Mrs and Mr Botox

Interview: Bernadette Calonego

Twenty years ago, Jean Carruthers (62), an ophthalmologist in Vancouver, Canada, described for the first time, together with her husband, the dermatologist Alastair Carruthers (66), the fact that Botox could make wrinkles disappear. Their discovery changed the world of cos-metic treatments. It became a billion-dollar-business – but not for the Carruthers. A fact that does not seem to bother them at all.
Interview: Bernadette Calonego (published in SZ-Magazin, Germany, May 6, 2011)
SZ-Magazin: You had to get over at least one big disappointment in your life. But looking at you, I cannot see it. Is it because you both have been treated with Botox?

Jean Carruthers: I had a facelift eleven years ago and I treat my wrinkles with Botox, I am very open about it. As cosmetic physicians, we have to look good because we use the product that we sell. However, I don`t think that we do not show the joys and sorrows life has dealt to us. Botox should not reduce an individual’s ability to express themself!

Alastair Carruthers: What sort of disappointments are you talking about?

SZ-Magazin: In 1990, your wife and you have described scientifically the effect of Botox on wrinkles for the first time. But you did not have this treatment patented.

Alastair Carruthers: Yes, maybe we would do things a bit differently today.

SZ-Magazin: A bit differently? You have given away billions so to speak!

Jean Carruthers: A patent lawyer in Toronto told me at the time that the cosmetic treatment with Botox did not justify a patent. Today I would ask a second and third opinion.

SZ-Magazin: This was obviously a huge misjudgement by this lawyer. Do you bear a grudge against him?

Jean Carruthers: No, we have enjoyed our work so much, with or without a patent.

SZ-Magazin: Could you have participated somehow in the production of Botox at the Com-pany Allergan?

Jean Carruthers: Not without relinquishing our academic independence which we would not want at all.

SZ-Magazin: It is hard to believe that you take it so composedly.

Jean Carruthers: Why should we get stuck in the past? We have done a lot of other things in the meantime. We have a busy, busy practice. We have published research papers. We also want to have a normal life.

SZ-Magazin: Dr. Carruthers, for a 62-year-old woman with Botox treatment, you look aston-ishingly natural.

Jean Carruthers: Thank you for the compliment.

SZ-Magazin: The famous actress Katherine Hepburn once called you, Mr. Carruthers, “very handsome”. Why then do you need Botox?

Alistair Carruthers: I had only my vertical frown lines done because, with a man, they can perceived as threatening. The horizontal lines however suggest curiosity and involvement.
I had also my underarms injected with Botox in order to prevent sweating because we spend a lot of time lecturing. It was uncomfortable but it is well worth it!

SZ-Magazin: Botox is the deadliest toxin known today, isn’t it?

Alastair Carruthers: Correct, but Botox is a fragment of a protein and you get one to three billionths of a gram with a cosmetic treatment. Your body has no problem dealing with it.

SZ-Magazin: Some people reportedly have become addicted to Botox.

Alastair Carruthers: It is addictive in the same way brushing your teeth is addictive because it produces the desired result. It is not chemically addictive.

SZ-Magazin: How is it with side effects? Some physicians link the use of Botox to memory problems.

Jean Carruthers: There isn`t any scientifically supported information pointing to memory loss. But there is good research linking Botox with mood elevation, especially for people who are depressed.

SZ-Magazin: How did you discover the effect of Botox on wrinkles 24 years ago?

Jean Carruthers: It was quite a coincidence, actually. As with many other ophthalmologists, I have treated involuntary spasming of the eyelids or uncontrollable blinking with this neuro-modulator. A female blepharospasm patient of mine told me that when I injected Botox into her forehead, it made her wrinkles disappear.

Alastair Carruthers: The following day, it was very hectic in the practice, and at 2 o`clock in the afternoon, the receptionist looked rather cranky. Jean talked to her and bang-bang! After-wards, the receptionist looked so relaxed!

SZ-Magazin: What do you mean by bang-bang?

Jean Carruthers: Oh, I injected her with Botox.

SZ-Magazin: The receptionist had Botox injected to her like a guinea pig?

Jean Carruthers: You mustn`t forget that it is highly diluted. The receptionist was not in the least worried because I had treated uncontrollable blinking in my patients with Botox for many years.

SZ-Magazin: Did you then treat your own wrinkles with Botox, too?

Jean Carruthers: Of course. I can say that I have not frowned since 1987!

SZ-Magazin: Could you imagine at the beginning that your discovery would change the world?

Alastair Carruthers: Yes, but you don`t really know until it actually happens.
We could observe the fantastic effect of Botox on our patients. But we could not foresee the treatment of depression or migraine or other pain syndromes.

Jean Carruthers: It is a revolution. Botox is ingenious, not only because people do not need surgery. You don`t have to tell anybody that you had something done. It is absolutely discreet.

SZ-Magazin: How does one feel who has changed the world?

Jean Carruthers: We are proud that it is helpful for so many people. And it is nice to have something positive attached to our name.

SZ-Magazin: As you did not earn billions with your discovery, do you at least get recognition for it?

Jean Carruthers: Colleagues ask us for advice. We speak at conferences all over the world. Oprah Winfrey mentioned us. But are we met with adulation in the streets? No, but when we go to a restaurant in Vancouver, we know a lot of people. Our patients, of course!

Alastair Carruthers: They look the other way and we look the other way. But in Brazil we are treated like stars. When we are in Brazil, it is reported on the news.

SZ-Magazin: Why is that?

Jean Carruthers: Oh, it is wonderful. In Brazil, people understand the importance of appear-ance. In North America, Europe and Asia, people still think that appearance is more a luxury than a necessity. They mix up the words “self-esteem” and “vanity”.

SZ-Magazin: But some people go really too far in wanting to look young, don`t you think?

Jean Carruthers: I don`t think that they always want to look like they are again 16. They want to look fresh, empowered, ready for action, cheerful. Nobody wants to look tired and dispir-ited. Today you have to look your best in order to keep your job. But there is very good evi-dence that when we look angry, depressed or worn out, people treat us more negatively. I didn`t make this up. That is how people are psychologically wired.

SZ-Magazin: But some people look overdone, surely you see that too.

Alastair Carruthers: I don`t know where these people live, in Manhattan maybe or in Beverley Hills? In our practice, we don`t see these people.

Jean Carruthers: It is rare that people come to me with unrealistic expectations. In this case, I sit down with them and say: “You look fabulous right now and if we do more, you will look overdone.” I am for slight undertreatment so that it looks natural.
For example if you have somebody to treat their brows, maybe you don`t treat their crows feet. Or I treat somebody`s cheeks but not their naso-labial fold.

SZ-Magazin: Is our botoxed ideal of beauty not dictated by Hollywood, a globally uniform ideal that is spread by the media? Do we all have to look like Demi Moore?

Jean Carruthers: No. Most women want to look their best for themselves. Not younger, just age-appropriate.

SZ-Magazin: But women are increasingly under enormous pressure to have faces without wrinkles.

Jean Carruthers: Nobody is forced to use Botox. If people choose not to maintain their ap-pearance, then they should not be disappointed to be treated differently. Ageism is creeping in as well.

SZ-Magazin: Some people have Body Dismorphic Disorder: They cannot stop having changes to their bodies.

Jean Carruthers: You recognise these people. They need help. I usually refer them to a psy-chologist.

SZ-Magazin: What is the future of the cosmetic botox treatment?

Alastair Carruthers: The Holy Grail is the Botox cream, easy to use and safe.

SZ-Magazin: Has there been research done for a Botox cream? How far is it?

Jean Carruthers: The clinical tests of Phase 1, 2 and 3 are done. It is now before the FDA waiting for approval. It is a gel that can be placed on the skin for a certain amount of time and then you can gently wash it off. One can see results in 2 to 5 days. Botox cream can also be very helpful for excessive sweating or back pain.

SZ-Magazin: Would you treat very young people who don`t have wrinkles yet, with Botox?

Alastair Carruthers: If their reasons were understandable. If they were frowning all the time and would get lines on their forehead… why not? I treat adolescents with Botox against sweating because it is a big problem for them and they are easily embarrassed.

SZ-Magazin: Mr. Carruthers, was your wife`s beauty important to you when you first dated?

Alastair Carruthers: I liked the total package. I wanted an equal partner at my side.

SZ-Magazin: You work in the same building in Vancouver but in separate practices. Why?

Jean Carruthers: Because we prefer to stay married.

SZ-Magazin: Can you tell me something positive about getting old?

Alastair Carruthers: It is the experience we have that makes life so much more interesting.

Jean Carruthers: But I still think we do not have to simply accept the deterioration that poten-tially goes along with aging. Maintenance is necessary whether we are speaking of our faces and bodies or indeed a bicycle or car.

SZ-Magazin: But you cannot rejuvenate your brain with Botox.

Jean Carruthers: But you can get new brain cells when you exercise. I have sold my car, I cy-cle or walk to the bus. We love to snorkel and we learnt surfing in Tofino.

SZ-Magazin: Why are you so down-to-earth?

Alastair: As a dermatologist, I have treated skin cancer for 20 years and Jean has saved the eyes of many children.

Jean Carruthers: We have each other and our expanding family.

Tree Planting at Archie Creek

This is an excerpt from an article, it is the
middle piece of the entire article which is about three times as long.

By Bernadette Calonego
Copyright Calonego Media, Vancouver



Brian St.-Germain scouts the surround-ings standing on the edge of a steep mountain slope.
He cannot hide the horror on his baby face. Slippery tree trunks lie fallen on the ground. Rubble and snares, thorns and sharp-edged branches, Devil`s club everywhere. A seemingly solid ground turns out to be a floor made of trap doors.
St.-Germain, 20, is a rookie among the tree planters in Prince George. His regular visits to the local fitness club of Prince George did not prepare him for this ordeal. But he has learned how to “space”: Take a circle with a fixed radius of four metres. Plant eight seedlings within that circle so that the space between all the trees is the same. No easy task, but St.-Germain can do it.

He is not as fast as the rest of his group, mind you. Like Jessica Fox, for example. She can plant several trees per minute. Forcefully, she drives the spade into the dirt, widens the opening with a swift move. Simultaneously, her other hand grasps a seedling from the bags around her hip. She bends down, gently buries the root in the hole and stamps down the soil around it. Bend, bury, stamp. While straightening her back, Fox already detects one, two, three places to plant the next seedlings. Time is too precious to waste. Time is money.
“Thirty cents,” says foreman Dan Ouellette in his Montreal French ac-cent. “Ignore the hemlocks but space balsam if it is nice like a Christmas tree. And tell the others if you see a bear.”
Thirty cents – that is what the plant-ers get for every planted seedling. A price increase for such murderous terrain.

The day before, in another planting “block”, as they call it, the rate was 21 cents. But today, every-thing is more difficult. Everything. The mountain slope is 1.5 kilometres long, the difference in elevation 250 metres. The area saw reforestation seven years ago but many baby trees have not survived the long winters around Prince George. Now seedlings have to be planted again. Once the trees can grow on their own, the pro-vincial government takes over respon-sibility for the reforested land from the lumber companies.
St.-Germain shakes his hand in despair. He not only has to plant seedlings and space them correctly, he first has to find the seven-year-old little trees in the labyrinth of the tangled growth. He moans. “It`s crazy, absolutely crazy.” The rookie won`t make a lot of money today. Not even the “highballers”, the superstars among the tree planters, would shine in this terrain.

Shoulder straps hold the weight of several bags full of one-foot-sized seedlings that dangle around St-German`s hips, brushing against his body. Some men develop rashes in their lower body from this constant friction. Kara Ferguson, the cook in the camp, gives them corn starch to soothe the irritated skin.
St.-Germain climbs the steep, steep slope, carrying about 25 kilograms. Heavy step after step – and suddenly he breaks through the rotten underground.
Ouellette, small and wiry, with a ban-dana in his black curly hair, makes his way through the thicket, uphill and down again, again and again, an untiring climber. A tree planter walks 16 kilometers on an average day. A foreman like Ouellette probably makes 24 kilometres.
Ouellette is not happy. The people in his group plant too many seedlings too closely. They don`t see some of the seven-year-old trees. His trained eyes discover almost every flaw in the art of planting: wrong spacing, bent roots, ideal places ignored by the planters.
He singles out a tree trunk. A trunk stores heat, a warm spot for tender seedlings. “Hey, guys, don`t forget, that would have been a good spot”, he roars. “Amen, brother”, shouts Nathalie Mathis, 26, a waitress from Canmore in the Rocky Mountains.
It happens sometimes that planters try to bury more than one seedling in a hole. But cheaters would quickly regret their manoeuvres. Every plant has to be ripped out, every tree planted again. What a loss of time. Loss of money. For Ouellette, too, because he gets 15 per cent of the group`s revenues.
It is all about money. Nobody denies it. Money for trips to Europe. Money for a new guitar. Or a new band. Money to be an artist. Money for tuition fees. Money so that you can get em-ployment insurance for the rest of the year. That is why they work like horses. Four days piece work, one day off.

The July sun is burning hot. Last week, the planters had thought that nothing could be worse than the pouring rain. Shaking in the cold. Hands completely numb. Wet down to the bones. Wading in the mud. And now this unbearable heat. Fox staggers downhill. Sweat in her eyes, sweat and toxic mosquito repellent. She puts the water can to her lips, gets drunk with water, and even more water. Nobody carries up a water can – too much weight on a steep hill. When Fox rests for a moment, swarms of mosquitoes attack her. Mosquitoes, horseflies, blackflies, and even worse: no-see-ums, so tiny that nobody can see them, but they tear the skin and blood pours out.
The planters` bodies are covered with infected festering wounds, black marks, abcesses, rashes and blisters. “I only wear my swim suit in front of other planters”, confesses Mathis who joins Fox at the bottom of the slope. They fill their bags with seedlings out of a huge box.
Fox stretches her back. “After the first year, I thought, forget it,” she recalls. But now the student nurse from Vancouver Island is already in her fifth year. She gets better and better. A strong-woman act.
Fox lifts her fully loaded bags, fas-tens them around her hips, a human mule that urges itself on.
She begins the burdensome dance through the bushes and over the logs. Bend, bury, stamp. The next spot. Her back moves up and down like a whale`s fin in the ocean.
Michael Ross, a 25-year-old student from Quebec, is one handed. A congeni-tal defect. But that does not make him slower than the others. Four planting years have tought him a lesson in en-durance.
“The hardest part is not to stop, to carry on,” he says.

Not to stop. Not to give up. Ram the spade, open the surface, grasp a seed-ling. Bend, bury, stamp, step, step. Ram. Grasp. Bend. Bury. Stamp. Step, step. Thousandfold. Mind-numbing. Nerve-shattering. The wrist hurts. Your arm hurts. And the feet. The lower back. Scorging heat. Thirty cents a tree. How many more? Three hundred? Four hundred? Read the ground. The geography of the soil. Next one, bend, step, step.
Don`t give up.

The Island of Happy Bees

By Bernadette Calonego

Canadian bee expert Geoffrey Williams knows what a bee wonderland looks like. It is a place where swarms of honey bees live peacefully, are stress-free and healthy — and almost never sting. It is a virtual bee paradise.
These perfect conditions exist on the island of Newfoundland, in eastern Canada. Williams wants it to stay that way, and that is the reason why he has travelled to Switzerland, where he is currently based in Liebefeld near Bern at the Swiss Bee Research Center. Thanks to the state-run agricultural research organisation Agroscope, he is studying the threats and diseases bees are often exposed to — and figuring out how to prevent them from ever reaching Newfoundland.

Both Swiss and Newfoundland bees belong to the same genus of European honey bee (Apis mellifera), which are remarkably friendly. “I’ve been here three months now and I’ve never been stung,” says 28-year-old Williams, who spent four years researching at Dalhousie University in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. He had quite a different experience while in Arizona, where he was once stung by some 50 killer bees in just 20 minutes.

In the United States, the bee population is in turmoil. Last winter about a third of all US bees were wiped out by parasites, viruses and other diseases. One such parasite is the small hive beetle, whose larvae damage the honeycomb when they eat their way through it. The adult insect then mimics a bee and teaches other bees to feed it with honey. In Canada, the beetle has only been detected in one small area. The island of Newfoundland has, like Switzerland, so far been spared a small hive beetle infestation.

The Deadly Varroa Mite

But unlike Newfoundland, Switzerland is home to bees’ most infamous nemesis, the varroa mite, Latin for “destructor mite.”
“It’s a completely one-off case that this mite hasn’t been found in Newfoundland,” says Geoffrey Williams. “There are two reasons for this. Newfoundland is geographically isolated, and there are also very strict rules regulating bee imports and quarantine procedures.”

In Switzerland, the Nosema ceranae parasite has also caused much damage, by attacking the bees’ stomach, causing diarrhea and death. In Spain these parasites have been responsible for the destruction of countless bee colonies. In the US, experts have recently traced the so-called “colony collapse disorder” back to the parasite.

Beekeepers in Newfoundland must remain vigilant, even if the island is free of the most dangerous threats to bee populations. And Canadian bee researchers have to know their enemy before they can fight against it. In Liebefeld Geoffrey Williams has been identifying the parasites that pose the greatest threat, and which Newfoundland must develop defenses against. He has been sharing his insights with other Canadian beekeepers.

His findings could also prove useful for Swiss beekeepers. Williams is examining bees for parasites and exploring the interaction between these parasites and pesticides and their potential effects on Swiss bees. Working on a research project sponsored by the Swiss Ricola Foundation, Williams would like to determine the exact amount of chemicals that bees can tolerate, and their best combinations.

Since there are no bee diseases in Newfoundland, there is no need for beekeepers there to use chemicals and the bee population thus remains free of pesticides. But Williams does not believe that importing bees from abroad should be regarded as the primary solution to local problems. “Switzerland shouldn’t have to resort to importing bees to maintain the local population,” he says. When animals are moved from one country to another, there is always an element of risk involved – diseases can easily be spread in this way.

Stress-Free Honey

There is one other resemblance between Swiss and Newfoundland bees. Compared to other bee populations, they are subject to less stress because they are primarily used to produce honey and are less frequently used to fertilize fields – a process that involves transporting them from one place to another.

In Newfoundland as in Switzerland, the average beekeeper only keeps a few colonies – far fewer than beekeepers in the United States. In Newfoundland, which counts only five breeders and about 150 colonies, only a negligible amount of honey is produced. But that could all change if the Newfoundland became one of the few places in the world able to offer chemical-free, organic honey.


Published in Neue Zürcher Zeitung on September 30, 2006



Text: Bernadette Calonego

Photos: Elaine Briere (



Looks like it`s going to be a quiet day, chief pilot Carl Benson says. Then the phone rings. The fuel tank of the seaplane is filled up immediately. Ten minutes later, two inconspicuous men enter the building of Inland Air in Prince Rupert.

They are undercover agents of the Canadian Ministry of Fisheries and Ocean – officials on a secret mission. They are on the hunt for poachers on the Northwest Pacific coast who are harvesting protected abalones from the Pacific and selling them for 80 dollars a pound.

From the air, one of the agents says, the poachers` boats look like “giraffes in the middle of New York.” The seaplane will not follow the boat, it will fly normally so as not to rise any suspicion. This is a job for an experienced bush pilot. Not much later, Carl Benson and the agents taxi out of Seal Cove Bay with a DHC-2-Beaver. The plane takes off with a roar.

Meanwhile, Bruce MacDonald, owner of Inland Air, tanned and wiry, examines the flight plans. All his pilots, Dave, Garry, Carl, are air-borne now. They are experienced men who Bruce knows very well. He employs only outstanding pilots who can handle the difficult weather conditions on the Northern coast of British Columbia. Out there, anything is possible. Out there, the weather can change in a heart beat.
Any pilot who does not do the right thing when walls of blinding fog are approaching, when winds double their force in the twinkling of an eye, forcing the plane to dance like a puppet he, he finds himself in a death trap if he cannot find his way out in time.


The unpredictable weather, says Bruce, makes this area one of the most challenging for bush pilots.
However, the people living here cannot exist without seaplanes: the inhabitants of isolated settlements far out in the ocean, marine biologists, health officials, power plant engineers, road workers, loggers and sports fishermen, students on their way into town, aboriginal elders with their grandchildren, patients needing urgent treatment in the hospital.
They all fly, trusting completely in the pilot`s judgement and experience. “We cannot afford to have one single accident”, Bruce says.

His index finger moves and hovers over the well-worn map on the wall. He taps it again and again on the tangle of inlets and islands. There and there and there. In these five locations, friends in seaplanes have dropped in the ocean. Dead, all of them. On the sea, Bruce says, the victims usually drown in the mangled wreck near the water`s surface. They become disoriented by the crash and cannot find their way out of the plane.
Inland Air has been in business for 26 years, so far, nobody has perished.

“We pilots are prima donnas. We are good at what we do because of what we are. We know that we are good but we don`t brag about it.”
Bruce MacDonald (54), a pilot for 35 years

Bush pilot Dave Norman looks out over the seaplane base in Seal Cove. Bald eagles are circling. Dave`s gaze freezes. He has spotted something on the dock where the planes are moored. He storms into the Inland Air building, returns with binoculars and spies through the lenses. But he does not scan for dangerous swirls in the water or for an approaching weather front. Dave has spotted a pilot from his North Pacific Seaplanes competitor who is wearing its official uniform.
Inland Air and North Pacific operate from the same base in Seal Cove.
Dave slowly lowers the binoculars. “I cannot believe it”, he says, “Dale has got a monkey suit on!” A true bush pilot does not dress up. Proudly wearing his blue jeans, wide suspenders and a striped T-shirt, Dave stomps down to the dock.
Sometimes, he says, the passengers walk past him when he is waiting for them in front of the seaplane. “I am sure they are looking for a tall, blond, handsome man in a uniform.”


But when Dave`s rumbling DHC-2-Beaver surges into the air, he leaves no doubt about who is the king of the skies, as on this sunny, clear flight day, so untypical for Prince Rupert. Nevertheless, Dave is on his guard. A seaplane can disappear within seconds from sun into fog. That would be fatal, because the pilots use strictly VFR – Visual Flight Rules: The pilot can only rely on his eyes and on what he sees.

Dave pulls handles, turns knobs. “Flying in this area is like an algebra equation with fifteen variables”, he says. In his mind, he has to watch many numbers all the time: speed limits, temperatures, fuel reserves, sight, other aircraft, air currents, pressure, his own condition, the tide – a crackling voice in his head set cuts him short. There is a grin on his face. “Flight service has just told me from what direction the wind is blowing – as if I did not already know! I only have to watch the waves.”

From now on, Dave is on his own. No radar, no control tower. Only a small screen in front of him: the GPS shows the Beaver`s position. But nothing, Dave says, replaces the pilot`s good judgement. Dave`s company, the small charter airline Inland Air, would not take anyone who has fewer than 2000 flight hours – 6000 flight hours would be ideal. It has become increasingly more difficult to find experienced pilots for seaplanes.
All the men working for Inland Air are 50 or older. Young pilots finish their flight school with approximately 200 flight hours – not adequate enough for a job on the West Coast. But without a job in an established company, they cannot acquire experience – it becomes a frustrating Catch-22 scenario. As they are denied a future in this occupation, they would-be-pilots leave the area.
Dave sees clearly the final consequence: “This era of flying comes to an end.”

In his Beaver, only three of the seven seats are occupied by tourists who want to see the grizzlies in the Khutzeymateen valley.
With such low weight, the plane sails through the air like an eagle.

“In ten minutes you can get lost because the mountains look the same, the rivers, the terrain look the same, no roads, no houses, no people.”
Ken Cote (56), a pilot for 35 years.

Dave steers towards the snow-covered coastal mountain range. He skirts the walls of granite that drop off steeply, flies above mountain lakes, sparkling bluish remnants of glaciers glittering in the sun.
Dave turns his head. He recognizes it once again on the facial expressions of his passengers – their quiet awe in the face of this monumental beauty, their emotions – and their nervousness. A tiny flying-machine in the eternal space. Nothing but air between a thin sheet of aluminum and the abyss.

Dave allows the wind to carry the Beaver up to the mountain ridge. For a moment it looks like the plane is about to scratch the face of precipice. But the up-current lifts it elegantly over the ridge. Then the pilot abruptly turns the metal nose downwards. He shouts “Now we are going over the edge” and the Beaver dives into the void.
Before the stomachs have settled down, Dave points out white mountain goats running on the bluffs below: “We used to come here and hunt them, I thought we`d wiped them out.”

Ten minutes later, he prepares for landing on the Khutzeymateen Inlet. Now he is completely absorbed. He does not chat anymore. Landing is the most critical moment of the flight. Deadly dangers lie in wait. Perhaps there is a log under the surface, a hidden rock, a sandbank in shallow waters. Beware of rolling waves. Even worse: a surface that is smooth like a black mirror. The pilots call it “glassy water”, a mirage can sometimes cause them to crash into it because they cannot estimate the vertical distance. Finally, watch out for that killer whale who might just emerge along your landing path.

Dave flies an exploratory loop, while scrutinizing the surface. Then he puts the floaters softly down on the water just as a pastry cook smoothes whipping cream on a cake.
The plane glides to a makeshift platform where Garry MacAuley`s Beaver is already moored.

“Bush pilots aren`t the cowboys anymore they used to be. Years ago, you would push it a little bit harder. Today, we turn around all the time because of weather.”
Carl Benson (57), pilot for 38 years.

Returning to the plane, Garry`s passengers are beaming, they have seen six grizzly bears. Gary is beaming, too, but he keeps a steady eye on the wind sock. Fifteen knots is still for a take off. At 25 knots, he would have to taxi further out of the inlet where the wind will not be as strong.

“It was whirly”, he informs Carl Benson later in the office of Inland Air. Carl who hovers over the flight plans tells Garry about his next job: a flight over Hecate Strait, infamous for brutal storms, to New Masset on the Queen-Charlotte-Islands. The distance is about 130 kilometers or 45 minutes. Six sports fishermen are waiting there with plastic-sealed salmon. They don`t know that the pilot who will fly them used to be an evangelical minister.

Garry studied philosophy and theology in Switzerland. He loves being close to heaven. On the Fiji Islands, he used to fly such celebrities as former Beatle Ringo Starr. He has also lived and flown in New Zealand, Japan, Mexico and Argentina but he says the area around Prince Rupert exceeds all previous challenges. Winds of 100 kilometres an hour; sudden weather changes; whipping rain that hammers the hull of the plane. The tormented engine coughs dangerously as the Beaver jumps up and down in the storm. Fog thick like insulation wadding when the cold glacial air from Portland Inlet meets the warmer current from the Pacific.
Always be prepared for a bad surprise. Adrenaline in your blood.

Garry runs down to the dock; a life in constant motion. “It is kind of a lonely life”, he says. Garry is a bachelor.
A black car stops in front of the office, a man jumps out, a doctor from one of the cruise ships travelling from Seattle to Alaska. There had been an emergency and the doctor had to accompany the patient to the closest hospital which happened to be in Prince Rupert. Now he wants to catch up with the cruis ship in Ketchikan, Alaska.
The people from Inland Air hasten to prepare the documents for the cross-border-flight.
Paperwork. Paperwork. Paperwork.

Bruce MacDonald paces like a tiger between the office and the check-in-counter, looking for insurance papers. Since he has become owner of Inland Air in May 2006, the added responsibility weighs heavily on his shoulders. “I`ve just got an invoice for the last 3 months”, he says: “28,000 dollars. And another 10,000 dollars taxes for the company buildings.” How was a small airline like his ever going to survive?

“Coastal seaplane pilots are an endangered species.”
Dale Leekie (58), pilot for 38 years.

Bruce steps outside, lights a cigarette and blows smoke in the air. He recounts how flying of seaplanes has changed over the last 50 years. In the pioneer era, the pilots used to leave “a trail of death and carnage” behind them, as Bruce describes it.
Dave is sitting on a bench nearby and feeds himself and a dog with crab meet. “It was all about showing off to the other pilots”, he says and cracks the red shells with his bare hands. “They wanted to outdo the competitors.”

As a young man, Bruce was a bush pilot in the Arctic, he learned his skills from the pioneers of the trade who carried boots, a thick coat and a knife. Back then, Bruce did not fly without a sleeping bag, a bottle of whisky and – just in case – a gun. One day, his Otter blew a cylinder and he was forced to land in the middle of the Barren Lands. He waited four days for help until an Air Canada pilot who flew over the North Pole on his way to London, England, intercepted his SOS signal.

Many pilots would not escape so luckily. When the number of accidents skyrocketed the Canadian government intervened: In the early eighties, new safety measures were put in place. The intoxicating but dangerous freedom of bush pilots was reigned in.
Bruce walks to the hangar where engineer Joe Hidber is painstakingly checking out a Beaver. Every 100 flight hours, the planes are taken out of the water and examined for potential damage.
The Beaver is a Canadian myth – and a fossil. The production of this seaplane ended in 1967. Of the 1692 Beavers built, close to 1000 are still flying today. There is no substitute for the Beaver. The pilots love her passionately but the life span of this type of plane is coming to an end. She has perhaps another ten or fifteen years left to fly. Recently, Hidber says, he repaired a 1948 Beaver that was as old as he.

“What we need in a pilot is a humble person. When you think you can get away with everything, you shouldn`t be in a seaplane.”
Dave Norman (55), a pilot for 28 years.

Dale Leekie is flying to Hartley Bay for North Pacific. He wants his Beaver to gain height. “We have an inversion here”, he says. The sun has been heating up the rock faces of the mountains below and, after several sunny days, warm air is rising and causing turbulences.
One of the passengers, Faith Turner, a nurse, puts the headset over her graying hair. If she had a patient with lung punctures who could not bear air pressure, could the plane fly in lower altitudes? she asks the pilot.

Throughout her life, Faith had often entrusted herself to these small planes. As a child she flew in the Arctic where her British-born father was a missionary, and later as a nurse in Canada`s most isolated areas. When she once took a pregnant woman to the nearest hospital, she had to implore the pilot to fly straight because the ups and downs would have precipitated labour. Faith is replacing a nurse on leave at the nursing station in Hartley Bay.

165 people live in this Tsimshian First Nations community, a tribe who had inhabited this region for more than 5000 years. It is 45 flight minutes to Prince Rupert, a village without roads, doctor or shop. “And hopefully no acute appendix”, Faith says as she looks down on the glistening ocean.
She has brought with her a two week`s supply of food and a warning of another nurse that the flight to Hartley Bay had been her worst trip ever, with a churned-up sea and frightening turbulences.

Dale nods. Huge waves often roll into this bay and make the landing difficult. Before leaving, he had checked the Hartley Bay weather conditions, transmitted by a webcam at the local school. The landing area was clear.

Dale is not a dare-devil. His father, a hobby pilot, perished in a plane crash when Dale was a teenager. “I like it when people have nothing to talk about after the flight is over”, he says. “I don`t want excitement.” Wishful thinking: While climbing out onto the dock after a soft landing, a passenger`s cell phone drops into the water and disappears.

“I have only met very few female bush pilots. I think it has to do with the fact that women have to take care of their families.”
Virginia McRae, airline receptionist for 20 years.

Port Simpson. The silence there strikes you. There are no screaming children, no hammering noises from workshops, only the piercing cries of bald eagles pushing themselves off the roof tops to vanish on the misty horizon.
The old fortress of the once-mighty Hudson`s Bay trading company no longer stands in this bay. The remains burnt down in 1915. The cannery on the shore has been shut down and the dusty roads leading nowhere are empty. The First Nations people call their village Lax Kw`alaams, “Island of the Roses”.

Far out on the Pacific Ocean there are small dots, the boats of the fishermen swiftly casting their nets because the government has allowed fishing for just a few hours. Too little time, to make a living. Suddenly, a buzzing sound. Northwest Pacific flight 101. The connection to the outside world. A 15 minute long life line. Three daily flights are scheduled for the 1000 people in Port Simpson.

Sometimes the seaplanes do not arrive. None could land a week ago when the fog pressed down on the ocean like the lid of a coffin. Gillie Sankey climbs cautiously out of the DHC-3 Turbo-Otter. Despite her old age, the First Nations woman shops twice a month in Prince Rupert because the groceries are cheaper.
“There are bears in town, that`s why you don`t see any people on the road”, she says while the pilot heeps the freight onto the dock.
Bob Bernhardt, a pest-control expert, is not deterred because he comes here every month. Today he has to spray the houses of the none-native teachers. Accompanied by two electricians who flew in with him, he walks up to the local band office.

In Seal Cove, North Pacific Seaplanes owner Gene Story looks through the window. He would like to be optimistic but the future worries him. “The young natives move to the cities, the families stay away. The population in the North decreases every year.”

A decade ago, there were 23 seaplanes in Seal Cove, now there are only 10. During that time, fishing and logging companies booked many regular flights but today they are facing hard economic times. Furthermore, Gene Story says, roads are being built into isolated communities and helicopters are taking away business from the seaplanes.

On the other side of the bay a Beaver takes off. Bruce MacDonald is heading to a remote mountain lake. He is eager to take adventure tourists to some magic places. You have to be creative, he says. He would rather fly happy tourists around than grumpy loggers.

Dave Norman is sitting in front of a computer in the kitchen of Inland Air and looks at the weather charts. A flight to New Masset is on the books. “There is quite a load”, he says, meaning fog. “I might not go to Masset.” He stretches his broad shoulders and gets up. “It seems that whenever there is a tough job to do, they call me.” There is satisfaction in his voice. This is not a job for a tall, blond, handsome man in a uniform.