Beyond the Whales: The Photographs and Passions of Alexandra Morton
Through a selection of her stunning photographs, Alexandra Morton portrays life on the central British Columbia coast.
She arrived in the area in 1984 as a whale researcher, and at first, she was absorbed in studying the orca and admiring the magnificent scenery. It is a coast with a long history: dolphins have pulsed in and out for 10,000 years; First Nations people have lived here for almost as long; European settlers arrived a scant century ago. As time passed, Morton began to observe the lives of other creatures that share the sea and land—humpback whales, bears, salmon, eagles, deer, and humans—and understand how they are all interconnected. As one example, “Bears drag salmon beneath the trees of the forest, feeding the giant plants that shade the river nursery, protect its banks and allow it to make more fish.”
In Beyond the Whales, Alexandra explains what is going on beyond the beauty of the images: “One of the joys of watching a place for 20 years is being able to read the signs upon the sea—bubbles on the surface mean tons of herring below; three birds over an orca mean the whale has brought fish to the surface; shearwaters in Blackfish Sound mean autumn is here. The ocean feeds the rivers and the rivers feed the ocean.”
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ALEXANDRA MORTON is a field biologist who became an activist who has done groundbreaking research on the damaging impact of ocean-based salmon farming on the coast of British Columbia. She first studied communications in bottlenosed dolphins and then moved on to recording and analyzing the sounds of captive orcas at Marineland of the Pacific in California, where she witnessed the birth, and death, of the first orca conceived in captivity. In 1984, she moved to the remote BC coast, aiming to study the language and culture of wild orca clans, but soon found herself at the heart of a long fight to protect the wild salmon that are the province’s keystone species. She has co-authored more than twenty scientific papers on the impact of salmon farming on migratory salmon, founded the Salmon Coast Research Station, has been featured on 60 Minutes, and has been key to many legal and protest actions against the industry, including the recent First Nations-led occupation of salmon farms on the Broughton.