Alan McGillivray “Hawk-Eye”,
President & Owner
Alan McGillivray was running around the Royal Victoria Yacht Club as a young child in the 1960’s, he had no way of knowing that his career path would take him halfway across Canada and all the way back again. Back to the ocean his childhood home overlooked, where he has worked for the past 20 years.
After completing a Bachelors in Engineering from Queens, and a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Western Ontario, Al returned to the coast, keen to carve out a niche for himself. He started on the water in 1993 when he won a daily contract to deliver the Times Colonist to the Gulf Islands in his specialty built, welded aluminum boats. This was a great success and he was later approached by Canada Post, who used him to deliver mail instead of running a truck on the BC Ferries.
Al noticed two things during his time on the water. #1 He saw killer whales all the time! #2 His boats were back on the dock from their 3am delivery runs by mid-morning. These two things gave Al the perfect opportunity to explore the feasibility of taking people out to see whales. Deckhand Chris Hall was also keen to try whale watching as he had grown up fishing off of San Juan Island, and was familiar with where to find whales. Chris has been with Prince of Whales from the beginning and is now our Marine Operations Manager. Al was so busy that first year whale watching that both his main boat and backup boat, aptly name the Prince of Whales, were in constant operation, alternating between cargo runs, and whale watching runs.
Ben Duthie – Sales & Operations Manager Prince of Whales Victoria
Ben grew up in a small town nestled inside BC’s southern Rocky Mountains, and has always had a strong connection to the outdoors. In his spare time you can find him snowboarding in the back country, surfing on the west coast of Vancouver Island, or rock climbing and slacklining in the mountains near Victoria.
As a recent graduate from the Bachelor of Commerce program at Peter B. Gustavson School of Business in Victoria, Ben Duthie loves the entrepreneurial part of his job. “I feel privileged to be able to pitch and follow through new ideas on a daily basis. This doesn’t always happen in such a well-established business.” During his studies, Ben traveled to Hong Kong and toured through Asia which peaked his interest in engaging and communicating with international guests. “It is so interesting to listen to a guest tell their travel story. You learn from that person, about their culture, about what they have seen in their life.” It is about the personal connections and providing guests with an unforgettable experience they will share with their friends and family.
Ben joined Prince of Whales in 2011 on a marketing co-op. Since then, he has grown with the company taking on many wide-ranging roles. As of June 2012, Ben took over as our newest Sales & Operations Manager.
Matt Whelan “Geronimo” – Zodiac Skipper; Travel Writer; Photographer
Matt grew up in suburban England, about as far from the coast as is possible to get. He spent much of that grey, land-locked childhood watching David Attenborough documentaries, reading the adventure books of Willard Price, and has felt the draw of nature and the ocean for as long as he can remember. It was not without a sense of privilege, then, that in 1998 he was able to make the move out to the wild and wonderful west coast of British Columbia, where he dabbles in just about every outdoor activity going; from hiking to biking; surfing to spelunking, kayaking to climbing; taking incredible photos as he goes.
Fascinated by whales and all the other wildlife found in and around the waters of the Salish Sea, Matt was thrilled to join the Prince of Whales team in 2012 as a Zodiac skipper and tour guide, and brings a whole heap of facts and fun to each of his tours. Matt is unflappable; a master at handling boats in all conditions, he goes out in rain, wind, and everything else the ocean can throw at him, and he does it all with a smile. Come to think of it, no one has ever seen him in a bad mood…
Matt is constantly keeping up with new research, always striving to learn more, and his dedication to the job is unmatched. If there’s a trip to be driven, Matt will be there, and his passengers will be stoked.
Casey Brant “Calypso” – First Mate; Marine Mammal Naturalist; Zodiac Skipper
Casey truly embodies what it means to be a West Coast woman. She is a gentle soul, fun, laid back, and boarder-line obsessed with yoga. When you join us on Ocean Magic II, don’t be surprised if you find her absentmindedly stretching on every available surface. Casey has been fascinated by the research done on our Southern Resident Killer Whales since she was about 13 years old, and she herself is inseparable from the water. She has worked in the marine industry for over 12 years, including 2 years in the Navy Reserve; is a registered SCUBA diver, and an avid surfer.
Casey has been with Prince of Whales for 7 years now, and wears many different hats over her rad dreadlocks, including First Mate and Naturalist on Ocean Magic II, and Skipper on the zodiacs. Study of the ocean is incredibly diverse, as are Casey’s passions; she studied marine biology as part of her undergraduate degree, but has since shifted her focus to geology, and more specifically, geochemistry. It is in these subjects that she pursues her PhD and teaches courses at Vancouver Island University and Royal Roads University. Her favourite part of the job is leaving the dock every day – Casey says, “Being on a boat is always an adventure, and every trip is different.”
Claire Butterfield “Sea-Bear” – Public Relations Coordinator; Marine Mammal Naturalist
Claire’s enthusiasm is hard to beat. More than once she has literally leapt down the stairs of Ocean Magic II from sheer delight (not something we recommend our passengers try, we’ve got steady sea legs after all!), about something she’s heard on the radio, or whales we’ve spotted in the distance. A local Victorian, Claire knows everything there is to know about what to do on the Island after your whale watching excursion; from the best restaurants, to fun outdoor activities, or the local haunt where her brilliant band Fox Glove is playing that weekend, Claire’s got you covered. She is very proud of her home and loves teaching people about the west coast or “best coast” as she puts it. You can recognize Claire by her array of funky sunglasses and infectious laugh.
She started at Prince of Whales in the office and displayed exceptional people skills which helped her carve out of the role of Public Relations Coordinator. It’s no surprise, everyone loves Claire. This will be her fifth year with the company, fourth season on the boat. Many of our passengers have never seen a whale before, and being surrounded by their excitement at that first sighting is a huge thrill for her. Some of her favourite memories on the water are “those days when the sea is like glass and you can see humpbacks from miles away; days that are so quiet that you can hear the whales breathe.”
Jennifer Dickson “Jennybean” – Biologist; First Mate; Marine Mammal Naturalist; Guest Service Associate; Online Reputation Manager
Jennifer did not grow up on the ocean, but she did grow up with an intense sense of wonder about the natural world around her. That never went away as she pursued higher education; the more she learned about biology, the more she became fascinated about the study of life on earth. In 2013, Jennifer graduated from the University of Victoria with a BSc, Double Major in Biology and Environmental Studies. Through the co-op program Jen has had an eclectic collection of jobs including many naturalist/interpreter positions as well as assisting on research projects on dolphins and poison dart frogs in Costa Rica, and song birds in Southern Alberta.
Jennifer started in the whale watching industry in 2009, and joined us at Prince of Whales as a naturalist in 2011. She is loving the switch from studying science to science education, and was thrilled to discover this is where her passion lies. She especially likes having children on board because they always ask the most interesting questions, and are usually the only ones who can match her zeal!
Passion and knowledge are what set Jen apart. Her stellar reviews on Trip Advisor describe her as “knowledgeable,” “very knowledgeable,” “extremely knowledgeable” (noticing a pattern here?) and observe that “her enthusiasm about marine wildlife just bubbled out when she spoke.” Join her on Ocean Magic II and you’ll see what makes Jennybean so sweet.
Wilma Fuchs “Willy” – Marine Mammal Naturalist; Guest Service Associate
If you’re jumping on the Ocean Magic in Vancouver for the Ultimate Day Tour, or Victoria for the Whales and Gardens Trip, prepare yourself; you are going to have an amazing time, and you’re going to wonder if there’s something wrong with your cheeks because they hurt from smiling. Fear not, Wilma has this effect on everyone. Once you meet naturalist and deckhand Willy, your day will get better. We don’t even bother to look at the forecast in Vancouver anymore, it’s sunny wherever Wilma is. Are you starting to see how much we love this lady? She’s such a joy to be around, you won’t even notice the transit time between Vancouver and Victoria.
Wilma started with us in 2011 and her enthusiasm has never faltered. She grew up in a small town of approximately 100 people in Austria. Raised on a farm, Wilma has always loved animals and the natural world, but moving to Canada gave her a whole new appreciation for nature and wilderness. Once in Victoria, her interest turned to the ocean. She received a BSc from Royal Roads, and in order to gain experience working with marine mammals Wilma volunteered at the Vancouver Aquarium as a Gallery Educator. In her free time you’ll find her outdoors cycling, walking, swimming, skiing, snowshoeing, and gardening.
Interacting with guests from all over the world, and sharing her knowledge and laughter with others is something Wilma finds incredibly rewarding. No matter where she is or what she is doing Wilma always has a smile on her face. And after chatting with her, so will you!
Mark Malleson “Mallard” – Zodiac Skipper; Marine Mammal Photographer
Whale watchers call him Mallard, others call him Duck Man, whatever you call him, Mark Malleson is a whale watching expert and knows BC’s west coast like no other. Since 1997 Mark has worked for Prince of Whales as a zodiac skipper. “I feel privileged to share my passion for whales and other marine wildlife with thousands of people, from all over the world, every year” said Mark in a recent interview. This labour of love has led him to work closely with the Centre for Whale Research, and the Pacific Biological Station as a research assistant.
Mark’s extensive portfolio of identification photos helps the Centre for Whale Research keep an accurate census of the southern resident killer whale population. He also co-authored a transient killer whale guide that was published by the Centre in 2006 as a field guide for whale watch operators, and many of his pictures are used to keep the Fisheries and Oceans Transient Killer Whale Catalogue up to date.
In addition to orca, Mark’s interest in local whale species has led him to independently track the humpback whales that seasonally return to the Salish Sea. In 2008 he published a photo-ID catalogue of the humpbacks of southern British Columbia and Washington State. Mark also works as a Marine Mammal Observer and research assistant on Fisheries and Oceans cetacean abundance surveys.
But more than anything, Mark is known as the guy that finds whales. If they’re out there, he’ll get them, and gives his passengers a show they’ll never forget.
Rhonda Reidy “Lady Hawk” – Biologist; Zodiac Skipper; Marine Mammal Naturalist
Rhonda is the person to talk to if you have a whale question that you want answered in a thorough, concise, and clear way, and just might be the nicest person in the world. She is friendly and incredibly easy to talk to, which makes Rhonda one of our go to people for interviews, media appearances and the like. She’s also one only two female zodiac skippers, but definitely holds her own on the water in this boys club. Her handle is Lady Hawk, and it’s apt, as she has also worked as a Marine Mammal observer; she definitely has hawk eyes, and can spot whales before they even surface! Ok, maybe not, but sometimes it seems like it.
Rhonda moved to the coast to study Marine Biology at the University of Victoria. After her BSc, she got a Masters in Fisheries Science at the School of Resource and Environmental Management at Simon Fraser University, focusing on marine mammal interactions with commercial fisheries. Rhonda has been part of our team at Prince of Whales since 1997; and since then has guided over 2000 whale watching trips! She is also a primary responder for the B.C Marine Mammal Response Network, having attended many stranding events and necropsied several animals for detailed pathological examinations (necropsy = autopsy on an animal). “To say that a whale is a large animal is an understatement that is best appreciated when one is required to get inside it to perform a necropsy,” said Rhonda of the experience.