In Flanders Fields
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae (1872-1918)
Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae (1872-1918) is remembered for what is probably the single best-known and popular poem from World War I,“In Flanders Fields.” On May 3, 1915, Canadian physician, McCrae penned his most famous poem after witnessing the death of his friend, 22-year-old Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, the day before. McCrae was a Canadian physician who fought on the Western Front in 1914, but was then transferred to the medical corps and assigned to a hospital in France. He died of pneumonia while on active duty in 1918. McCrae’s rank was Major when he composed “In Flanders Fields.” He was up for promotion to Lieutenant Colonel when he died in January 1918.
As McCrae wrote his poem, Sergeant-Major Cyril Allinson was delivering mail when he noticed McCrae sitting at the back of an ambulance parked near the dressing station beside the Yser Canal, just a few hundred yards north of Ypres, Belgium. Allinson silently watched as McCrae wrote his poem and later recalled, “His face was very tired but calm as he wrote. He looked around from time to time, his eyes straying to Helmer’s grave.” Within moments, John McCrae had completed his poem to a fallen friend and when he was done, without a word, McCrae took his mail and handed the poem to Allinson.
An exact description of the battle front
Allinson was deeply moved. “In Flanders Fields was an exact description of the battle front. McCrae used the word blow in that line because the poppies actually were being blown that morning by a gentle east wind. It never occurred to me at that time that it would ever be published. It seemed to me just an exact description of the scene.” A collection of his poetry, “In Flanders Fields and Other Poems), was published after John McCrae’s death in 1918.On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, Canadians pause each year in memory of the thousands of men and women who sacrificed their lives in military service. Lest We Forget, that in Flanders fields the poppies blow, between the crosses, row on row.
The Changing Face of the Arctic
A Night at the Royal Ontario Museum
October 28th, we attended The Explorers Club 2017 Lowell Thomas Awards Dinner at the iconic Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. The theme for the dinner was, “The Changing Face of the Arctic.” Hosted by the Explorers Club Canadian Chapter, this was the first time this prestigious event has been held outside of the USA.
Who was Lowell Thomas?
The 2017 Lowell Thomas Award Winners
HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco, FI ‘14
Prince Albert II of Monaco has long been dedicated to the protection of the environment and focuses on fighting climate change, promoting renewable energy, combating the loss of biodiversity, and preserving water resources through his Prince Albert II Foundation. He has also participated in research expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic, thus becoming the first head of state to reach both poles. He is a member of the Ocean Elders group and serves on the Advisory Committee for Students on Ice.
Donn Haglund, Ph.D., FE ‘72
Dr. Haglund is a Professor Emeritus of Geography at the University of Wisconsin, where he created and taught a pioneering Arctic wilderness field course for more than 40 years. He earned his Ph.D. in economic geography from the University of Pennsylvania, based on work done in Greenland. He is recognized internationally for his expertise in maritime transport in support of Arctic economic development, and for his dedication to scientific research in these areas.
Martin T. Nweeia D.M.D., D.D.S, FN ‘99
Dr. Martin Nweeia is a research scientist, explorer, professor and scholar on the functional significance of the narwhal tusk and Inuit knowledge. His landmark studies on narwhal tusk sensory function have earned him nine grants from the National Science Foundation, as well as awards from The National Geographic Society, Harvard University, and the Smithsonian Institution. He is currently lecturer at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, a clinical assistant professor at Case School of Dental Medicine, and a research associate in vertebrate zoology at the Smithsonian Institution.
Konrad Steffen, Dr.sc.nat.ETH
Dr. Konrad Steffen is Director, Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research and Professor, Institute of Atmosphere & Climate, ETH-Zurich. Previously he was Director CIRES, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, and Professor Emeritus of Geography, both positions at University of Colorado Boulder. His interests include climate and cryosphere interaction in polar and alpine regions. In particular, he researches sea level changes sensitivity studies of large ice sheets using in situ and modeling results.
This Wilderness & Bear Awareness course is designed to give field workers in remote and wilderness habitats the knowledge they need to feel secure any time they venture into remote areas away from civilization. This course, developed by Safety Health Publishing Inc., emphasizes a stop, think, observe, and plan approach to wilderness survival. Being prepared for the unexpected is the only way to react quickly in an emergency situation. This safety course teaches you how survive exposure to the elements, medical emergencies, and how to get help when stranded.
The Bear Awareness segment of the course has been designed to provide a broad understanding of bear safety, using bear defense equipment and how to stay safe in the event of an encounter in bear country. The course also covers how to deal with different types of predators, such as mountain lions and wolves.
All in all, some time well spent.
“Ancora Imparo” – I’m still learning
~ Michelangelo at age 87
Sharks! Global Biodiversity, Biology, and Conservation Course
Although I have studied and admired sharks since I was five years old, not unlike Michelangelo, I am still learning. Way back in grade five, I gave an interest talk about sharks to my fellow school classmates. This was several years before the blockbuster movie thriller JAWS was released worldwide in theatres. Suffice to say, sharks have been a lifelong passion.
Last summer (2016) I did this free online course, “Sharks! Global Biodiversity, Biology, and Conservation.” Here is the web link:
This is an activity‑rich shark biology course wherein you can virtually join researchers on location in labs, aquariums, and oceans across the globe to learn about the biodiversity, biology, and conservation of sharks, rays, and chimaeras. The course material also covers a range of topics such as, shark habitats, fossil records, how sharks and their relatives have impacted human history and culture, functional anatomy, sensory biology, reproduction, behaviours, and ecology of many of the 1,200 living shark species. All in all, a shark frenzy of knowledge that even the most ardent shark lover is sure to learn something new and fascinating about sharks.
“On the death of a friend, we should consider that the fates through confidence have devolved on us the task of a double living, that we have henceforth to fulfill the promise of our friend’s life also, in our own, to the world.”
~ Henry David Thoreau
It has taken a few weeks to allow thoughts to sink in on what I’m about to write. During my lifetime I have, from shattered experience, learned it is never easy to say goodbye to a friend. Harder still when it is their untimely death that takes them away without any opportunity to say goodbye. It leaves you with a dull empty feeling deep down inside. A feeling you know that in time will pass, but not without first wreaking some havoc on your concept of what life is about?
A circumstance beyond our control
Kathryn and I were in Chicago earlier this month when we learned that Twyla Roscovich had been missing for several days. On September 7th her family, friends and acquaintances sprung into action to find her. Unfortunately, there was no happy ending. On Friday September 15th, Roscovich’s family released a written statement saying Twyla’s body was discovered near Fisherman’s Wharf in Campbell River. The family didn’t release any details about her death but said no foul play was suspected. Paul Ross, Twyla’s former partner and father of their four-year-old daughter Ruby, had previously commented Twyla had been struggling with a thyroid condition for several years and apparently had become very frustrated. It is utterly impossible not to feel deep sorrow for all concerned, most of all for Twyla.
Enchanted to meet you
While on a diving trip with a group of friends to Browning Passage HideAway Diving Resort in October 2016, I met Twyla, Paul and Ruby when they anchored their ship, Samphire, in Clam Cove. Unbeknownst to me, Twyla and I had several close friends in common. She had come ashore to have a drink and meet everyone staying at the lodge. We were chatting across the kitchen table when all of a sudden her face lit up and she blurted out, “You’re Jett Britnell! I’ll admit I was somewhat surprised but, as it turned out, she had cut her teeth reading about my scuba diving adventures published in Canada’s DIVER Magazine as she was growing up. “A lot of people on the BC coast know who you are,” she said. For me, it was one of those moments in life where someone else reminds you of who you are, and who you may have influenced. I learned from Twyla about the documentary film work she had done and our friendship, along with my admiration for her, was born. Over the next few days there were several opportunities to talk with Twyla and Paul, and we even enjoyed an opportunity to muster up enough dive gear for Twyla to come for a dive with our group. Everybody who had just met her over these halcyon fall days were enamored by her enthusiasm, camaraderie, and exceedingly engaging personality.
So, who is Twyla Roscovich?
Twyla was a 38 year-old independent documentary filmmaker, environmentalist, activist and mother whose documentaries advocated for First Nations, marine life, wild life and conservation. She rather brilliantly employed science in her documentary “Salmon Confidential” (which she made while pregnant) to speak out against salmon farming in British Columbia. Salmon Confidential garnered worldwide attention for revealing the provincial government’s cover up of what was killing British Columbia’s wild salmon. She was an eco-warrior par excellence whose films will long be remembered as they did much to educate the general public and the chronically uninformed.
In May 2017, Twyla and I shared our last brief exchange over Facebook Messenger. She messaged back and I told her I would be picking her brain about video post processing in the coming months. She also confirmed that her and Paul had mutually agreed to part ways, but that it was all good. I wished her, Paul & Ruby all the best. All seemed congruent with the Twyla I had met last fall. It seemed as if we had known each other for a long time. She was just young enough to be my daughter, but had accomplished so much during her lifetime.
Those whom the God’s love
It’s been said… “Those whom the God’s love, die young.” Having lost other close friends during my lifetime, I’m not so sure about this quote. Sometimes the God’s must be crazy because nobody on this earth was ready to say goodbye to you, Twyla, nor some other dear friends of mine. During your short sweet life, you touched the hearts and minds of so many. I doubt you could truly know the breadth and width your spirit embraced others. However briefly, I feel I am indeed richer for knowing you. To live in the hearts of others is never to die. With determination, all who loved you take on the task of a double living and, I’m certain, will do their level best to fulfill the promise of your life. This will be a heavy task as you left behind a mighty big hole to fill. For your family and friends, may the memories and unbridled love of your life force shine a blinding light upon their souls through the shroud of dark clouds hovering over their heads as they struggle to heal and come to terms with the weight of your passing. Acceptance during grief is never painless to accept. In our own, to the world, it is no less easy to comprehend. May love and light reign triumphant as we are all connected on this beautiful blue planet. And so now, with a heavy heart but indomitable purpose, it is I who is saying to you, my friend, “You’re Twyla Roscovich! People the world over know who you are.” ❤️
Celebration of life
Twyla Roscovich’s life will be celebrated at Thunderbird Hall in Campbell River, October 8th at 2pm.
Twyla’s memorial fund for Ruby
Family and friends have set up a trust fund for Twyla’s daughter, Ruby Lynn, that she will have access to upon maturity. Twyla put her whole life into her work and did not have the means to leave Ruby with a secure financial future. We’re hoping this campaign will help make one aspect of Ruby’s adulthood a little bit easier. The trust will only be accessible by Ruby and has conditions as to what she can use the money for i.e. education/training. ~ Leni Goggins, Twyla’s step sister.
Go Fund Me Campaign for Ruby is now closed.
Check it out at: Scuba News Canada
It’s a Polar Bear fact!
Polar Bears possess one of the “lowest reproduction rates of any mammal.”
“The young are born from November through January while the mothers are hibernating. Cubs will remain with their mothers for a little over 2 years. Female polar bears can produce five litters in their lifetime, which is one of the lowest reproductive rates of any mammal.” source: www.defenders.org/polar-bear/basic-facts
Polar bear mother & cub, photographed Churchill, Manitoba.
Necessity Is The Mother of Invention
Once upon a time… while on a diving assignment in Vanuatu, I encountered several cuttlefish during a dive. Since my underwater camera housing was set up with a Nikon F3 body and a Nikon 55mm macro lens, conventional underwater photography thinking would dictate that wide-angle photography would be impossible with a macro lens. Such are the fundamental laws of underwater photography… one cannot change their lens underwater.
It was at that moment that a fellow underwater photographer set their aim upon taking a wide-angle picture of me with the cuttlefish in the foreground. In one of those ah ha, I think I can, moments, I focused on the cuttlefish using my macro lens. Miraculously, I was able to include my fellow diver in the background as I focused my lens on the cuttlefish. The results were pleasing and the magazines editor agreed and used that unlikely picture for the magazine cover shot!
Sometimes…in the mystical realm beyond the limitations of both one’s talent and their equipment… the diving gods simply seem to smile upon us.