OBEE, Bruce

Author Tags: Advice, Outdoors

Born in Victoria on May 19, 1951, Bruce Obee began a freelance career in 1977 after five years in the news business. He has written a popular guide to the Long Beach area, The Pacific Rim Explorer, and the most widely-used guide to the Gulf Islands, The Gulf Islands Explorer, which has been revised. He also collaborated with photographer Tim Fitzharris on a coffee table book, Coastal Wildlife of British Columbia, in 1991, and participated in several other publishing ventures including Guardians of the Whales: The Quest to Study Whales in the Wild (Whitecap, 1992) with Graeme Ellis. Obee's articles and photographs have been published in National Geographic, Canadian Geographic, Travel & Leisure, British Columbia Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine. Obee's work is often used for journalism and English courses in North American universities. He writes television scripts for British Columbia's Knowledge Network, and is a contributing editor for British Columbia Magazine. His book, Over Beautiful British Columbia, is Obee's second nomination for B.C.'s Bill Duthie Booksellers' Choice Award. Among his other books are Guardians of the Whales, The Gulf Islands Explorer, The Pacific Rim Explorer, Coastal Wildlife of British Columbia, and Wolf: Wild Hunter of North America. His coverage of environmental issues has won a number of Western Magazine and other North American and international awards. He is a recipient of the Governor-General's Commemorative Award for "significant contribution to compatriots, community and Canada."

ANCESTRAL BACKGROUND: Fourth-generation Vancouver Islander; third-generation Vancouver Island journalist


Trans Canada Trail: British Columbia, Whitecap 2008).
Wild Hunters 2001, Beautiful British Columbia, Victoria (ISBN 1-894226-11-9)
Over Canada: An Aerial Adventure (co-author/project editor) 1999, Beautiful
British Columbia, Victoria (ISBN 0-920431-87-9; ISBN 0-92431-91-7 pbk)
Over Beautiful British Columbia: An Aerial Adventure 1996, Beautiful
British Columbia, Victoria (ISBN 0-920431-39-9; deluxe ed.
0-920431-43-7; deluxe charter ed. 0-920431-47-X)
Grizzlies and Black Bears 1996, Beautiful British Columbia, Victoria
(ISBN 0-920431-49-6)
Wildcats: Cougars, Bobcats and Lynx 1995, Beautiful British Columbia,
Victoria (ISBN 0-920431-29-1)
Wolves, Coyotes and Foxes 1995, Beautiful British Columbia, Victoria
Our New Parks: Volume Three 1995, Beautiful British Columbia,
Victoria (ISBN 0-920-431-37-2)
Our New Parks: Volume Two 1995, Beautiful British Columbia, Victoria
(ISBN 0-920431-30-5)
Our New Parks: Volume One 1995, Beautiful British Columbia, Victoria
(ISBN 0-920431-28-3)
Wolf: Wild Hunter of North America 1994, Key Porter Books Ltd.,
Toronto (ISBN 0-681-00600-5)
The Canadian Rockies 1994, Whitecap Books Ltd.,
Vancouver/Toronto (ISBN 1-55110-163-7)
Canadian Birds 1993, Whitecap Books Ltd.,
Vancouver/Toronto (ISBN 1-55110-097-5)
Canadian Wildlife 1993, Whitecap Books Ltd.,
Vancouver/Toronto (ISBN 1-55110-068-1
Guardians of the Whales 1992, Whitecap Books Ltd., Vancouver/Toronto (ISBN 1-55110-034-7)
The Coastal Birder's Journal 1992, Whitecap Books Ltd.,
Vancouver/Toronto (1-55110-033-9)
Coastal Wildlife of British Columbia 1991, Whitecap Books Ltd., Vancouver/Toronto (ISBN 1-895099-86-2)
The Pacific Rim Explorer 1986; revised 1995, Whitecap Books Ltd., The Gulf Islands Explorer 1981; revised 1990, 1997, Whitecap Books Ltd.,
Vancouver/Toronto (ISBN 0-88826-089-X) Vancouver/Toronto (ISBN 0-920620-


Whale Watching 1999, APA Insight-Discovery Channel
The Presence of Whales 1995, Whitecap Books, Toronto/Vancouver (ISBN 1-
55110-301-X) - other authors include Barry Lopez, Farley Mowat, Roger Payne
Discoveries in Non-fiction 1993, Oxford University Press, Toronto (ISBN 0-19-
540944-2) - other authors include Margaret Atwood, Judy Blume, Bill Cosby, Garrison Keillor, George Plimpton
Essay Writing Made Easy 1993, Pembroke Publishers Ltd., Ontario (ISBN 1-55138-016-
The Arch of Experience 1987, Holt, Rinehart, and Winston of Canada, Ltd. (ISBN 0-03-
922032-X) - other authors include Margaret Atwood, Roald Dahl, Graham
Greene, James Joyce, Dylan Thomas, Virginia Woolf
Contexts 1984, Nelson Canada, Ontario (ISBN 0-17-601760-7) - other authors include
Max Braithwaite, Barry Broadfoot, Anne Frank, Bruce Hutchison


Leo Award - Best Screenwriter, Information Series - May 28, 2004
International Regional Magazine Association - Nature Feature, Silver - Aug. 27, 2003
International Regional Magazine Association - Nature Feature, Gold - Oct. 9, 2002
International Regional Magazine Association - Environmental Feature, Bronze - Oct. 9,
International Regional Magazine Association - Nature Feature, Gold - Sept. 19, 2001
International Regional Magazine Association - Environmental Feature, Gold - Sept. 14,
International Regional Magazine Association - Nature Feature, Silver - May 6, 1999
International Regional Magazine Association - Environmental Feature, Award of Merit -
May 6, 1999
National Magazine Awards - Photojournalism, Honourable Mention - 1998
BC Book Prizes, Bill Duthie Booksellers Choice nominee (1 of 3) - 1997
Commemorative Medal for the 125th Anniversary of the Confederation of Canada - In
recognition of significant contribution to compatriots, community and to Canada - - 1992
BC Book Prizes, Bill Duthie Booksellers Choice nominee (1 of 3) - 1991
Regional Publishers Association - Award of Merit, Reporting/Public Service Writing -
April 27, 1990
American Sunbathing Association Inc. - Honorary Award, Outstanding Nudist Reportage
-- Aug. 12, 1972

[BCBW 2008] "Advice" "Outdoors"

Over Canada: An Aerial Adventure

National projects that get launched from the West Coast are as rare as one-legged runners.

With a one-hour CTV special and sponsorship from Royal Bank, Over Canada: An Aerial Adventure (Beautiful British Columbia/Whitecap $49.95) is a marketing gamble, a Left Coastal overview that uses a helicopter to bring the country together.

Culled from thousands of aerial photos, Over Canada celebrates the rugged diversity of the world’s second-largest nation with the simple slogan ‘there’s no place like home.’

Lead photographer Russ Heinl, editor Bryan McGill and writers Rosemary Neering and Bruce Obee have dispensed with ten provinces and two territories in favour of six regions—Atlantic Canada, St. Lawrence/Great Lakes, the Canadian Shield, the Prairies, the North and the West—in French and English editions.

Two-thirds of Canada’s 5.4 million residents 100 years ago lived in rural areas; today three-quarters of the 30.3 million residents live in cities and towns. One-third of our population lives in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. Seventy percent of the country is still wilderness.

With Constance Brissenden, Russ Heinl has simultaneously published a then-and-now aerial comparison, Vancouver and the Lower Mainland from the Air (Whitecap $34.95), as well as Vancouver Island from the Air (Whitecap $34.95) with Rosemary Neering.

Canada 0-920431-87-9
Vancouver 1-55110-958-1
Vancouver Island 1-55110-957-3


Over Beautiful British Columbia

As Roderick Haig Brown once observed, in a province with 40 major ranges, “The first almighty fact about British Columbia is mountains.”
With Christmas sales mostly below expectations, Over Beautiful British Columbia (Beautiful B.C./ARTery $49.95) literally rose above the rest to provide a bestselling bird's eye view of B.C.
Released in October, the 192 page overview of B.C. reportedly sold 30,000 copies before Christmas with the marketing support of Overwaitea/Save On Foods, underwriters of the project.
“Because of my graphic art background I always look for very simple elements in photographs,” says photo editor Tony Owen. But the spectacular images weren't always simple to obtain, given B.C.'s topography. As well, the selection process for 200 aerial photos from 20 photographers entailed sifting through a veritable mountain of images.
“We invited more than 50 photographers to submit and we received 6,000 images from 35 of them,” says Owen. “Even with all those we still sent photographers into key areas for more.”
Having pictured the province since 1959, Beautiful B.C. magazine was a logical partner for KCTS 9 to produce a 60 minute video Over Beautiful British Columbia: An Aerial Adventure, marking B.C.'s 125th anniversary as a province. Washington state's public broadcasting station had previously made ten 'Over' programs including Over Washington to mark the state's 200th birthday in 1989.
For the book's accompanying video, for sale at $24.95, a $300,000 camera was bolted under a helicopter's nose, operated by remote control.
Written and edited by Bruce Obee, with Russ Heinl as principal photographer, the Over project was the largest publishing venture in the magazine's 37 year history.
Lieutenant Governor Garde Gardom will present a copy of the book to Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace this spring.

[BCBW 1997]

Guardians of the Whales: The Quest to Study Whales in the Wild

As RECENTLY AS 1972 WHALES WERE killed and dissected for scientific research.
Modern scientists have discredited that method and devised more humane and conservation-oriented techniques such as "photo-identification", photographing the unique markings on the animals and then tracking the movements of individual whales. The people involved in full-time study of whales in the wild are portrayed in Brnce Obee and Graeme Ellis' Guardians of the Whales: The Quest to Study Whales in the Wild (Whitecap $34.95). Ellis, who supplied most of the photographs, has been studying killer whales "longer than anybody" since the late 1960s. The book tells the story of these fascinating animals through the eyes of people who have spent half their lives on the high seas studying them," says Obee. It’s not known whether all this watching and listening by humans is affecting the animals. Obee says it may be too soon to tell. "They may live up to 80 years, and we've only studied them in the wild for 20.You can't determine what's normal in that short time. The major prob1em could be noise pollution, since killer whales use echo-location to navigate. "Put a hydrophone down in Johnson Strait and you always hear the kathump of diesels, even if the boat is seven kilometres away."
Sometimes a grey or humpback whale will observe the observers. It has happened in the whale breeding grounds off Baja California, and on rare occasions off the B.C. coast.

The first recorded incident of the "friendly whale phenomenon" was in the early' '80s off Meares Island, when a whale came up and bumped a research boat Luckily the researcher had seen the same behaviour down south and knew there was no danger. He tried to keep the incident quiet for the whale's sake. ”In spite of that the Vancouver Sun found out and ran a front page story," says Obee, 'and soon people were up there jumping on the whale's back, putting dogs on it, even driving their boats over it." Most whale watchers, however pose little threat and Obee would prefer to see more commercial whale watching. "If you've got 5O people in one boat, that’s a whole lot better than 50 people in 25 boats." He says Obee thinks that with the growth in whale watching and the general increase in public knowledge about the mammals, the time has come to release all whales from captivity. "Some people from the Aquarium will argue that if we don't let people see these animals in the flesh, we'll return to the days when people shot them, You can't' convince me. My children, who have never seen a blue whale, understand the need to protect them." About half of Obee's book deals with killer whales. "Before killer whale research began, people used to think there were thousands of Killer whales on the coast," Obee says. "and then they found there were only 330 along the coasts of B.C. and Washington." After that discovery no more killer whales were captured for display in aquariums, except to replace those that died in captivity. In recent year's killer whale research has focused on the sounds they make, and whether they "speak". Obee says that experts like John Ford of the Vancouver Aquarium have identified 40 "phrases" recorded by hydrophone. "If a killer wha1e pod comes into a narrow restricted passage," says Obee, it's quite common to hear them use a phrase frequently heard in that situation." They also make a great deal of vocalization when rubbing themselves on beaches, or when several pods meet. No one has discovered what the sounds mean. Ford refers to the sounds each whale makes when several pods meet as a "family badge" a way of keeping in touch with other members of the same pod while mingling with up to 100 other whales. Whale researchers used to think that humpback whales travelled straight from their breeding areas off Hawaii or Mexico to northern feeding grounds, and then back. Now modem methods of tracking whales have shown that they wander from Japan to Mexico, and from the Bering Sea to the South Pacific. The entire Pacific Ocean is the 12-meter giant's back yard. 1-55110-034-7

[BCBW, Autumn, 1992] "Environment"

Coastal Wildlife of British Columbia (Whitecap $39.95)

The number of grey whales is up from 11,000 to 21,000. Humpbacks have increased five-fold to 5,000 since hunting of them was outlawed. About 20,000 eagles now soar above the coasts of B.C., the highest number since DDT killed off great numbers of them. And there are more success stories on the environmental front, says journalist Bruce Obee.

SOMETIMES GROUPS NOT GENERALLY associated with conserving wildlife are active environmentalists. Bruce Obee points out in his book, Coastal Wildlife of British Columbia (Whitecap $39.95), the major role of hunters in protecting and enhancing waterfowl habitat since the turn of the century. "Ducks Unlimited [a hunter-sponsored organization] builds dikes, rearranges watercourses and does all kinds of things to enhance nestability for waterfowl," he says. Obee has written about wildlife and the environment for 20 years for publications such as Canadian Geographic and the New York Times. His latest book is illustrated by nature photographer Tim Fitzharris, whose photographs regularly appear in Audubon and National Geographic. Obee says his collaboration with Fitzharris is an attempt to redefine the 'coffee table book'. "I hate that term. I object to picture books with no text. This book has 40,000 words of text, all well researched and checked by experts." Obee traces today's concerns about wildlife back to the historic mistakes made by people, such as over-hunting marine mammals and poisoning their environment. "What we did in the past almost brought about their demise," says Obee, referring particularly to whales and seals, "and in the course of research I've discovered lots of little conservation programs that very few hear about." Not all the news is good, of course. Stellar Sea Lion and fur seal populations appear to be dropping, possibly because overfishing depletes their food stocks. And snow geese, who nest in Siberia but migrate over Canada and the U.S., "are down significantly from a few years ago." Birds like the snow goose rely on swampy areas such as the mouth of the Fraser River as a stopping off and feeding area on long flights. But Obee says the birds are being crowded out. "In the Fraser estuary the usable habitat has been reduced by 75 per cent from what it originally was." Conservation groups and governments have responded by formulating a North American Waterfowl Management Plan. The goal is to coordinate efforts across two continents to protect habitat for the birds. "For example," says Obee, "they're looking for ways to work with farmers to restore lost habitat and protect habitat that remain, perhaps by planting crops which the geese could eat in winter." Obee's next book, Guardians of the Whales (due in Fall '92) will focus on the people who study whales. He says there are large numbers of researchers right from Baja California up to Alaska, and that a high percentage study killer whales. "People my age, about 40, have been studying these mammals half their lives and understand them intimately." Researchers tell him that one of the greatest threats to the whales is noise
the collective noise of all marine traffic, from little motorboats to 60,000 tonne freighters.

ANOTHER STRANGE BEDFELLOW ON THE conservation scene is MacMillan Bloedel. The giant forest company has co-sponsored the publication of a new guide book, Waterbirds of the Strait of Georgia (Soules $7.95). The strait is one of the few critical areas in the world for waterbirds. Three-quarters of B.C.'s human population lives around its shores, and "over 130 species of marine birds from 22 countries and three continents breed, migrate and/ or spend the winter in the Strait of Georgia", say the authors. The glossy, full colour guide to 48 common waterbirds will help raise money for the B.C. Waterfowl Society to preserve habitat for wildlife. 0-9695350-0-7

[BCBW 1991] “Environment”