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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Jane Whitney, owner operator of Whitney & Smith

Guide Dave Quinn writes for Adventure Kayak a piece on Jane Whitney

From her backyard office in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains in Canmore, Alberta, Jane Whitney takes a break from her computer to look back on over 30 years of adventure tourism work. “The last indoor job I had was for two months in 1976”, recalls Whitney. “I started guiding cycling, skiing, and paddling trips in the rockies that summer, and have never looked back”. For over 30 years years now, Jane has been leading kayak, trekking, and documentary expeditions to some of the last remote outposts of wilderness on the planet. She began sea kayak guiding in the early days of Ecosummer, at the time one of the only companies leading commercial trips to remote wilderness areas. Her training as a biologist led her to the Canadian High Arctic, to work months at a time in self-supported camps studying migratory birds. Jane and her former partner Steve Smith formed Whitney & Smith Legendary Expeditions in 1987, specializing in exotic, remote, and wildlife-rich destinations across the globe. “We originally thought that we should bring people to all the amazing places we worked as wildlife biologists, to experience, for example, the ancient murrelets on the Queen Charlottes, thick-billed murres on Leopold and Coburg Islands in the Arctic, magellanic penguins in Patagonia. All these places we were lucky enough to work in had the perfect combinations of wilderness, wildlife, and spectacular scenery”. “Whitney and Smith is all about giving people a trip of a life time, where we all travel as a team on self propelled expeditions; giving people a better understanding with why it is so important to protect our wilderness and it's wildlife”. This leading edge adventure company is truly a family business, and Jane has become adept at balancing the needs of the business and the joys of being a mom. “It was originally hard to leave my 7 month old baby to guide on Ellesmere or in Patagonia”, explains Whitney,”but I always came back as a better mother with my cup filled with the beauty of the wilds. Getting Navarana out with me has been my priority. As a baby, Navarana woke up smiling when heard the shrill call of the Oystercatcher in the Queen Charlotte Islands and she learned to walk on Prince Charles Island, Baffin Island. When we were exploring Tonga for possible trip options, Navi and I would home school at night by candle light”. Thirteen-year-old Navarana is now Whitney and Smith´s youngest guide, joining Jane on trips when space and Navi`s busy school, dance, and ski schedule allows. In between her duties as a supermom, guiding and running a business, Jane has made time for exceptoinal personal adventures, including a 60-day kayak expedition the southern Chilean coast (it rained for 58 of 60 days), and extended ski tours across the Greenland and Patagonia ice caps. “The next 30 years will be as full as the last 30”, predicts Jane, whose current projects include searching out new wild trips in Patagonia, Kamchuka, Greenland, Baffin Island, South Georgia Island, and the Auckland Islands.“I also plan to do alot of travelling with my kid”, explains Jane with a supermom grin.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Whitney & Smith coming to NYC, Vancouver, Toronto and Calgary!

We will be in the following cities speaking at the adventure travel shows. Please be sure to contact us if you would like to meet for a drink, have time for dinner or would like to plan an informal slideshow for you and your friends! Be sure to stop by our booth at the show. We'd be delighted to see you!

New York City: Jane Whitney & Charlie van Straubenzee will be in town from Friday, January 11 to Monday, January 14. The Adventure Travel Show, sponsored by National Geographic Adventure will be at Pier 94, 755 12th Avenue between 54th and 55th Streets. Hours are Saturday, January 12 9 to 6 pm and Sunday, January 13 11 to 4:30 pm.

Vancouver: The Adventure Travel Show will be at the BC Place Stadium. Show times are Saturday, February 16, 2008 ~ 10 am - 6 pm and Sunday, February 17, 2008 ~ 10 am - 5 pm.

Toronto The Adventure Travel Show will be at the The International Centre 6900 Airport Rd, Mississauga. Show times are from Friday February 22, 12 Noon - 9 pm, Saturday February 23, 10 am - 6 pm and Sunday February 24, 10 am - 5 pm.

Calgary The Adventure Travel Show will be at the Roundup Center, Stampede Park from Saturday, April 5, 2008 ~ 10 am - 6 pm to Sunday, April 6, 2008 ~ 10 am - 5 pm.

We hope to see you!

Friday, January 4, 2008


These trips take place in the famed roaring forties. As naturalist and writer George Gaylord Simpson said in his classic Attending Marvels “all we had to do was sit down and all of Patagonia will blow past you". 

Some years we find ourselves paddling these trips with little to no wind, day after day. But in 2007 our expedition members awoke nearly every day to building winds and seas, and, more often than not, spent at least part of the day exploring the interior of Peninsula Valdes, where arrowheads, boleador balls, and even human skeletons eroding from the wandering dunes tell the tale of the Tehuelche aboriginals that once called this Patagonia their own.  Herds of guanacos, a large variety of birds, and even a Patagonian viper or two kept the group company on their wind-bound days.

One of our groups this year were lucky enough to discover a beached sei whale - 16 meters long and relatively fresh.  A quick phone call to Mariano Sirioni, the Argentine Whale specialist, brought him and his colleague, Dr. Michael Moore of Woods Hole, to the beach for a necropsy.  Our team was enlisted as very keen recruits to help the biologists with the necropsy.  Blubber and meat was hauled off to allow organ samples to be gathered, and all smaller bones were hauled into the dunes for the armadillos to clean.  The larger bones will be left for the petrels and the sea to clean.  This is only the second sei whale ever to have washed up on the shores of the peninsula, and Sirioni will return in several years for the skeleton. 

A record number of whales were sighted this year - Mariano told the group that over 1100 southern right whales had returned to the peninsula this year - a record.  This population is still growing at 7% per year, and the mothers and calves are still a highlight of this trip.  On one day Dave and Juani and the group counted over 30 pairs of whales while paddling and in front of their camp!  They even saw a rare white calf, which kept them company for several days.

Unfortunately, the biologists have also noted a record number of whale deaths this year, with over 75 dead whales washing up along the shores of the peninsula.  Dr. Moore was hoping to discover the cause of these deaths through his samples, and indicated that a possible early suspect was an abundant red-tide algal bloom the previous summer.

All-in-all the trips were full of lots of laughs, great sunsets, fresh sea food, invigorating swims, and another wonderful Patagonian adventure.  Ah, yes, and don't forget, on these trips you get to sample the great Argentine Malbec wines!