MASON, Adrienne

Author Tags: Kidlit & Young Adult

Adrienne Mason is a full-time writer and editor living in Tofino where she is the managing editor of KNOW: The Science Magazine for Curious Kids. She received a BSc in Biology from UVic and has been involved in "informal" science education for many years, including time as an interpreter in Jasper National Park and a three-year stint as the Public Education Coordinator at the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre. She also once taught marine biology on a tall ship sailing from Poland to Jamaica. Mason primarily writes non-fiction for both adults and children and her work usually focusses on themes of science, nature, and west coast history. Her articles have appeared in National Geographic Kids, WILD, Canadian Geographic, the Georgia Straight, Beautiful BC, OWL, Ranger Rick, Boys' Life, and Nature Canada. She has also worked as a writer/developmental editor for several educational publishers including McGraw-Hill Ryerson, Nelson and Weigl. Now out of print, her first book provided teachers with background information about environmental issues combined with suggestions for activities to involve students.

CITY/TOWN: Tofino, B.C.

DATE OF BIRTH: December 23, 1962


EMPLOYMENT OTHER THAN WRITING: biologist, naturalist/interpreter

Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
Long Beach Wild: A Celebration of People and Place on Canada's Rugged Western Shore


Long Beach Wild: A Celebration of People and Place on Canada's Rugged Western Shore (Greystone 2012) 978-1-55365-344-8 $24.95
Drop of Doom (Kids Can Press, 2007)
Change It!: Solids, liquids, gases and you (Kids Can Press, 2006)
Build It!: Structures, systems and you (Kids Can Press, 2006)
Move It!: Motion, forces and you (Kids Can Press, 2005)
Touch It!: Materials, matter and you (Kids Can Press, 2005)
Snakes. (Kids Can Press, 2005)
Owls. (Kids Can Press, 2004)
Tales from the West Coast: Smugglers, Sea Monsters, and Other Stories. (Altitude Publishing, 2003)
West Coast Adventures: Shipwrecks, Lighthouses, and Rescues Along Canada's West Coast. (Altitude Publishing, 2003)
Otters. (Kids Can Press, 2003)
Bats. (Kids Can Press, 2003)
Lu and Clancy Sound Off. (Kids Can Press, 2002)
Lu and Clancy's Carnival Caper. (Kids Can Press, 2002)
Lu and Clancy's Spy Stuff. (Kids Can Press, 2000)
The World of Marine Mammals. (Orca Book Publishers, 1999)
Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises. (Altitude Publishing, 1999)
The Nature of Spiders: Consummate Killers. (Greystone Books/Douglas & McIntyre, 1999)
Lu and Clancy's Secret Codes. (Kids Can Press, 1999)
Mealworms: Raise them, watch them, see them change. (Kids Can Press, 1998)
Living Things. (Kids Can Press, 1997)
Oceans: Looking at Beaches and Coral Reefs, Tides and Currents, Sea Mammals and Fish, Seaweeds and Other Ocean Wonders. (Kids Can Press, 1995)
The Green Classroom. (Pembroke Publishers, 1991)

[LITHIS / BCBW 2012] "Science" "Kidlit"

Adrienne Mason’s The Nature of Spiders: Consummate Killers (Greystone Books $34.95)

A panda biography has sweet faces and endearing antics; a spider’s story has the sex and violence. Stealthy, predatory, and alien only in a U.S. Immigration sense of the word, these fascinating creatures are described and illustrated in captivating detail in Adrienne Mason’s The Nature of Spiders: Consummate Killers (Greystone Books $34.95).

If fear is a result of ignorance, arachnophobes should delve in this book. Mason writes clearly, introducing the different groups of spiders and giving solid scientific explanations for characteristics that might otherwise appear merely bizarre. Tales of hunting, courtship, web-spinning, and dispersal (some spiders float thousands of metres above the ground on parachutes of silk) fill the pages with surprise and enlightenment. Stunning photographs and line drawings make this a combination of coffee-table and reference book for all ages—for fans of all lifeforms on Earth, not just pandas. 1-55054-694-5


The World of Marine Mammals (Orca, $12.95)

In The World of Marine Mammals (Orca, $12.95), Mason, a marine biologist who works as a shipboard naturalist for West Coast eco-tours, has also examined the lives of manatees, sea otters, dugongs and other warm-blooded creatures of the sea. Writing for grades four to six, she examines how marine mammals breathe, move, keep warm, find food, communicate, play and fight for survival. Victoria artist Garth Buzzard variously details a gray whale skeleton, how walruses use their heads to break through ice 20 centimeters thick, and sea lions at play. 1-55143-046-0


Long Beach Wild (Greystone $24.95)
Excerpt (2013)

Long-time Long Beach resident Adrienne Mason has done a terrific job digging up delightful stories and characters for Long Beach Wild (Greystone $24.95), none more essential to the spirit of the area than pioneers Peg and Dick Whittington, who first arrived together on a beautiful sunny day in August, 1936. In this excerpt, Mason has recalled what happened after they bumped their way to Long Beach in a truck, off-loaded their crates and never left their sixty-four-acre lot northwest of Green Point.

Times were tough everywhere in the 1930s, and the Victoria couple had been
looking for a new direction. Dick first came out on foot, walking along a rough telegraph trail from Port Alberni to Kennedy Lake. There, he was met by a friend from the west coast, and the pair canoed down to the ocean and spent a few days exploring Clayoquot and Tofino.

On his return trip home via Ucluelet, Dick’s route took him down Long Beach. Walking on the huge yet deserted beach, serenaded by the background rumble of waves hitting sand, he fell in love with the place. Back in Victoria, he approached Peg about the idea of making Long Beach their new home.

“We were looking for something and ready to leap at anything that was different than city living,” Peg recalled years later. “Sure we argued it back and forth, pros and cons, and were we crazy or weren’t we, but I was willing to give it a try.”

The $300 the couple brought with them supported them for a year and financed the first house they built. They lived off the beach’s plenty, dining regularly on clams, crabs, and salmon and supplementing that with flour, sugar, and other staples from town.
The Whittingtons’ first task was to set up a camp. They put up their large canvas tent, moved their supplies in, and then grabbed their machetes. They had purchased the lot where Fred Tibbs had built his Tidal Wave Ranch. His house was still standing, higher up on the cliff above the beach. To get to it, the couple had to hack their way up through the wall of salal. It took three weeks. One of them would cut the brush and the other would clear it away. They found the single-room cabin in rough shape. At least twenty years had passed since Tibbs went off to build his islet castle near Tofino. The logs were rotten and wind blew through the walls, but the roof was sound. Dick and Peg cleaned it out, chinked the logs, and installed windows they’d hauled up the hill from the tent. The couple continued to sleep at the beach in the early days of their arrival, but once the cabin was ready, complete with a tiny tin stove, they moved in.

During the first year and a half, the Whittingtons chipped their home and livelihood out of the forest fronting Long Beach. They cleared an area large enough for a new house, dug a well, and put in a garden. Neither had homesteading experience, yet both were apparently well suited to it. They built their first house completely of wood they salvaged off the beach, mostly sawed lumber lost off the decks of passing ships. For the foundation they used rocks and creosoted posts, and for the roof, hand-cut shakes.
As with the Lovekins’ place, the activity at the Whittingtons’ property became a topic of curiosity and conversation. Any visitors to the beach made sure to stop by to see what they were up to. The locals, Peg assumed, figured it was only a matter of time before this brand of west coast living would get the better of the young pair.
“A lot of people came in and took a look because they wondered, ‘Oh, these people won’t stay. Nobody will stay there that long.’”

At the time, the beach was not considered a prime location or a smart investment. It was just too far from anywhere. Walking out to Tofino or Ucluelet along the rough trails could take three hours each way. Plus, it was a time when money was tight. Within a few years of the Whittingtons’ arrival, for example, the property next door at Green Point was listed for $500, and nobody bought it. “There was no money,” Peg recalled, “and [people saw] no future in the beach.” It was a far cry from two decades earlier, when Tibbs had sold his land for $5,000.

From the start, Peg and Dick envisioned building a few cabins as holiday rentals. Once their own home was finished, they started in on building the guest cabins, working full tilt to get them up. A day off was considered a walk to beachcomb lumber. At first, the Whittingtons didn’t have a name for their place, which they were reluctant to call a resort. Nevertheless, they ran a small newspaper ad in Victoria, and adventurous guests began trickling in, arriving by boat at Ucluelet and then getting a ride up to Long Beach. The guest book’s first entry is dated July 1937.

People typically came for a week, maybe two, bringing all their own supplies. Each cabin had a stove, beds, and a few other basic items: “none of the luxuries, but all of the necessities,” Peg liked to say. Every night after sunset there was a bonfire on the beach, and guests from the cabins gathered around the crackling driftwood to visit, while out beyond the circle of light the sound of distant breaking waves filled the dark. In time, the resort was named Singing Sands.

For a few years, most of the signatures in the Singing Sands guest book were from nearby residents—Hillier, Stone, Donahue, Lovekin—but slowly the guest range expanded, reaching to Port Alberni, Victoria, and beyond. Word was beginning to spread about a small resort out there on magnificent Long Beach.

In the summer of 1939, Edith Nelson paid a return visit to her old friends. On leaving, she wrote in the guest book, “Once more unto the beach, my friends.” Whether intentional or not, her entry, playing on Shakespeare’s “Once more unto the breach, dear friends” from Henry V, was portentous. Henry V opens just before the Battle of Agincourt begins during the Hundred Years’ War. Not two months after Edith Nelson waved goodbye to the Whittingtons and headed home, Canada declared war on Germany.

Even on the remote western edge of Canada, things were about to change.

If the leading edge of the cloud that was about to sweep over Long Beach during World War II was signalled by a truncated honeymoon, perhaps it was fate that saw the need to mark the cloud’s departure with another casualty of the heart.

In March 1946, a large mine floated onto the beach near Dick and Peg Whittington’s Singing Sands resort. They reported it to George Redhead, the provincial policeman stationed in Ucluelet, who in turn sent word to the Canadian navy. Although Redhead advised them to land at Ucluelet, from where he would drive the detonation crew out to the beach site, the navy insisted on proceeding by sea straight out to Green Point and sending the men ashore in a small boat. Redhead and the Whittingtons knew this was a foolish decision—launching and rowing through the surf was risky at the best of times and even more so in the late winter’s high seas—but they had little say in the matter.

Offshore, a skiff with five men was lowered, and they headed in. They made it safely to the beach and set about exploding the mine. The plan went awry, however, when the men tried to return to the base ship. As they strained at the oars to propel the small boat through the breakers, they were flipped over into the churning surf. Dick and Redhead raced in to help while Peg ran to the house for rope. When she got back, she could see three of the navy men struggling in the surf as another clung to the overturned skiff and the fifth was trying to gain purchase on the rocks off the beach.

Eventually, three of them were rescued and brought to shore, and Peg and a
neighbour drove the shaken men to Singing Sands to warm up.

Dick, meanwhile, had, with great difficulty, made it onto the rocks of Green Point to help the stranded sailor still in trouble there. Whether Dick was swept into the water by the wave surge or pulled in by the man he was trying to save is not clear, but Dick disappeared. Only later was his body found down the beach toward Sandhill Creek. One of the naval men also drowned in the incident.

Dick was posthumously awarded a medal for his part in the rescue. Peg chose not to go to the ceremony; instead his mother accepted the medal.

“Everybody thought I should leave the beach after that,” Peg Whittington said years later, “and I thought I shouldn’t.” 978-1-55365-344-8

On February 1st, Heritage House Publishing announced it had acquired all the assets of the former D&M Publishers’ imprint Greystone Books, managed by Rob Sanders, who will be taking most of his authors and titles — such as Long Beach Wild — to Heritage House. Previously, Heritage House was chiefly comprised of Heritage House Publishers, Touchwood Editions, Brindle & Glass and Rocky Mountain Books. Overseen by Rodger and Pat Touchie, The Heritage Group received the Jim Douglas Publisher of the Year Award in 2008.

[BCBW 2013]