Skip to content

Love of ocean inspires children’s book on seaweed ‘superpowers’

Shirley author Amanda Swinimer educates future generations about the ocean’s delicate balance
Amanda Swinimer’s new children’s book – The Science and Superpowers of Seaweed – was released May 6. (Contributed photo)

In the mesmerizing depths of the coastal waters, amidst the enchanting bull kelp forest, Amanda Swinimer’s world transformed before her eyes.

With an immense head comparable in size to a pillow, the Giant Pacific Octopus commanded attention in every way. Its long, delicate legs reached the very limits of visibility, spanning an impressive length of six to eight feet. Under the blades of kelp, the creature seemed to be in peaceful slumber with its closed eyes.

“I thought it was sleeping. I could see its arms weaving in and out of the kelp blade,” recalled Swinimer.

“It was just fascinating and hung in the water.”

RELATED: Seaweed industry looking at potential to scale up production on Island

RELATED: Bountiful beach buffet makes waves with adult-learning class

The encounter was memorable on a typical work day for Swinimer, a professional seaweed harvester and marine biologist from Shirley, B.C.

The rare rendezvous with the octopus is one of the many reasons Swinimer feels compelled to share her experiences and discoveries with the world.

Her latest project involves writing a children’s book to educate future generations about the ocean’s delicate balance.

Swinimer developed a deep affection for the ocean and recognized at a young age that she aspired to shape her life and profession around its vast waters.

Fast-forwarding to the present, Swinimer harvests bull and winged kelp commercially in the region stretching from Tugwell Creek to Jordan River.

The equipment for the job varies from wearing a partial wetsuit to full gear – mask, fins, and snorkel.

Winged kelp, a low intertidal species, can only be collected during a short season when tides are at their lowest. Its inability to float necessitates the harvesters to wear wetsuits and use heavy-duty mesh bags venturing into waist-deep water. When gathering the kelp, it’s important to keep it attached to its base, ensuring that around two feet of the seaweed remains intact.

Bull kelp is a type of seaweed that thrives in moderately deep water hundreds of metres offshore. Swinimer wears a full wetsuit to harvest the kelp and carefully cuts the blades, leaving approximately half of them untouched.

The harvested kelp is carefully hung from cedar racks and left to dry for three days. The final product is supplied mainly to chefs of restaurants in the Greater Vancouver and Okanagan areas.

According to the National Ocean Service, algae, particularly kelp, are highly productive ecosystems on Earth. They play a vital role in rapidly removing carbon from the environment. Algae has an astonishing growth rate, generating 50 to 80 per cent of the world’s oxygen.

Seaweed is packed with vitamins and minerals, healthy fatty acids and protein and is a significant source of fiber.

Swinimer can’t resist telling others about the benefits of seaweed, often sharing her knowledge with public, private, and homeschooled students. It’s the reason she decided to write a children’s book.

She said when children feel connected to their natural environment, it gives them a sense of purpose and empowers them to protect the things they are passionate about.

“They’re enthusiastic and so interested,” she said.

Earlier this month, Swinimer released her second book and the first for children – The Science and Superpowers of Seaweed – to evoke a sense of wonder when they encountered seaweeds at the beach or looked at pictures in her book. The book explores the science and harvesting of seaweed while sharing interesting facts about marine plants and animals.

“I want them to feel the magic and mystery of seaweed and know that it has all these amazing human and earth-healing qualities. That’s the superpowers part,” she said.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Kevin Laird

About the Author: Kevin Laird

It's my passion to contribute to the well-being of the community by connecting people through the power of reliable news and storytelling.
Read more