Saturday, 27 November 2010

Jill Heinreth: A Canadian life where blue is anything but

Jill Heinreth: A Canadian life where blue is anything but
By Stephen Weir

It's like going next door to borrow a cuppa sugar and coming back with filet mignon. It is not what you wanted, but who is going to complain. Whenever Jill Heinreth speaks at a Niagara Falls wreck diving symposium, you can pretty well count on her talking about anything other than Great Lake shipwrecks - but, that is okay, the audiences adore her!
Earlier this year she was the headline speaker at the 16th annual Niagara Divers' Association Shipwreck Festival in Welland, Ontario. While people like wreck hunter Dave Trotter and Georgann and Mike Wachter showed film from their latest fresh water discovies, Jill got up on stage and talked about why divers die using rebreathers! A few years before at the same wreck-heavy conference Jill wowed the audiences with stories and pictures of her dives in Mexican caves and Antarctic iceberg fissures!
The audience in Welland, Ontario love her. She has spoken twice and post conference surveys show divers want her back in a big way! She can't stay on topic worth a damn but come break-time they are lined up to buy her books, her DVDs and get her autograph. She is Ontario's hometown diving girl. Awe shucks and all that, but, she is the real deal, she has worked on Hollywood underwater movies, dove inside uncharted mile long caves, set underwater records, risked death to explore ice fissures at the bottom of the globe and, unfortunately has learned lots about rebreather dive fatalities.
“I have worked as an expert witness and have also been called on by Coroners’ offices to examine rebreathers after a fatality has occurred,” explained the 45-year old diver. “My life's resume is my expertise. I have no official training specifically in court testimony or legal affairs (but I am called to testify). I just tell them what I see.”
That massive dive resume is the long successful story of a Canadian who learned to dive in the Great Lakes. Raised in Mississauga, Ontario (it was called Clarkson back then) she took her first scuba lesson in nearby Toronto at the Diving Store in west end Toronto (or “Rexdale” in those days).
The Diving Store operated one of the province’s first charter boats in Georgian Bay – the Aquanaut Diver – and students got to take their Open Water tests in the wreck filled waters around Tobermory. “ A week after the open water class was completed, I jumped straight into advanced classes. I was hooked.”
After graduating with an honours arts degree from York University, Heinreth supported her diving habit by launching herself into the advertising industry. Owning her own agency gave her the freedom to go and get wet when and where she felt the need.
As a diver trained in the sometimes-harsh conditions of the Great Lakes, she found her skills were in demand by dive shops around the world. Her advertising career was wound down and she headed south. Heinreth put in 3-years at the Cayman Lodge, teaching basic scuba, shepherding groups along the world famous Babylon Wall off Grand Cayman’s east end and instructing in the relatively new art of underwater photography.
Working underwater almost daily didn’t stifle the Canadian’s desire to learn. She took almost every SCUBA certification offered. She also earned Cave Diving, and Closed Circuit Rebreather instructor credentials. It was an easy step from underwater photography in the Caymans to underwater filming anywhere dangerous.
Since those Cayman days she has become an award-winning filmmaker. She produced, and appeared in Water's Journey, an American PBS documentary series that takes viewers on travels through the world's greatest water systems. Hollywood directors call on her to produce difficult underwater scenes and international magazines and websites look to her to document extreme environments with high technology.
“ I used to say there is nothing more dangerous in diving than to be in a cave on a rebreather,” Jill Heinreth told Diver Magazine “until I worked on a Hollywood horror movie shot in Romania. Now that is scary.”
The movie was The Cave, a not-very successful 2005 release that has bloodthirsty creatures stalking a team of divers who are trapped in an underwater cave. Most of the film was made underwater in a Romanian film tank studio; Heinreth was the production’s technical advisor and underwater coordinator.
“ An underwater movie studio in Romania can be built for a million and a half, but do it here and it is $200 million,” said Heinreth. “It was an incredibly elaborate studio, but “safe”??? We had to be on our game.”
Other movies followed. Underwater scenes in The Real Nightmare on Elm Street, Journey to the Centre of the Earth and Surviving the Worst (Alligator Attack, Shark Attack) needed Heinreth’s sure touch.
While the Blood and Bubble movies can now only be found by diving into the delete bin at Blockbuster, the work did pay the bills and paved the way to her working on a number of award winning film and photography assignments.
Jill Heinreth has written, produced, and appeared in Water's Journey, the American PBS TV documentary series that takes viewers on travels through the world's greatest water systems. Earlier this year National Geographic aired NOVA Extreme Cave Diving, which follows a scientific expedition into watery caves in the Bahama Banks.
Her many dive-filming accomplishments are best highlighted by an Antarctic cave diving expedition inside the largest iceberg known to man, (National Geographic - Ice Island). She also made significant contributions to the United States Deep Caving Team’s Wakulla 2 project, using paradigm-changing technology to map a Florida underwater cave system in three dimensions. It was at Wakulla that she established a women's diving world record.
“Its a strange record ... it was the "longest deep cave penetration" by a woman,” she explained. “It was on a rebreather on a mission that spanned almost 22 hours and included 5 hours of actual bottom time at 300 feet prior to decompression. I was also the first person to dive in iceberg caves in Antarctica, likely in the world.”
“I have several exciting projects on the go now. I am shooting "We Are Water" a documentary about our relationship with water. I am also working on preparations for two film projects - one that will take me to one of the hottest places on the planet and one to the Arctic. It should be quite a year ahead!”
I am heading to Australia in the spring and that will fall in the same time frame as Niagara Shipwreck 2011, so I probably won’t be able to make this time. I will be back in Toronto, next summer for 6-8 weeks though.”
Heinreth won’t teach divers how to dive in the Arctic, but she still does find time to teach specialized programs including cave diving, side mount diving and rebreathers for small groups of up to three people. “However, I am usually booked about six months in advance.”
Heinreth doesn’t have far to travel to class. She and her husband Robert McClellan live in High Springs, Florida. “I ride my bike over to Ginnie Springs (popular Florida freshwater cave) and swim at the springs and in the Santa Fe River. It's a beautiful way to celebrate the dawn! ”

Cutlines: Pictures taken By Stephen Weir at the annual Niagara Divers Association Shipwreck Convention, held in Welland, Ontario.

Sidebar: Jill Heinreth


Sidebar to the Diver Magazine feature
By Stephen Weir

Jill Heinreth Milestones

Heinreth’s numerous milestones include induction to the Women Diver’s Hall of Fame and being named a living legend by Sport Diving Magazine. She was named Canadian Technical Diver of the Year, and holds various pioneering diving records. She won the STAND Award for Environmental Photography in 2008. Among her many documentary film making awards are the Cine Golden Eagle and a Redemptive Film Festival Storyteller award. Jill is consistently among the top winners of many prestigious photography competitions and salons.


Technical Rebreather Instructor, Cave & Mixed Gas Instructor - International Association of Nitrox and Tech Divers (IANTD)
Extended Range Cave Diving Instructor - National Speleological Society (NSS)
Master Instructor - Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI)
Specialty Instructor - Rebreather Association of International Divers (RAID)
Medic First Aid Instructor
Emergency First Responder Instructor
Member of the Explorer's Club
Member of the B.O.D. of the U.S. Deep Caving Team
Fellow of the National Speleological Society
Member of the International Board of Advisors IANTD

Jill Heinreth Websites

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Marilyn Monroe’s concrete body now finished and fireworks lit the sky in Mississauga Top-Off ceremony


This is a follow-up story to the large How Is It Built Feature published by the Toronto Star earlier this fall.

Mississauga mayor says it is only the beginning
By Stephen Weir

Hazel McCallion believes that the "topping-off" of the 56-storey Marilyn Monroe condominium is a giant step in making Mississauga a “Global City”. The mayor says the completion of the new 428-unit curvy cement and glass building is the making of an iconic attraction that will bring more boldly designed high-rises to the city and create a tourist attraction!
“ This building has already set a new standard for design in Mississauga!” Mayor Hazel McCallion told a happy crowd of construction workers last week at a top-off party for the recently completed building.
The mayor, sharing a stage with the top officials of Fernbrook Homes, Cityzen Development Group, Dominus Group and the Beijing based Mad Design Inc., urged the consortium to build again in her city and as soon as possible. Calling the Marilyn Monroe an icon, she expects more builders will be inspired to use eye-catching designs in future Mississauga projects.
The "topping-off" ceremony – the traditional way construction crews celebrate the end of pouring concrete on a major site - was held to mark the completion of Fernbrook Homes’ Absolute 4 (the Marilyn Monroe’s official name) last Friday afternoon. Over 500 guests, most of them wearing hard hats and work boots, gathered in the building’s cavernous podium to wildly cheer on the Mayor as she signaled the end of heavy construction on the twisty shaped condo.
The individual units are still to be completed, but the project is just a few months away from suite owners on the lower floors being able to move in. Heavy construction continues on Absolute 5, Marilyn’s 50-storey equally curvaceous next-door neighbour.
In the growing forest of Mississauga condominium towers, the recently top-off Marilyn Monroe Building is seen as the tallest, most striking tree in the woods. Construction on Marilyn Monroe began three years ago. It is one of five buildings and townhouses that make up the Absolute project located at Hurontario Street and Burnathorpe Road in “downtown Mississauga”, adjacent to the Square One Shopping Centre.
“We broke industry conventions and believe the affectionately called ‘Marilyn’ set new standards for design and certainly raises the bar for all future projects (in Mississauga),” said Sam Crignano, principal with the Toronto based Cityzen Development Group. Cityzen is a high profile real estate development firm, it and its sister company, Dominus Construction are headquartered in downtown Toronto.
“The result has been a success in every regard. The number of enquires and the page of sales set new records for the Mississauga condominium market”
Crignano told the Star that only 10 of the building’s 428 suites are available for purchase. He expects that Marilyn Monroe will be sold out soon. Even though no one has moved into the building, some of the units have already been flipped by their original owners, their resale price rumoured to be over $100 a square foot more than they were purchased for.
“This tower and its soon to be complete companion might not have been possible in many other cities” continued Crignano. “But what we found in Mississauga was a shared vision of the future and an unwavering belief that great design is the path to creating enduring value.”
Possibly inspired by the words of the late actress Marilyn Monroe – ‘Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world’ – Mayor McCallion predicts that international interest in the project and her city will only grow. “This is not the end,” she said, “ it is just the beginning.”

Cutlines: Top Right: Jiang Ping, principal of Bejing's MAD Design, spoke at the November Top-Off ceremony for Mississauga's Marilyn Monroe building. Photo by Linda Crane.
Left Top: Absolute 4 and 5. The Marilyn Monroe building is the building on the left. Photo by Stephen Weir
Bottom Photographs - By Linda Crane. Mayor Hazel warms up the crowd.
Stephen Weir, sweir5492@rogers,com

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Canada's Capital Region hangs out the Christmas lights


Visitors to Ottawa have plenty of choice this winter whether they want to stay inside or outside. This December, the Ottawa region will be energized by the lights of Christmas, outdoor skating, the Nutcracker and, of course, hockey! And if you book your hotel or getaway package before March 31, 2011 , you can enjoy a 3rd night free at participating hotels. Visit for full details on this as well as the other special offers and packages available.
Over the coming weeks, Ottawa will play host to Christmas Lights Across Canada; performances of The Nutcracker and Nativity: a Coyote’s Christmas at the National Arts Centre, The Bell Capital Cup hockey tournament and the 41st skating season on the Rideau Canal Skateway where visitors can skate, for free, on the world’s largest outdoor rink.
For the past 25 years, Ottawa has had a Christmas lights festival to brighten the Ottawa winter for visitors and local residents. At first, the lights were only ablaze on Parliament Hill, but since then the programme has expanded. This year, there will be over 60 spectacularly lit sites along Confederation Boulevard downtown. Christmas Lights Across Canada begins on December 2 on Parliament Hill with a free 6 pm Illumination Ceremony. Over 300,000 lights will be switched on and will make the city glow until January 7, 2011.
The National Arts Centre (NAC) in downtown Ottawa is the country’s premier performing arts complex. This winter, the NAC will stage a series of dance, music and drama performances, all marking the Holiday Traditions of Canada.
The Alberta Ballet will be on stage at the National Arts Centre December 1-5 dancing the colourful Nutcracker. From December 8 to 23, the NAC presents its own interpretation of the First Christmas as seen through the eyes of three wise coyotes! Nativity is a holiday musical comedy for the whole family. The hot ticket for cultural tourists this Christmas? The National Art Centre Orchestra's evening performances of Handel’s Messiah on December 14 and 15.
The world’s largest hockey tournament, the Bell Capital Cup, will be staged for the 12th year at ice rinks all across the Ottawa region. For spectators, this is a very affordable hockey tournament to watch—day passes start at $3 for seniors, and full tourney passports cost just $12. Children under 12 are free! Visitors to the city are welcome to watch over 2,000 players on more than 500 teams from Canada, U.S. and Europe compete December 30, 2010-January 3, 2011.
The city of Ottawa is treasured for the beautiful Rideau Canal, which winds its way through the downtown core. Each winter, once the canal freezes, thousands of visitors and locals head downtown, day and night, to skate on the 7.8 km long Rideau Canal Skateway. It is free; there are change facilities, food concessions, skate rentals and sharpening stations right on the frozen surface. Weather dictates when the canal is actually available to skaters; but it usually happens in late December or early January.
Tourists wanting information, tickets and lodging reservations for events and festivals can visit, a powerful website operated by Ottawa Tourism and supported by the region’s growing tourism industry. There are many packages available including Hockey Night in the Capital, Rendez-vous for Two, Family Discovery, and Cultural Odyssey.
Ottawa Tourism provides destination marketing, strategic direction and leadership in cooperation with members and partners to service the travel media and attract visitors, tours and conventions to Ottawa and Canada’s Capital Region. Its vision is to build recognition of Ottawa as an outstanding four-season tourism destination.
from Chris Ryall
Poster for Nativity Play at the National Art Centre this Christmas

Friday, 5 November 2010

Maori elders greeted the dawn and then rubbed our noses in it!


A few minutes into the official opening of Whales | Tohora, a Maori elder told the invited audience that at one time her people were fierce hunters of whales. But, she said, the Maori have changed their ways and are helping the scientific community in New Zealand study the world's largest creatures.

Whales | Tohora is a new travelling exhibition that just rolled into Toronto. Opening at the Ontario Science Centre, the whale show includes two enormous, fully-articulated sperm whale skeletons, life-sized reproductions and a crawl-through model of a whale heart.
Objects in this 750 square metre exhibition include rare specimens from the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa's whale collection, one of the largest in the world. In addition to the science and biology of whales, Whales | Tohora explores the cultural and historical significance of these creatures to the Maori and Pakeha (non-Maori) cultures of New Zealand and other Pacific island nations.
Early whaling provided many trading opportunities between cultures in this region, illustrated in the exhibition by harpoons, scrimshaw (whale tooth carvings) and other taonga (treasures). A large contingent of New Zealand officials including politicians, museum expertsand Maori elders came to Toronto to official open the exhibition. Beginning just before 8am in the parking lot of Science Centre, the Maori elders held a short spiritual ceremony before coming indoors to meet the media and the invited guests. Over the next hour the New Zealanders traded speeches, traditional songs and rubbed noses (traditional Maori practice of hongi) with their Canadian counterparts. Chief Bryan LaForme of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation was at the event to welcome "his Maori brothers and sisters" to an area of the country "where the nearest whale was probably 1,000 kms away!"
The new exhibition Whales / Tohora is on display at the Ontario Science Centre until late March.

Cut lines
Top: Sporting traditional Maori facial tattoos Rhonda Paku, Senior Curator, the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, stands with a tribal in front of a whale's head movie prop at the Science Centre. and Lesley Lewis, CEO, Ontario Science Centre. The fibreglass whale head was used in the making of the film Whale Rider. It is now used as a small theatre in this touring educational exhibition.
Second left: Matiu Rei (left) and Huia Winiata (right), lead Chief Bryan LaForme of the Mississaugas (middle) of the New Credit First Nation, through the new exhibition Whales / Tohora.
Second right: Just how big is a whale? There are two fully-articulated sperm whale skeletons in the exhibition.
Bottom: Matiu Rei (Maori Elder) listens as a New Zealand diplomat speaks at the morning opening of a new whale exhibition.

Wildlife Artist George Mclean signs Andy Donato's copy of his new book, 'George McLean: The Living Landscape'



Toronto Sun photographer Andy Donato (right) chats to artist George McLean (left) at the Toronto launch of George McLean: The Living Landscape. The book, written by Virginia Eichhorn, Tom Smart and Adam Duncan Harris, was launched at the Ben McNally Bookstore in downtown Toronto.

McLean is one of Canada’s finest wildlife artist. His technical prowess, his affinity for his subject matter, and his densely layered depictions of the natural world emerge directly from his intense interest in wildlife.
Now in his seventies, his passion for the creatures and the habitat that surrounds him is as intense as it ever was, as is his desire to share his passion with others through his art.
In this new book, Tom Thomson Gallery curator Virginia Eichhorn, examines the development of McLean’s art and trace his varied influences, casting his work in the light of early 20th-century artists Carl Rungius , Bruno Liljefors, and Andrew Wyeth, with whom McLean feels a profound kinship. The $64.00 book features more than 90 large-scale colour reproductions, and is published by Goose Lane.
The launch of The Living Landscape coincides with the opening of an international touring exhibition of McLean’s work at the Tom Thomson Art Gallery in Owen Sound. The exhibition will tour to The McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Toronto in January 2010. The show will also travel to galleries in Sudbury,Ontario and Jackson Hole, Wyoming.