News & Updates
Remembering Richard Whittall: A Real Wilderness Forester
By Robert Seaton
Richard Whittall 1960 – 2016
Richard Whittall, who worked for Brinkman in the 1990’s and 2000’s, passed away at his home in Port Alberni on Sept 27 2016. Although Richard had a forestry degree from Lakehead University, and could have been a “desk forester”, all he wanted to do was work in the bush with his succession of extremely bush wise dogs.
Rich and I worked together as a 2 man survey crew in Ontario and British Columbia for many years, and got into more crazy adventures than either of us should have survived. One day north west of Blue River he and I surveyed a block which had been winter logged on an ice road. As a result, access to the block was a hike in across 7 or 8 kilometers of floating bog, crisscrossed with deep water channels, one of which his dog wiped out into spectacularly. Once we got to the block we found that it essentially consisted of 40 hectares of 70 percent slope covered in 6 meter tall slide alder, leaning at about 45 degrees, with an understory of solid devil’s club. The only way through was to step from alder to alder about 2 meters off of the ground… for a combined 4 kilometers of survey line between the two of us… I think we found one tree in total. At about three in the afternoon we got half an hour of golfball sized hail, which had us hunkered under the alder and devils club, keeping in touch on the radio in case one of us took a bad hit. At the end of the day Rich walked out laughing – another good day in the bush!
Rich’s great love in life were his dogs, and someone mistreating a dog was the one thing that could really piss him off. The dog he had when we worked together had been rescued from an abusive owner – Rich saw the man abusing the dog, and told him he could either give him the dog, or face the wrath. Rich and his dogs were a team, and the dogs more than once saved him from bears. I remember hearing Rich’s dog tearing past me through a block in the Kingcome Valley, grizzly in hot persuit, and the dog having the time of its life dragging that bear through every brush patch and slash pile in the area, while we got on with work.
Just a week before he passed away, Rich had a bush accident which resulted in three broken ribs and a punctured lung, and may have contributed to his death. Injuries (and he had a few) were the only thing which kept him out of the bush… but never for long. Rich was a real forester, who never saw a wilderness he didn’t like, or a desk he could stand for long.
He’ll be sorely missed.