I find  . . .  deep . . . within the sea.

On to the next 600 dives.


Postscript: There was additional “poetry” to today’s dive because it took place after a very powerful storm. Flooding caused the ocean to turn chocolate brown.

This “after the storm” dive further made me reflect on how diving is like a metaphor for life’s greatest challenges. At the risk of the repercussions of exposing you to bad poetry AND “Hallmark-esque” reflections,  I will only share the following:

  • Even in darkness, there is great beauty (as evident by these blog images from today’s dark dive).
  • When you don’t know where you’re going, trust in your compass.
  • And, when in the depths of it  . . . just breathe.


With great thanks to those who have made me the diver I am.