Beaty Biodiversity Museum – 7







These images of fossils are just a sampling from the vast and rich Fossil Collection at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum. I have a peculiar fondness for these so I think they make a nice finishing touch to this photo series. Thanks for following it along with me!

If you missed the earlier posts, they are here:
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6

Beaty Biodiversity Museum – 6


Next in our walk through the Beaty came the sections with small animals and birds in their skins with fur or feathers that are laid down in rows upon rows on shelves inside glass-doored display cabinets. I found these quite disturbing to look at and skimmed past these while asking myself, why is it harder than looking at the trophy heads and the skulls? This collection of eggs are a delight though (sorry about the reflections).



Somewhat disturbing too are the many forms of fish life preserved in jars of alcohol, looking much like pickles. I love the abstract image of “windows” containing warmly backlit rows of preserving jars from small to huge. It was challenging to photograph closeups through the wired glass but then I didn’t want to look too closely anyway. Husband did capture this delightful seahorse, unpickled. I used to think that was an imaginary fairytale creature.


Then there is the wonderful Herbarium. Seeing all the lichens so soon after I’d done some posts on them was serendipitous but I’m quite disappointed that I was unable to capture photos of their amazing variety because of the reflections on the glass. Of course only a small selection in any of the collections are on display. There are numerous drawers, also glass covered, that one could pull out to examine the contents – a researcher’s dream and an awesome record of biodiversity, but just too too much to see in one visit!

Coming soon and the last in this longer-than-planned series are the fossils, always a favourite of mine.

See also Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 and Part 7

Beaty Biodiversity Museum – 5




More from Vancouver’s Beaty Biodiversity Museum. This particular section of big cases of gorgeous animals such as the crocodile, the African buffalo in the middle, and, sorry I can’t read the label, another handsome African big curly-horned creature, made me think rather irreverently of big-game trophies. And of one of my favourite movies, “Out of Africa”.

See also Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 6, and Part 7

Beaty Biodiversity Museum – 4





Continuing to show off some of my favourite photos from our recent visit to the Beaty Biodiversity Museum here in Vancouver, BC. I think the first photo is of the skull of a walrus and third one a giraffe skull from Uganda.

Please check out the earlier and later posts, if you haven’t already:
Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 5, Part 6 and Part 7

Beaty Biodiversity Museum – 2





Here are some closer detail shots of the massive Blue Whale at the Beaty that I could not resist sharing. Looking at the image of the bones in a human hand, isn’t it astonishing how similar they are to the bones of the whale flipper?

In case you missed it, please read the previous post in this short series about the Beaty Biodiversity Museum that so enthralled us on our first visit there. Don’t miss the informative and interesting slide shows and videos.

And here are Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6 and Part 7.

Beaty Biodiversity Museum – 1






One day last week, we made our first visit to Vancouver’s new Beaty Biodiversity Museum, located on the campus of the University of British Columbia (UBC). A teaching and research facility, the museum is now able to showcase UBC’s natural history collections, with more than two million specimens to the public for the first time.

Among the treasures are a 26-metre-long blue whale skeleton suspended in the two-storey glass Atrium, the second-largest fish collection in the nation, and myriad fossils, shells, insects, fungi, mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and plants from around British Columbia and the world.

The Blue Whale Exhibit is truly magnificent and stunning as the first thing one sees already from the outside and when walking into the atrium. I didn’t, for example, know that:
Blue whales are the biggest animals that have ever lived on earth–longer than the longest known dinosaur, and much more massive.

The Blue Whale story is awe-inspiring:
On the remote northwestern coast of PEI [Prince Edward Island, a small island province in eastern Canada] in 1987, a 26 m long mature female blue whale died and washed ashore near the town of Tignish. In hopes of preserving the whale’s skeleton for research or museum display, the PEI government and the Canadian Museum of Nature arranged for the skeleton to be dragged off the beach near Nail Pond, and buried. The remains of the whale were longer than two Vancouver trolley buses parked one behind the other, and weighed an estimated 80,000 kg. Her burial was a mammoth task.

Because of the difficulty of unearthing and displaying such a large animal, the whale skeleton remained under the red PEI dirt for two decades. In 2007, the Museum of Nature and the PEI government granted UBC permission to retrieve the whale, and bring it to BC to be displayed in the new Beaty Biodiversity Museum.

Moving the skeleton from the coast of PEI to the inside of the Museum’s glass atrium, 6000 km away, [was] a challenging project…

Blue whales are the largest animal ever to have lived on earth. They rarely strand on beaches, and very few skeletons have been recovered for research or display. Worldwide, only 20 are available to the public for viewing.

We learned much from the guide and the posted displays, such as the fact that the whale was killed by a passing ship, how they had to rebuild and put together the huge bones of the skeleton, and that they are on the Red List of Endangered Species. Fortunately the Beaty’s website has excellent videos on the project to learn more, so if you are interested, do check them out at the links. Enjoy!

Continued: Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6 and Part 7.

hope and optimism

sleepless for hours last night, with churning thoughts and emotions, including despair and anger and tears, over the tragedies in Japan as well as the messages in the Suzuki film (see previous post)
sitting in the dark with only the monitor’s light and a cup of hot cocoa and typing somewhat incoherent thoughts into a list seemed to help ease a grandmother’s pain

later, in the light of another grey morning, after weeks of grey days of heavy heavy rains and thunderstorms, I read the list and decide to leave it barely edited. it’s not saying anything new nor is it poetry so don’t be too hard on me….

we need hope and optimism
especially for all our children
traumatized or not
as parents and grandparents (even Suzuki is one)
nurture, nature, healing
in gardening, in the presence of nature
spring’s promise, fall’s harvest
like Suzuki, I identify with first nations’ and early peoples nature ‘worship’,
thanking the earth for providing
save the forests
reduce depletion of fish
organic farming
not factory farming of plants or animals or fish
without chemicals on land or sea
no GMOs
grow food close to home, save agricultural lands from development
backyard gardens, chickens, composting
clean potable water
not wasted on golf courses and ‘retirement’ homes in the deserts
need massive change fast,
time is running out for our planet!
reduce consumption and waste
no more nuclear!
drastically reduce dependance on oil, coal
reduce plastics
increase solar, wind, geothermal, wave energy
mass transit, bikes, trains
(building them will provide jobs – look at Germany and Denmark!)
less travel, fewer planes, cars, cleaner ships
change philosophy of constant growth, constant focus on shares and profits at all human and environmental costs
(isn’t it disgusting that Japan’s disasters only make Wall Street types worry about stock market drops?! – where’s the compassion?)
and how come Haiti and New Orleans and Aceh and so many ‘poor’ places are still struggling to recover from natural disasters while more money is quickly made available to wealthy nations – is it because business and corporations see profits in rebuilding in industrial nations – again the corporate bottom line, not the human line???

Now I need to somehow make some art to heal some of the heartache since it’s too wet and cold to go start some seeds….

Later: Please read this, a calm, reasonable, intelligent voice in the wilderness and madness of CNN style reporting: What Japan’s nuclear crisis means for all of us

forces of nature


I’ve been struggling to put words together, more than is usual even for me, about the horrific events in Japan, all that devastation caused not just by a powerful earthquake in a country that has them so frequently but the even more destructive tsunami that followed, then the nuclear explosions and meltdowns that seem to be continuing and is so worrying for all of us around the world.

Our past several days have been focused on the news coming over the internet and television, a long phone chat with an older Japanese-Canadian friend living in Ontario, and a call and email from our eldest daughter wondering about some of her friends in Japan where she’d been an exchange student and about an exchange student who stayed with us several months long ago. We have many Japanese friends here in Vancouver that we are thinking of and wondering how their families back in Japan are doing. Knowing these people is making the tragedy even more profoundly felt. There are always earthquakes and tragedies around the world, and we feel sorrow for all the people that are hurt, but this one seems to have even more of an impact on us this weekend because of some of those personal connnections, I suppose.

And we cannot forget that the west coast of Canada is also in a powerful earthquake zone. How prepared are we?

Yesterday, Sunday evening, we turned on the TV to something else, the film Force of Nature: The David Suzuki Movie on CBC. Please read Erika’s blog post about this profoundly moving and powerful film that we recommend highly and found curiously and disturbingly timely right now. The film covers Dr. Suzuki’s own history as a Japanese-Canadian child sent to an internment camp during the second World War, his experiences with racism, learning about Hiroshima, then becoming a scientist and eventually the ‘godfather of environmentalism in Canada’, all interspersed with his Legacy lecture, which reminds us how much human interference has created a huge problem on the natural world. The film has been out in theatres for a while and is still being shown here and there. If you can pick up CBC TV where you are, it will be aired again on April 3rd. Lots of film clips at the CBC link to explore as well, and there is the book too, all these to celebrate Suzuki’s upcoming 75th birthday.

We went to bed last night with sore hearts for our friends and worries for the future of this planet and our children, while trying to hold close David Suzuki’s words of hope.

Canada in Copenhagen

Taking a break now and then from posting pretty frost pictures and writing Christmas letters, I’ve been checking into reality: the news on the Copenhagen Climate Summit. Others have been far more eloquent than I could ever be, so here are the most powerful links I’ve viewed most recently about the shame and about the anger against Harper that many Canadians feel:

1. Just before the conference, George Monbiot wrote: ‘The real villain is Canada’. Or just view this video.

2. Why am I not at all surprised that Canada takes Fossil “award” on first day?

3. This is a great editorial run by 56 newspapers around the world.

4. Today my Finnish-Canadian blog friend has posted this: Canada, history is calling.

5. And the best, I think, by my “neighbour” on Bowen Island: A call to ignore our prime minister in Copenhagen “for he does not speak for most of us”. Reading this one most inspired this post, thanks Chris!

home fires burning

Thanks to Erika for posting my video onto her Flickr account!

The past few days we’ve been without home heating, that is, a central heating system we take for granted in most homes in the developed world. Ours is a natural gas-fired hot water system, and one of the valves in the many metres of copper piping down in the crawl space has failed. I don’t fully understand its workings but husband has been chasing around for some parts that are now scarce for this almost 25 year old system that has been fairly energy efficient for us. Another example of technology leaving us behind, a recurring pet peeve of mine!

So, we are presently heating our home with a wood-burning fireplace, updated long ago with an insert with a glass door and an electric fan. Located in the living room at one end of the house, the further reaches barely get warm. A portable electric heater is handy for a quick warmup in the bathrooms when needed, and I prepare some oven cooked dishes to warm the kitchen. So we’re doing alright, better than during some storms with power outages, including two years ago.

But our carbon footprint has grown bigger this week! The fireplace insert really should be replaced with one that has a catalytic converter so what comes out of the chimney would be less polluting but normally we rarely use it. The wood is from trees we’ve cut down or pruned on our own property plus scrap lumber leftovers from renovations. It’s all a reminder of how much harder it used to be before modern technology – go out and chop trees into enough firewood to last the winter (we do live in Canada after all) and make sure you keep the fire burning with numerous trips to the woodpile.

Many homes, especially the older ones were not designed all that well to conserve heat. When we moved to Vancouver in the early 70’s, after living in Winnipeg and northeast BC, we were aghast to find homes in Vancouver with little insulation and single-glazed windows! Sure it’s milder here, but we still need heat indoors while not heating the outdoors! Fireplaces were, and many still are, open and drafty and not often centrally situated for heating the whole home. That was our home before we renovated but the fireplace is still not central.

I’m recalling my maternal grandparents’ farmhouse in Finland, built in the beginning of the 20th century I think. The central large multi use room, the tupa, had a huge brick wood burning oven in the very middle of the house so the heat it produced warmed all the rooms that would back its chimney. Grandmother would bake breads and casseroles and stews in it all day while the house was kept warm with the bricks retaining heat overnight.

‘Modern’ city homes, like my aunt’s, had ceramic tiled corner fireplaces or kaakeliuunit, based on the same principles. We saw these same kind, but of course more ornate, in the massive palaces in St. Petersburg.

Back to the present… and the future…

What will our future be like without relatively clean and easy to transport fuel like natural gas for home heating? That future is closer than we think while the immense tar sands operation in northern Alberta uses up our precious and finite natural gas plus water resources in the extraction process. Canada is blessed with natural gas but it is finite and needed in Canada, a cold northern nation. We are wasting this most precious resource on the most environmentally polluting industry on this earth! It makes me embarrassed to be Canadian, do you hear, Mr. Harper?

As I’m writing this, I’m also aware that it is Remembrance Day today. I acknowledge the losses of lives in the wars, with our grandfathers, fathers and uncles fighting too. Stephen Hume’s column today on also remembering the continuing suffering of those that did NOT die is well worth reading and remembering. As I’ve written here each year (search), I strongly prefer that this day be turned instead to a focus on ending wars and promoting peace. Our Canadian soldiers used to be peace keepers, not fighting other people’s wars and sending home the dead every week!

Now, you may wonder, how on earth did I get from the subject of home heating to the subject of war and peace? When I came up with the title for this post, the phrase sounded familiar so I looked up the source of this expression and found these answers:

keep the home fires burning:

Fig. to keep things going at one’s home or other central location. (From a World War I song.) [and] to keep your home pleasant and in good order while people who usually live with you are away, especially at war

And this: a You Tube video of old Canadian war posters set to the song Keep the Home Fires Burning.

A lovely song but many of the posters made my skin crawl! Will we ever learn the lessons of history and wars and the environmental damage we have been and are still doing? The connections are just too startling and scary. Peace — might it be good for the environment?!

P.S. Another reason for Canadians to be grateful on November 11th. I’d forgotten this event in our history.