About

A short bio about photographer Jenn Dickie, who shoots wildlife and nature photography on British Columbia's west coast.

About Jenn

The first time I stepped onto the exposed western edge of British Columbia, I was stunned and immediately fell in love with the landscape.  The way the trees, each unique and beautiful, stood ragged and tattered against the unending wind.  It was a place that seemed wild and unbound, I was immediately captivated! 

I have spent most of my adult life living and working in coastal British Columbia, as a wilderness guide & instructor, ski hill manager, photographer, web site designer, volunteer whale researcher, and a few other odds and ends, always with camera in hand. I have had the pleasure of exploring pristine coastal areas and have seen what an amazing gift we have here in BC, where much of our coast is unspoiled, and a thriving ecosystem still exists.  In very special places like the Greatbear Rainforest, on the North Coast of British Columbia, I have watched first hand as the ecosystem continues to heal and the number of Humpback and Fin Whales that return to its rich feeding grounds continue to grow each year.

This collection explores the natural world, from the smallest flower to the mightiest whale. I hope you enjoy!

e : photos(at)jenndickie.com  |  c : 604.505.5139  |  w : jenndickie.com

 

Alone in the Wild

Oct 5, 2017

It is now day 14 and I now find myself as the sole inhabitant of Gil Island, which will be the case for the next 6 days.  I have all the luxuries of modern living (internet, flush toilet, hot shower and red wine) in one of the most remote and stunning places on the planet. The view from my bed in the lab is a 180 degree view of ocean, and wild coastline.  This place is frequented by whales, sea lions, ravens, the occasional wolf or bear and many other creatures.  All of which i have the potential to see while lying in bed.  To top it off I am listening to the sounds of the underwater world, which include humpback whale feeding calls and the occasional pod of passing orca from the hydrophones throughout the area that are broadcast into the lab.  The weather tonight has taken a turn from glorious sunshine to howling winds, and I am now waiting for the rain to begin.  

My trip thus far has been action packed, full of amazing wildlife encounters and wonderful people.  We spend the first week at the new cabin on Fin Island (no internet, no shower and bucket for a toilet, but we did have red wine :).  I awoke on my first morning to a gasp from Janie as a Humpback breached a mere 20 meters from the cabin and sat up just in time see the giant splash that is created when a 30 tonne mammal thrusts is body out of the water then comes crashing back down.  Our first 24 hours were full of activity, that put even my most lofty hopes for the new research cabin to shame (breaching. bubble net feeding, tail slapping, sea lions, seals, sandhill cranes, and even a lone sea otter who stopped by for a moment), I had lost count of the number of breaching whales had seen by the second day.   

On Saturday we moved down to Whale Point, which is the original research station I have been to many times.  There is a film crew here working on a documentary called The Whale and the Raven about the research that Janie and Hermann having been doing which I have now become a part of.   We spent from dawn to dusk on the boat yesterday doing a whale survey and where all blown away by the sheer number of whales and the types of encounters we experienced.  Between the group of us the day was well documented by a professional videographer, sound technician, drone pilot, whale researcher and myself as the photographer on the boat.  We must have encountered 40 individual humpback whales followed by a pod of orca, breaching in the setting sun on our way home. Even i was shocked my the number of photographs I managed to take in one day, and plan to spend the rainy day expected tomorrow sifting threw them all.  


Oct 20, 2107

When I left you it was my first night alone on Gil island… and just to be clear this is a very big island to have all to yourself (231km2).  Not to mention all the surrounding islands with no one on them either.  I ended up spending a very nervous night listening to the wind howling outside.  A sail boat captain who was anchored nearby told me a couple days later he had clocked the wind speed at over 60 nM (111km/hr)…almost twice the forecasted speed, so it turns out it was not just me being dramatic.  Both the lab and I survived unscathed.  I very much enjoyed the rest of the week and though the whale activity in Taylor Bight was quieter than it had been previously, there were still lots of creatures to keep me entertained, such as; seals, sea lions, ravens, black turnstones and a little mouse who first appeared on the pillow next to my head.  I spent my days wandering the shore line and forests edge taking photographs of all the things I found.  Even on the rainy days when I was trying to get caught up on some editing, the water dripping from the mossy roof caught my eye and 2 hours later I had yet another 100 photos to sort through.  

I had visits from 3 ecotourism boats over the week and got to give my first whale talks to their guests, which would include the following...  “I first came to Cetacea Lab in 2002, the year the first structure was built here, with my guests from a high end fishing lodge nearby where I worked as an adventure guide.  Jannie and Hermann would tell us about the research there were doing in the area and types of whales found here… now 15 years later on my 9th trip here I find myself the one giving the talk.  Our newest project is in conjunction with the Gitga’at People who have built a research cabin on Fin Island (where I spent my first week this trip).  This cabin is located on the tanker route proposed by Enbridge and the LNG project in Kitimat currently under consideration.  It is tasked with creating a understanding of the whale activity in the area so that the impact of ships and possible tankers in the area can be studied.  The project combines 4 hydrophones set up around the area which give us the ability to triangulate the exact position of whales based of the acoustic data being collected.  It also has a visual component, where a scope, camera, magnometer and computer program are combined to attain an exact GPS location for a whale spotted visually.  This will allow us to study the behaviour of the whales if large boat traffic such as tankers are permitted into this region and to warn vessels of the location of whales in the area to help reduce potential ship strikes."

The week disappeared quickly and when everyone arrived back, while I was happy to see them all, I would have also been content to have the place to myself a little longer.   The upcoming weather forecast was such that I would have to leave a couple days early so Janie could beach the boat at the last high tide before the storm and I could ensure I was out in time to make my flight home.  I spent the final days in the canoe and exploring Gil Creek, a salmon creek nearby.  The boat ride back to Prince Rupert involves a 1 ride in a small boat up to Hartley Bay, then a 4 hr private ferry back to Rupert.  The sunrise, glassy calm seas and sleeping whales at the south end of Squally Channel made for a lovely goodbye, but once we were exposed the icy cold outflow winds of Douglas Channel I had the feeling I had timed my trip just right.  The pouring rain of the past week, has further confirmed this feeling.  

While I do appreciate being home and not having to go outside to pee in the middle of the night, I miss this beautiful piece of paradise and am already looking forward to my next trip. 

A Day at Whale Point - The Flow of Whales

Our day began bright and early as we pulled away from Whale Point to the type of glorious morning that makes getting up at the crack of dawn a worthwhile endeavour. 

Michael Scholl from the Save Our Seas Foundation with his stepson Yoann joined us, and with a cup of coffee in one hand, and camera in the other, we headed out on our whale survey. The first stop would be to see if we could ID the two whales that Janie had noticed at the mouth of Whale Channel.  Our plan for the day was to have a quick look at these two then head north in Squally to see if we could find the fin whales that had been reported in the area, make a stop in Hartley Bay to top off the fuel supply then poke around a little to see what we could find. 

Over the next 2 hours we came across 10 humpback whales, all seemed to be heading in a southerly direction. In order to ID a humpback whale it is necessary to photograph the underside of their fluke (as each is as unique as a fingerprint) and with just one whale remaining to ID, who was refusing to fluke, we carried on following it south.

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The 5 minutes we had allotted this whale turned into 30 and the line that divided the glassy calm seas where we were, from the choppier waters to the south kept moving further into the distance.  Something was pulling us south!  Before we knew it we were half way across Caamano Sound, heading in the opposite direction to our planned route.  After a call from Nicole and Bunker at the Gitga’at cabin on Rennison Island notifying us that the bubble net feeding group had been spotted nearby, and confirmation from Hermann that the fuel we were to pick up in Hartley Bay was not critical, we decided to stop fighting the flow and follow these whales to the south.  We said goodbye to our resting whale, who never did fluke, and were off across Caamano Sound.  

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We arrived at the Wall Islets just as the feeding group surfaced and for the next two hours we followed them as they made their way into the calmer waters of Bouchaman channel. In the time we were with them the group grew from 6 whales to 14 as a number of the whales we had seen earlier in the day further north arrived and joined in.  I doubt there are many spectacles in nature so remarkable as watching 14 enormous mammals breaching the surface of the water, in unison, mouths open to gorge on what I can only assume must be a massive school of hearing.   This feeling was enforced later that evening when we got to see what this looked like from the air, thanks to the incredible drone footage that Michael managed to make of the final bubble net of the day.

As if the day had not been spectacular enough, when we returned back to Squally Channel we were greeted by a humpback calf who had gaining a little freedom from Mom and decided to do a some breaching and head lobbing before stopping by the boat to say hello. 

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A few moments later Mom showed up to put an end to the play and usher it away.   Time to go home??  Apparently not… 3 more blows in the distance, and as we approached to investigate, the fin whales we had originally been seeking appeared

After 12 + hours on the water, all but 40 minutes was spent in the company of whales. I have since identified 28 whales we met in 10 separate encounters, some of whom travelled the same 40 miles that we did over the course of the day. We returned to Whale Point, thrilled with our day in the Greatbear Rainforest, which never seems to disappoint!!!

Oral Statement to the Enbridge Joint Review Panel

I would like to thank the panel for this opportunity to express my opinions regarding the proposed Enbridge Pipeline project.  Like many others here today, I have serious concerns regarding the expansion of the Alberta oil sands and the construction of a pipeline to carry bitumen across our province.  However my personal experiences lie within the waterways of the Douglas Channel and Caamano Sound, on the proposed tanker route, so this is what I will be speaking about today.

My name is Jenn Dickie and I have spent the past 13 summers working as a wilderness guide and educator on the west coast of British Columbia.  Over the past 11 years I have made 7 trips to the Greatbear Rainforest,  all this time has been spent in the area that will be directly affected if supertankers are to be allowed into our waters.   During this time I worked as an adventure guide for a high end fishing lodge, I  taught the Gitga’at youth of Harley Bay ocean kayaking skills and I volunteered my time at a whale research center.

I feel exceptionally privileged to have had the opportunity to experience the true wilderness areas that exist within our province, none of which are more remarkable than the Great Bear Rainforest, a region that stretches from the north end of Vancouver Island to the Alaska panhandle.    Not only does this area contain 25% of the world's remaining intact temperate rainforest, but the inlets and fjords here have some of the richest marine environments on the planet.

To say that visiting the Greatbear Rainforest has made an impact on me would be an understatement.  From the first moment I arrived there, it got under my skin and changed who I am.   Not only have I experienced this personally, I have seen it have the same impact on visitors from all over the world.

I would like to take a moment to describe a day in early September a number of years ago when I was guiding a group of tourists.

Our day began in Cameron cove, a small estuary near the lodge where I worked.  We took a short hike through lush rainforest to see the Sitka Towers, a pair of Sitka Spruce trees that are estimated to be over 800 years old.  We then sat for a while by a small stream and watched a second year black bear cub, newly apart from his mother trying to master his fishing skills.  He wandered along the creek bed, periodically belly flopping into the small pools where the salmon gathered.  After some time the small bear moved into the shallow water, where he plucked out a salmon and disappeared into the forest.  The salmon here are so abundant that it would be no problem for me to simply walk into the creek and pick one out with my bare hands.

Our small transport boat then picked us up to take us to another river with the hope of seeing the rare spirit bear, a pure white subspecies of black bear that is unique to these parts.   Around 10 minutes into our boat journey a humpback whale surfaced beside the boat, and then dove again.   As we watched enthusiastically for the next blow he suddenly soared out of the water a hundred meters from the boat in a full breach, then disappeared from sight.  We arrived at our destination a short while later, to find the elusive spirit bear standing the middle of the river,  just in front of the bear viewing platforms.  We spent the next couple of hours watching as he sauntered up and down the river bank fishing for salmon.

At the end of a truly remarkable day, both the guest and myself were speechless.  I am certainly not saying that every day in the Greatbear Rainforest was like this one, but many were.  I could stand here for hours and tell you tales of the amazing things I have seen in this part of the world.  Though many of us have seen black bears rummaging through our garbage cans, or on our local hiking trails, very few are privileged enough to see them in their natural environment where there is abundant food and they can behave as they have for a millennia.

I have also been fortunate enough to know the Gitga’at people of Hartley bay and have seen firsthand the special connection they have with their land.  Each spring the community travels to their spring camp of Ky’el on Princess Royal Island to collect and dry seaweed and halibut.  Here I have watched as the elders teach their grandchildren the traditional harvesting methods that have been passed down for generations.

I have been welcomed into their homes and offered food freshly harvested from the surrounding ocean and forest.  They have a sense of community that is almost unimaginable to those of us accustomed to a western lifestyle.  While in the territory of the Gitga’at people you are treated as a part of that community and are protected as if you were one of their own.

This was never more evident than in the middle of a dark night, when the people of Hartley Bay put themselves at risk as they headed out to rescue the passengers of the sinking BC Ferry "The Queen of the North” that had missed a critical course correction and crashed into Gill Island.

I spent portion of this past summer volunteering at Cetacea Lab, a remote whale research centre located where the convergence of numerous waterways create an ideal habitat and study location for a variety of species of whales.   The abundance of baitfish here and the pristine marine environment is responsible for the incredible resurgence of whale activity that has been recorded over the past decade.

Humpback Whales return to these rich feeding grounds each year after a long migration from Hawaii or Baja.  They practice a collective feeding method known as bubble net feeding in groups of 2 to 15 or more.   They are believed to be one of the only creatures aside from humans who collectively feed with non-family members.  The deep fjords of these inside waters act as a rehearsal studio for the male humpback who spends months practicing his song, which echoes back off the steep underwater cliffs.  Hour after hour of haunting call is captured by the hydrophone network that scatters these channels.  By the time they return to the warmer waters to mate, all of the humpback whales in the North Pacific are singing the same song.  How and why this happens is still a great mystery.

Fin Whales, the second largest creatures on the planet,  returned as recently as 5 years ago to this area they had long ago abandoned.   

Both transient and resident Orcas are frequent visitors as well.  Both are extremely social creatures that rely heavily on vocal calls to communicate with their family members as they travel and hunt with their pods.  Each family unit has a unique dialect and underwater recordings made here allow scientists to study their family groups and their behaviors.

While stationed at the remote research outpost on Ariztibal Island this summer, we heard the distinct calls of the “R” clan Orca mixed with a lone “G” clan ping.  In conjunction with the Gitata’at watchmen and the Department of Fisheries, using both photographs and hydrophone recordings, it was determined that a “G” clan calf that had recently been orphaned was travelling with the “R “ clan pod.  

This “cross adoption” had never before been documented in the orca populations of the west coast.

I don’t feel it is necessary to go into details regarding the obvious devastation that would be caused by an oil spill in this area.   Clearly it would mean the end of a way of life for the Gitga’at people and many other coastal first nations.  It would devastate the fishing and tourism industries and the effects would not just be limited to the coast, but would reach deep into the interior of the province if the salmon failed to return each year to spawn.

Even if the assurances of Enbridge all prove true and no spill ever happens, this project is not without significant impact.  The tourism opportunity that this area of our coast presents is significant, and the increased traffic would certainly have a negative impact this growing industry.  It would create underwater noise pollution that would be audible for miles, impacting the ability of the whales to communicate with each other and to find food.  There is also the increased risk of a direct whale strike.  The wake of such large boats could damage the spawning grounds of the baitfish which are so important to the entire ecosystem here.  The weather in this part of the coast can be extreme and can pose a significant hazard to navigation, particularly in the winter months when storm force winds or even hurricane force winds occur.

I have traveled all over the world and have seen some of the most unique and pristine wilderness areas on the planet.  The Greatbear Rainforest is to Canada what the Serengeti is to Africa, it is a treasure that we must protect so it can be here for all the creatures and the generations to follow.