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

Posts tagged ‘the marine detective’

The Woman Behind the Words . . .

Who is the woman behind the words AND the images?

A beloved friend has advised “Jackie, you need to step into the spotlight more” i.e. making more evident who The Marine Detective is.

For a whole soup of emotions/reasons, I am more comfortable being behind the camera in this role. That’s why I chose for the moniker “The Marine Detective” rather than my name. But okay – here’s an image highly representative of who I am, tutu and all.

Photo: ©Jacqui Engel, September 2018.

I will also share a story that is rather typical regarding there being a bias that leads to misidentifying who the voice is here on TMD.

Here goes . . . I was having lunch in a local restaurant and had one of my calendars on the table. The waitress, a lovely young woman, bounded over, saw the calendar and said: “The Marine Detective! Oh my god, I love him!”. I quietly asked, “Who do you love?” She enthusiastically said, “The Marine Detective! I follow him on social media!” and then very generously provided her views on the value of the work.

I stood up and felt compelled to stand in front of her and said softly, “I am The Marine Detective”.

What I interpret of her reaction is that she could not reconcile that the age, gender and stature of the person in front of her could be the actual force behind what she had described.

Is it important? I have come to understand that it is. That, by simply living out what I perceive to be my calling, I can help shift biases with regard to age and gender.

I am a 55-year-old woman in science who hurls herself into a cold ocean to learn from the life there, who drives a boat, studies whales, speaks from the heart, and who wants for equality in the world for the betterment of all.

That’s that for a while. Going back behind the camera now.

Oh, and why the tutu? If it’s new to you that it’s what I wear when I dive, please see my blog “Life is Hard? Wear a Tutu” at this link.

Porpoise-full Blog!

This, like my “You Otter Know” blog, is aimed at clearing up species confusion and offering some support to my fellow marine educators.

Yes, I am writing this for much needed educational porpoises. Sorry! I will attempt to restrain myself from further bad puns (but I am counting on you, the readers, to come up with some doozies).

Oh the number of times I have had the joy of an exchange like this:
Me: “Look, a porpoise!”
Response: “Ja, ja, een delfin!” or “Oui, oui, un dauphin” or “Ja, ja,  een dolfijn” or “Yes, yes, a dolphin!”.
Me (armed with images like those below): “Nein – een schweinswal” / “Non – un marsouin” / “Nee – een bruinvis” / “Nope – it really is a porpoise!”

It is so understandable that there is significant confusion. The words dolphin and porpoise were, colloquially, used as if they were synonyms into at least the 1970s.

But, dolphins and porpoises are more distinct than lions and tigers.  Lions and tigers are not only in the same family but in the same genus. Dolphins and porpoises are in different families, having diverged around 15 million years ago.


That’s no dolphin! It’s a Dall’s Porpoise. ©2015 Jackie Hildering.

The differences between porpoises and dolphins span from fin and head shape, to behaviour, vocals and average group size.

Read more

My 800th Dive. From Shiner to Shining?

Yesterday, I completed my 800th dive.

Today, I find myself reflecting on the remarkable journey from my first dives to now.

I dare share my thoughts with you here because  . . . diver or not, I believe there are elements of this life journey with which many can identify and because the feelings I express about “Mother Ocean” is what I think unites us here on The Marine Detective.  Oh – and also, it provides insight into why I tend to snarl when a minority of people, state “You must have a really good camera” after seeing my underwater images, suggesting that it is merely photo-equipment dependent to go deep and deliver evidence of the astounding and fragile life hidden in these cold waters.

I never could have anticipated how the cold NE Pacific would become the greatest force in my life and, as I think often is the case with the most important things in life, the journey has not been easy.

This is how it started.

Shiner . . . Image in my first dive log. Me just after my 37th birthday with "mask squeeze".

Shiner . . . Image in my first dive log. Me just after my 37th birthday with “mask squeeze”.

That’s me about a week after my 37th birthday. On my birthday itself, while on my 20th dive, I got “mask squeeze”. Every capillary in my eyes burst because I did not equalize the pressure in my dive mask as I descended. This was due to complications while I was learning to dive with a drysuit.

I delight in there now being an island on our coast informally named after me  . . . Shiner Rock. Far more important, however, are the lessons I learned from this dive, and the other 799.

I should acknowledge that 800 dives is not a big deal for some, especially if you are a warm-water diver and if you have been diving since your youth. My diving life has been from age 36 to age 50 and almost all these dives (the equivalent of 25 days underwater) have been here in about 6 to 10°C water, off the coast of NE Vancouver Island.

The decision to take a dive course seemed frivolous at the time but again, as it seems to go, some of our seemingly smallest decisions appear to give life the greatest meaning.

I began my first course in 1999, the year I returned to British Columbia after teaching in the Netherlands for 14 years. I aborted what many would consider an important career trajectory, knowing only that I had to get back to learning from Nature.  I had been working in big city Rotterdam at that time and had become so tired of hearing myself talk about Nature as if it were somewhere else. One surprise whale watching trip on NE Vancouver Island led to my moving here.

My dive course was not typical in many, many ways with my first ever dive being in a glacier fed river in a community that had ocean surrounding it. I will never understand why we did this. But, while in my father’s thin, old wetsuit, shivering uncontrollably and falling while trying to stand on algae-covered river rocks, I saw one salmon. I was in deep, right from the start.

Now, so many dives later, while the lessons don’t EVER stop, the artwork below captures what diving in these waters has brought to my life.

Shinier . . . Me?

Shinier . . . Me? Artwork by Jennifer Bonnell; presented to me at age 50 as an interpretation of who I am.

And apparently . . .  that is also how some people see me. That piece was given as a gift on my 50th birthday last April. . . as a portrait of me. Shining? Passionate? Mermaid-ian? Inspirational? Ocean advocate?

Please know how much I struggled to type that.

I am so moved, so grateful, and so much further incentivized when honoured by people using such references in relation to me. I know fully the personal journey it has been to go from “Shiner” to maybe appearing to be “Shining”. And I know too what diving has brought to my life . . . depth of understanding and and depth of purpose – wanting to shine a light of awareness on what lives in these waters and, thereby, help motivate greater conservation.

The Ocean is the source. The battle force. She is my inspiration. She is the beginning and she is the end. She is where I hide and where I am fully exposed. She has taught me my most valuable lessons and  . . . . I know it’s not over yet. Not by a long shot.

The plan is to do at least another 800 dives.

Thank you so to all of you who are part of the journey.

For a related post, with a poem written after my 600th dive 4 years ago, see Diving After the Storm  – My 600th Dive“.

With particular depth of gratitude to dive buddies Jacqui Engel and Natasha Dickinson and further members of the Top Island Econauts. 

Life is Hard? Wear a Tutu!

hanging tutu

Does this tutu make my bottom look big?! At God’s Pocket Dive Resort on my 50th birthday.

[Warning, this is not a scientific posting but one of those occasional personal musings aimed at self-expression and, hopefully, making you smile.]

Go ahead – mock me!

I now often wear a tutu when I go diving.

It’s a flamboyant, neon green tutu.

Hum, maybe “flamboyant” as an adjective for “tutu” is unnecessary – but I digress.

I first wore my neon green tutu over my dry suit while diving on my 50th birthday.

It delights me that my birthday happens to coincide with Earth Day but oops – again I digress.

Wearing the tutu was to celebrate all that life has brought me, especially how cold water diving in this beautiful, beautiful place has shaped my life.

It clearly also makes a statement about my believing you can never be too green – or too flamboyant!

Of course, I knew I would also be rewarded with looks of disbelief and hilarity from my fellow divers especially when I asked,  “Does this tutu make my bottom look big?”

Sincerely, it also has proven to have value for safety as it makes me much easier to see in a dark underwater world of black neoprene clad divers.

Underwater poser! Photo by Diane Reid.

Underwater poser! Photo by Diane Reid.

But more than that, I wear a tutu because, for all of us, life is sometimes hard.

What the wisdom gained from these 50 years has taught me is that through it all – the sinking to the depths, the surfacing for air, the need for buddies, the loss of buddies, the weight of it all, the being adrift – it is more important than anything else to listen to your inner 8-year-old.

I can hear her now. She’s loud – wanting to know when we are next going diving, loving the wonder and sense of discovery that submerging brings.

She reminds me always of how my actions impact life around me and she voraciously loves to learn.

She’s bossy and wants, as soon as possible, to share what she has learned about living things with others, hoping they’ll care as much as she does.

She knows the importance of frivolity and lightness and to being ever true to what you feel.

She loves wearing tutus and hopes to make people laugh by modelling the joy of being green.

Tutu 1

Life is hard? Wear a tutu! Great thanks to Diane Reid for the photo! Dive buddy Natasha Dickinson attempting to hide in the background.