eXXpedition North Pacific crew member and TV presenter Victoria Fritz introduces us to designer, artist and photographer Nikkey Dawn…

“Nikkey is our resident Canadian, British Columbian, proud Squamish citizen, tour guide, natural historian, anthropologist, designer, photographer and night-watch flosser. 
They say necessity is the mother of invention. In Nikkey’s case, necessity meant reinvention as an ocean advocate. In a series of freak accidents, Nikkey found herself involved in four car accidents within just three years. The cumulative soft tissue damage was so severe that Nikkey needed to be weightless in order to heal. Her love of the ocean always took her back to the sea. Her injuries led her to free diving. Without the weight of tanks, Nikkey was free to explore the water she had started to love as a child on her grandfather’s houseboat.

When Nikkey wasn’t in the water, she had to lay flat. She took to reading the marine biology text books that lay littered the apartment in which she lived. The more she read, the more her imagination was caught by the plight of whales living off her shoreline. The Southern resident population had declined by 50% since the late 1990s. They mainly feed on salmon. Salmon numbers have yet to fully recover in the ocean outside British Columbia. Over-fishing, upstream dams, water pollution, and busier shipping channels all contribute to a decline in their numbers. Whales act as bioaccumlators for all the toxins that seep into the sea life lower down the food chain. Southern resident whales have four times as many toxins in their blood than their Northern cousins nearer Alaska, partly because of their proximity to urban coastal populations. Orca pods are matriarchal in nature.

For Nikkey, whales became the ultimate metaphor for the impact plastics have on all ecosystems. There are estimated to be just 75 Southern resident whales left in the Salish sea. The ones that are found are more often than not, malnourished. With that in mind, Nikki, already a talented photographer and designer, took to painting the remaining Southern Resident Orca population. Nikkey’s work is in part, an observational commentary on the remaining population. But it is also a call to action. The money raised through the sale of her paintings will go towards the establishment of a marine conservation area in which these beautiful creatures may thrive.”

Nikkey says:
“It’s one thing to believe in yourself and it’s another when family, friends, your community and complete strangers believe in you too. For that, I can not thank you all enough. I did not come alone to this boat, I’ve taken all of your concerns and hopes for the futures along with me. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude writing this thinking about all of you that helped make this happen. 
To my 76 Orcas artwork supporters – thank-you for purchasing my art by donation, valuing our southern resident killer whales and this mission. I’ve loved hearing about your personal connection to the ocean and to these orcas. I hope your art piece serves as an reminder of our collective hopes for the environment.
BATOKO – Thank-you for your donation and for sending me the most comfortable swimsuits made out of recycled ocean plastics. I love that the fun patterns are often a natural conversation starters with others about the issue. You’ve been so enthusiastic and supportive, I appreciate all of it. 
Pina Clothing – Thank-you for your donation AND for sending each member of the crew an awesome west coast themed t-shirt. Your generosity is incredible, one or more of us have been rocking the shirts daily. 
A-FRAME – Thank-you for hosting my fundraiser and for letting me draw all over your growlers. Your support means the world to me. 
Sitka – Thank-you for outfitting me in high quality Made in Canada clothes made from natural organic materials that both look and feel good. Your commitment to the environment is inspiring.
Lastly, thank-you to everyone who has sent me words of encouragement, shared my campaign and is out there doing their own advocation for the ocean. We got this.”