Behind the Scenes

Reflections on creating the Fundy video diary project

Watch 0:32 to see lighting striking over the Bar Road at Ministers Island

Reflecting on exposed rockweed during a Fundy low tide

Reflecting on exposed rockweed during a Fundy low tide

I did not grow up near the Bay of Fundy.

In fact, I was moderately disappointed when the Bay of Fundy was chosen as my case study for the major research project of my Master’s degree in 2016. I wanted to go somewhere more exotic.

I was wrong to be disappointed. I have since moved back and forth between New Brunswick and Ontario (my home province) four times. Most recently, I lived in St. Andrews for most of 2018, and it was during this time when embarked on the Girls Gone Water – Fundy journey.

Why a project about Fundy?

I created this project because I wanted to show people, especially in places that are far from the coasts, how strongly coastal communities in Canada are connected to the oceans. I genuinely believe that many Canadians don’t understand how much of a coastal nation we are, and how strongly our maritime history and culture influences where we are today.

I also wanted to shine light on a place that is often considered a ‘have-not’ province. To be frank, many Canadians either don’t know or don’t care about New Brunswick. Friends often mistakenly asked me about my life in Nova Scotia or Newfoundland without realizing I was living in New Brunswick.

Part of what makes New Brunswick interesting is that it challenges common conceptions about the East Coast. Yes, there are fishermen, but the ones I know aren’t sitting in dories and smoking pipes, nor are they trawling the ocean at a massive industrial scale.

There are also fisherwomen. In fact, there are many women leading very interesting and unique lives that most people don’t know about. I saw this as as an opportunity to bring their perspectives forward and explore how they fit into prevailing stories.

Looking out from the Deer Island ferry

Looking out from the Deer Island ferry

It was easy to find five inspiring women to participate in this project – a testament to the approachability and keenness of those involved.  As the weeks rolled by, I occasionally checked in with each woman and made my own video diary. The project was a bit of an experiment, and I was crossing my fingers that a story would emerge naturally from the dairies. The story began coming together when I met each woman for a debrief interview in the fall. 

New perspectives

I found my debrief interview on Deer Island with Sheena Young particularly meaningful. Deer Island is where my Master’s research had both begun and ended two years earlier, and I associate it with personal development, overcoming challenges, and self-realization. As I rode the ferry home after our meeting, I had the distinct feeling of coming full circle. I remembered a crisp night in 2016 when I laid back on the hood of my car on this same ferry and stared up at the Milky Way, contemplating all the stories I had heard about this place and how they had influenced my views.

Managing this project was a reflection process for me, too. My own video diary reflects my connection to the Bay of Fundy, mostly through my days at work and my personal life around St. Andrews.

Watching this video a few months after leaving New Brunswick again makes me feel both grateful and proud for having seized opportunities in my path. It also reminds me about the trade-offs of living in a rural place, like the close accessibility of nature and the ease of spending time outdoors, contrasted with the frustrations of limited access to certain amenities that exist in bigger population centres.

The saltwater may not be in my blood, but my time in New Brunswick has shifted my thinking about Canada as a whole. When I close my eyes and think of Canada, these rural coastal areas are now part of my vision.

Proudly carrying a New Brunswick flag at Fundy National Park

Proudly carrying a New Brunswick flag at Fundy National Park




This blog post is from Irene Brueckner-Irwin. Irene is a Girls Gone Water co-founder and works in nature conservation. She hails from Kingston, Ontario (but is currently living a nomadic life). She has a passion for connecting diverse people to the diversity of nature.