[MARMAM] Remembering and celebrating Bernie McConnell

Michael Fedak maf3 at st-andrews.ac.uk
Thu Nov 11 03:32:31 PST 2021

All of us here at SMRU are still reeling after the recent sudden death of Bernie McConnell, who was SMRU's Deputy Director and Head of Instrumentation. We've set up an online book of remembrance which is a place where we can all record and share our favourite memories of Bernie.

This link [https://rememberancebook.net/book/bernie-mcconnell/] allows us to  record our favourite memories of Bernie and I'd like to strongly encourage everyone to contribute.  As the oldest extant member of SMRU by some margin, this is not something I ever expected to have to do.  I was far more likely to be a target of such a link rather than writing this invitation.  Bernie probably did more to generate material for such a remembrance than anyone I know.  I am not a gambling man, but I am willing to bet that even those of you who have known him only briefly will have stories to tell, so imagine the memories I have collected over the 40 years that Bernie and I have been friends and colleagues.

I first met Bernie when he joined SMRU in 1980 and we soon began working together to provide the means to study marine mammals at sea using technology.   This followed another tragedy that SMRU suffered in 1983, a helicopter crash that resulted in the deaths of two of SMRU's founder members, Mike Curry and Bill Vaughan.  Mike was involved in efforts to develop telemetry approaches.  After the crash Bernie, Dave Thompson and I took on the role of continuing those early efforts, working on Argos satellite telemetry but also real time tracking with VHF and acoustic devices.  It was an exciting if, sometimes, frustrating time but also great fun.  And Bernie always made sure that it was of that.  At that stage, the work involved lots of field work in remote places, working in small boats and aircraft, using fragile equipment and a lot of glue.  If you know Bernie at all, you will immediately see the potential for a wealth of stories and memorable events.   It is now more than forty years on and our ability to learn about the lives of marine mammals at sea has been transformed.  Bernie's role in this transformation is recognized by us all and has continued right up to his untimely death.

This remembrance site is not intended to be so much about the science, but rather to present a chance to preserve the joy and fun that Bernie brought to and derived from the work. Amazingly, Bernie has been able to maintain his output of memorable events, , unabated throughout the entirety of his >40 years at SMRU, only, sadly, to have it cut short now by his unexpected, sudden death.  I think we are all richer for Bernie's inimitable interventions.   So, it will be good to record them.

Outside of work, Bernie had what can only be described as a full social life and a wide range of interests.  Knowing him as I do, I am certain that there are several parallel streams, rich with anecdotes and stories so I feel sure that there will be no shortage of material.  As my ability for detailed recollection fades with age, I can only hope that you will all help to maintain our memories of Bernie via this link. So please contribute and give life to memories of a great character that we all have only just begun to miss.

Mike Fedak

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