Who is Muriel Hallé?
Muriel never travels far without her trusty camera.
Now this is an interesting blog for me to write, since it takes me back to a lot of different places. I guess I’ll just have to start at the beginning of my journey.
So first of all I was born and raised in Switzerland, where I spent an absolutely lovely childhood on a farm. We were not farmers in the traditional way, in which some of you might think of farmers. My mum, who is from Switzerland, always dreamed to live in a farmhouse and own a couple of animals, especially sheep. So together with my dad who is from France, they moved to the place with my brother and sister, before I was born. That's probably why I love nature so much and grew very fond of that lifestyle! Because I had nature and animals around me all the time since I was born.
Having a dad from France came with the plus that we had to visit family in France and that’s when the ocean first came into my life. Why do I take you so far back? Well because my very first memory of the ocean was actually the first time I saw it, when I was only 2. So that is probably one of my oldest memories of my childhood.
When I first saw the movie “Free Willy” I was just about four years old, but I knew that one day I will work with orcas and marine mammals in general. I had this instant connection with the character Willy and it moved me so deeply that to this day I have this passion in me that thankfully never left. If you never saw it yet, here's the trailer below...
Muriel in her natural habitat!
As a little farm girl growing up in Switzerland, no one really felt like my dream was realistic, and when I went to school my dream was shattered on the very first day. It’s actually quite amazing how much impact a teacher can have on a child. So school as you can imagine was not, let’s say, an important part for me as a kid. I wanted to spend time in the forest and around animals, and did what I had to do for school but never wanted to go there, until one day in my last school year, we had to pick a subject that we had to write an essay about. You can guess that my subject was orcas! When I researched about the orca vocalisation I found out about the OrcaLab on Vancouver Island in Canada, and they had recordings of orcas. When the A-Clan recording played, I bursted into tears, “It’s Willy” I said. It’s actually true that they used A-Clan calls in the movie Free Willy. From that day on, the passion was real again.
My goal now was to go to Canada and find the wild orcas who spoke like Willy. Since my mum is way smarter than I am, she told me to first finish school and an apprenticeship and then I can do whatever I want. So I had to wait another 5 years before I finished my apprenticeship as an automotive painter. During these 5 years I got in touch with Paul Spong and Helena Symonds from OrcaLab and was also involved with the Free Morgan Foundation (a captive orca in Spain), meeting one of their co-founders - Ingrid Visser, and so many other people that paved my path. I can’t quite put into words how much every one of them meant to me, since most of them were the first people that ever believed in my dream and pushed me on. I also can’t thank my parents enough that were so so supportive during this time! My journey was now about to start…
I hope you enjoyed the first part of my introduction to you? I can't wait to tell you about Canada and my beloved Northern Resident and Bigg’s Transient orca populations in the next instalment, as well as some of my best friends.
Until then, stay safe and happy!