Robie W Macdonald

Robie W. Macdonald passed peacefully at home in the company of family on February 13, 2022 at the age of 74 years.

Rob was an explorer and adventurer.  Whether he was onboard a vessel pursuing ocean science, climbing a dreamed-of mountain, kayaking the out-of-the-way inlets on the B.C. coast or hiking the historical trails in Scotland and England, he was in his natural element.  His curiosity about the world took him to places that demanded commitment, courage and fortitude and he had those in spades.  His community was a diverse mixture of ocean scientists, alpinists, writers, historians and geographers.  Rob was easy to like and he earned the respect of everyone who knew him.  His story-telling and sense of humour was subtle and often took people by surprise.

In his career as an ocean scientist, Rob was lauded by his peers, given medals and received fellowships.  But prestige was never his goal.  Last year he was awarded the Order of Canada.  The timing of that could not have been more perfect.  Still, he remained humble and continued to mentor others and contribute to the knowledge bank of the world’s oceans.

Rob will be missed greatly by friends and family:  His life partner Julie (Henderson), her sons Andrew and wife Rebecca, Edward and wife Pawan, and grandson Hayden; his sister Louise (Gibbs) and her life partner Stan (Barry); his close friend Paul who stayed to the end and colleague Sophie who inspired him to keep on writing all through his illness.  Rob passed in grace, readiness and with a gentle smile.

Rob’s final resting place is in the forest at the Royal Oak Burial Park.  There will be no formal service at this time but two small gatherings to celebrate Rob’s life will be planned for this year.

In lieu of flowers, Rob would request donations to

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Condolence Messages

  1. My deepest condolences to your family at the loss of such a wonderful, generous man, I got to know Robie through the Alpine Club and ski trips in the Rockies and admired his exploits as well as his humanity, may he rest in peace always.

  2. Dear Julie. It’s hard to believe. I send heartfelt condolences and wishes for strength and love to you, to Louise, and to all his family and friends. Rob has been an amazing friend and, in particular, an ideal companion on our last couple of hillwalking sojourns in Scotland a few years ago. And recently in these hard circumstances his unfailing grace and sense of humour were always there. In deep sadness there is yet the knowledge of a life well lived.

    • Hello Sandy. Rob indeed was an ideal companion for bagging Munros in Scoland! Thank you for giving me the inspiration of what to inscribe on Rob’s burial marker ………………”A Life Well Lived”. Take care and stay in touch. Julie

  3. Robie’s professional knowledge of the earth, especially the oceans, is a legacy that extends much further than even he could guess! But our digging deeper into relationships and attitudes, lessons absorbed into his personality, were evident by the way he acted towards others.

  4. Sharon + Henri Wetselaar

    Dear Julie and family. We join our tears with yours right now at this time of Robie’s passing. Such a humble, dear, dear man who graced us with his presence, his knowledge and his deep kindness. He’s off with Rick now, his old friend and climbing buddy, messing about in those Blue Mountains and making first ascents to their hearts’ content.

  5. Dear Julie,

    Robie made his journey count and left lasting memories with so many. He was an admired role model for me, with his alpine and scientific accomplishments, his social and civil engagement, and mostly with his humanity. The world is poorer for his passing.

  6. Dear Julie, family and friends. To me and so many of us, Robie was and will always be a giant of a human being, exceptional beyond compare and in so many ways. He was a great role model and mentor to me (although he likely didn’t know it) and someone who will continue to inspire us to be better and to live our lives a little bigger, with meaning, purpose, humility and humour. My thoughts are with you and with Robie.

  7. Oh Julie, I am sorry your life-mate has passed but so glad to know he died peacefully in his comfy chair. Please let me know when you are ready to go for a walk or have tea with me. Love and hugs, Marlena

  8. Dear Julie
    My heart is heavy for you as the sadness of Rob’s passing washes over us. Even though we knew the inevitably of this day, it doesn’t blunt the pain of the reality of the loss. I send you peace and strength in these difficult days.

    Rob was a gem. A brilliant gem, yet so down to earth and humble. A quiet strength in any situation. A source of humour, knowledge and wisdom. Above all, a man with a very big and empathetic heart, and huge love for his family. I feel privileged to have known Rob as a friend, and am forever grateful for the encouragement and support he gave me in both good and challenging times.

    Fond love to you and the family

  9. Dear Julie,

    My heart felt condolences to you and your family. Robie was a big influence in my life, I will always value and remember his zest and enthusiasm for the mountains; his very funny sense of humour; his dedication to science; his wide ranging interests; and his compassion and caring for his friends and colleagues. Working in the field, Robie stood out in that he never asked anyone to do anything that he wasn’t willing to do himself. His contributions to science are truly impressive. His curiosity in just about all things made for very lively and engaging conversations. Robie will be missed by many and I am saddened by his passing.

  10. Dear dear Julie,
    I am sending all my love and prayers and peace to you at this time. Rob was a wonderful man and you have had a beautiful life together. You are in my heart.

  11. Dear Julie 🤗
    Our kindest condolences for your loss. May Rob Rest In Peace 🙏
    With love and light
    Tersia and John

  12. Julie, I was sorry to hear of Robie’s passing. On behalf of our lakeside community, please accept our deepest condolences for your loss.

  13. Dear Julie,
    Robie was one of the wisest, kindest people I ever met. I had the privilege to meet him at an early moment in my career. I needed good advice then; he had it in abundance and was generous to share it. One of my career highlights was spending a month with him doing field work based out of a small single room cabin on Devon Island in the High Arctic (July 2007). I was fortunate to have shared his professional interests and insights. I wrote to him a few weeks ago recounting this experience and he said it made him laugh. I will never forget the lessons learned. He was my hero. (And he told the best jokes!)

  14. Frank and Margaret Viggers

    Julie we are so sorry to hear of Rob’s passing. He was the love of your life.
    You mentioned him so fondly. Our condolences

  15. Frank and Margaret Viggers

    Julie we are so sorry to hear of Rob’s passing. He was the love of your life.
    You mentioned him so fondly. Our condolences Frank and Margaret Viggers

  16. Jean and Michael Layland

    Julie, our deep condolences to you and your family. Rob’s life was indeed well lived. And clearly, he lives on through his substantial contributions to science and the many lives he touched.
    Jean & Michael Layland

  17. Our Condolence to you and family. I knew Rob through you as a kind and generous man who was so supportive to you and all of us and who you loved deeply. I was blessed to have him grace my life through you. Sending Love and Hugs, Regina and Ken

  18. Julie, I want to add to all the loving thoughts being sent to you as you process Rob’s passing. Trips with Rob were always calm, thoughtful and joyous happenings for me, a witty, observant and concerned path-mate. More than that , he frequently let us know, in his own understated way , how much you, his family and close friends meant to him. We will miss him dearly though celebrate the wonderful life he led.

  19. Dear Julie, family, friends and colleagues,
    My thoughts are with you. Robie was a world-renowned scientist and world-class person. He will be recognized for his enormous contributions to Arctic science and had such a huge impact on so many lives/careers. Robie was a friend, colleague and mentor to me for over 30 years and I had the privilege and honour to work with him on national and international Arctic science programs. His passion, intelligence and creativity were inspiring to say the least and always seemed to find time in his busy schedule to provide his advice when asked. He had a great sense of humour which was infectious, and I remember while traveling to the Arctic together reciting Far Side comics with one another which seemed like for hours. On another trip, I was shocked to receive a post card from the North Pole (postal mark) from him as his oceanographic ship crossed over, remembering the contributions from others who helped him. Robie leaves a huge legacy and I will miss him dearly.
    Russel Shearer (in Ottawa)

  20. Julie, I want to send you heartfelt support for you as you process Rob’s passing. From the many joyous ( sometimes challenging) trips we made together I felt a deep sense of well-being among the mountains with him. He was ever the calm, witty and caring companion to us all. Above that he frequently let us know, in his own understated way, how much you, his family and his close friends meant to him. We shall miss him badly, though celebrate the wonderful life he led. My thoughts to you and the family.

  21. Dear Julie and Family,

    My heartfelt condolences for your loss of your beloved Rob. A beautiful soul, a life well lived, loved and was loved. I knew little of Rob’s accomplishments though I knew they were many. To me, Rob was the beloved of my dear friend Julie, and that kind, generous, gentle man who let us yogis come into his space and home every Tuesday and Thursday with our cars in the yard, our paraphernalia of mats, cushions and blankets, chanting and gonging. His thoughtfulness on those damp dark winter days preparing a fire in the fireplace for us to enjoy the warmth for our tea in the living room after our yoga. Although I only saw him in passing going in and out for the last fifteen years, he always had a soft greeting and warm smile. I feel blessed to have known Rob in this way and will forever remember his gentle and generous spirit. He is with you always. Love & Hugs, Ferne

  22. Dear Julie;
    I was so surprised and saddened to hear about Robie. I did not know that he was so ill of late. You’d never have known with his energy and unbridled enthusiasm for all sorts of topics in science and nature. He was also so humble and unassuming despite having won accolades and the admiration of many scientists. Yet, what a tremendous wit! I admired him greatly.
    Best wishes
    Vidas and Hilary

  23. Dear Julie and Family,
    I am so saddened to hear of the passing of your beloved. May we all be blessed to face death with such composure and grace, surrounded by those who love us most deeply. Love and blessings, Jane

  24. H Albert Hestler

    Dear Julie,
    Over the last few years, while reminiscing about our past lives, Rob and I shared our mutual love of the mountains. We agreed that it was largely the Alpine Club and the connection with many friends that provided the means to balance the often stressful times of one’s professional and personal life with the calming effect of getting away from it into the mountains. Rob’s remarkable career based on science has already been recognized. He acknowledged that he had successfully managed to combine his two main passions – science and climbing – into his philosophy of life. He was indeed an exemplary role model. He is still alive in my memory.
    My sincere condolences to you, dear Julie, and your family.

  25. Dear Julie you have my deepest sympathy and unwavering support. Wishing you peace comfort and love at this time. Love Vickie

  26. I know this is to leave our condolences for the family and especially Julie. I’m very sorry for your loss Julie you have a strong spirit like Robbie! I wanted to write this personal message about Uncle Rob. Maybe it’s because there were things I wanted to tell him. We were so lucky to have this guy in our life.

    I will miss our time together! You were the best stoic uncle a nephew could have! We didn’t always agree and that’s ok. I will never forget our hikes and your love for living in the moment. You cared so much about your family because you would come to us when we needed you in the worst of spirits. I was amazed with what you accomplished in your career and your zest for going on your Indiana Jones Adventures. I remember our family would gather around at grandma crackers house and we would watch your mountaineering photos on your projector screen to our days of viewing your new digital Apple library. The days you brought the whole family together to ski and where I heard you say your first ever swear word after I B- lined the yellow ski hill. I’m sitting outside the sauna you help me purchase and the steps you help me build.. I never thought losing someone would be this hard. I love you Uncle Rob. I could write more but you would say get over yourself Laddy! Stop sweating or crying in the sauna it’s causing the keyboard to activate with errors. I wish we parted better and you know that!

  27. To Rob’s family: these are sad days processing the news of Rob’s passing.
    We did not know each other well but he took time as recently as last year to share experiences & photographs of some of his Arctic trips because he knew of my interest there.
    Generous & measured in his responses & with a lively humor.
    It is a great loss to all of his communities.

  28. I had the privilege to interact with Robie back in the 80’s and followed his work ever since. Tremendous respect for his science, enthusiasm and warm attitude and his ability to ask (and answer) difficult questions which continued right up to now. Condolences from the East Coast and from Dalhousie, his alma mater, to family, friends and colleagues.

  29. Howard J Freeland

    It has been a privilege to know Robie from my earliest years at the Institute of Ocean Sciences. The news caught me off-guard, I did not know he was ill. I will always remember his irreverent attitude to science, his clear attention to detail and his enthusiasm.

  30. Dear Julie and family. Loving memories of Rob’s love of outdoor adventures, his kind, generous and soft spirit, and always making me feel welcome in your home. May all love surround you.

  31. Dear Julie
    Thinking of you, as I reflect on all that I will miss with Rob’s passing. On our outdoor trips he shared his knowledge, wit, and counsel with everyone…as solid and diverse as the rock he loved to climb. And his photographs, highlighting the world from different pitches.
    Please call any time. Hugs. Ann

  32. Robie was a truly inspiring individual for whom I always had tremendous respect. I know that he will be sorely missed. My condolences to you Julie and to his extended family.

  33. It was with overwhelming sadness that we learned of Rob’s passing. He was looked up to and admired by many as he had a quiet yet playful confidence and a natural leadership skill. He always helped others. Too, he will be remembered for his turn of phrase and more often than not, an amusing joke or story. Rob left the world a better place and, yes Julie, A life well lived. We will miss him.

  34. Rob was a wonderful scientist. Expert, insightful, wise, hard-working, open to discussion and always displaying the greatest objectivity and integrity, combined with modesty and a great sense of humour. I remember him telling me, during the Harper regime, how refreshing it had been to testify at the Cohen Commission on Fraser River sockeye salmon, as he was under oath to tell the truth and so couldn’t be fired!

    For most of last year, Mary-Louise Timmermans and I had the pleasure of a delightful three-way email discussion with Rob, on scientific topics from the dynamics of merging Arctic rivers to the carbon sequestration potential, or not, of eelgrass beds. All punctuated with clues from cryptic crosswords, a shared interest and possible addiction. Receiving an email from Rob was always a pleasure, even if he did occasionally try to teach us a little geochemistry! I admired him greatly.

  35. I will miss Robie and his wonderfully wry sense of humour. Julie, you have my most sincere sympathy in your profound loss. I’ll be thinking of you,

  36. About 1998 I was in conversation with Robie re his annual appraisal and potential promotion. He was near the top, but there was one more level and he had a good chance of attaining it: the coveted Research Scientist-5. Only 5% of federal government scientists achieve it. Could his career be tweaked to ensure promotion? Write an extensive synthesis or a book? His response, “John, I will not change my path. If it comes, so be it. Besides, if I write a book it’ll be on mountaineering”. He of course got his Res-5, and more. The Order of Canada was a given.
    As well, he played hockey with the North Saanich lads. Ran Mt Work for fitness. Kayaked the wild waters of the Booth Peninsula, a trip initiated by Julie. He hiked and biked. A polymath he was.
    My favourite time with Rob was early on a Friday morning, office-bound we were, eating Roost raison-filled, gooey, cinnamon buns. It was my debt to him for losing our Thursday afternoon golf match. Always sharing a joke; occasionally a bit of science. “Me ol’ trout, we’ll badly miss you.”

  37. Dear Julie,
    It is with great sadness I extend my deepest condolences to you on the passing of Robie. It was always a privilege and a joy to work with Robie on our many science exploits. No matter how tired we were or difficult the situation , Robie’s wit and humour was there to cheer us on and encourage us to do our best. The science community has benefited immensely from this devoted and dedicated man of science. I will remember Robie with great fondness and respect.
    Douglas Sieberg

  38. Madelaine {Amrit Sangeet} Clarke

    Dearest Julie (Fateh) –

    As your grief ebbs and flows, may you find comfort in knowing you’re in the compassionate embrace of light and love emanating from your Darshan yoga sangat community.

  39. Sharon Elizabeth

    Dear Julie,
    My heartfelt love to you over the loss of your beloved Rob. What an amazing life journey the two of you have shared with your loving stewardship of this beautiful earth, her vast oceans and many waterways. Also deep bows of gratitude to you for your unwavering dedication and support to Rob, for being there to help walk him home.

    Roy and I both feel so grateful to have met Rob and are in awe of his incredible contributions. We also loved talking with you and Rob about your fascinating kayaking and hiking adventures. It was a blessing to be in Rob’s quiet presence and to experience his sweet smile.

    From my heart to yours with so much love,

  40. Dear Julie and family, I hold you in my heart as you continue your life journey and carry your memories of your beloved Rob. I am grateful to have known Rob briefly through the beautiful gardens he created and the gentle glimpses as he disappeared into his office while we entered your sacred home for yoga… with light and love, Rob

  41. It was truly a privilege to have had Robie as a mentor and colleague. His enthusiasm and willingness to help promote and advance good science was quite remarkable. He will be truly missed by his colleagues and friends. My deepest condolences to Robie’s family,

  42. Dearest Julie, condolences to you and the family . I only knew Rob briefly but was taken by his generous nature as he continually opened your home and ensured that a warm fire was always waiting for us after yoga class. It was also my pleasure to tend his beautiful zen garden creation. He will be missed and so sorry he left us . Take care.
    Rhea Diamond.

  43. May Rob be at Peace
    May you be at Peace, Fateh
    Love and Blessings to you both

  44. Andrew & Ann Francis

    We were deeply saddened to hear of Rob’s passing, and our children, who also came to know him, share that sadness. We have been so lucky to have known Rob over the past twenty-five years from when we started being able to see my cousin Julie and Rob in the UK or to visit them in Canada. Rob was such a kind, welcoming and tolerant man, always thinking and curious, whether about books of all kinds, science – or climbing, things that led to so many amusing and interesting conversations. And he was so modest about his contributions to science.

    Rob’s warm and thoughtful sense of humour was ever present in who he was – and he leaves us with so much to remember and to be grateful for. Our thoughts and love are with Julie and the family.

  45. Dear Julie, My deepest condolences on your losing Robie. I feel privileged to have known Robie as a valued colleague, a close friend, and through a mutual love of the outdoors. As I read these condolences, I realize that he was a special person to many others besides myself. So I will treasure times I shared with him alone. Many years ago, Robie and I left Victoria in the middle of the night to get over to Vancouver and climb the West Lion peak that towers above North Vancouver – because we had seen it many times driving into Vancouver and wanted to know what it felt like to sit on the peak and look down on Vancouver. It was good. In October after his first surgery we went to France to hike and bike with friends. On the way back Robie and I spent two days in Paris. He dragged me all over the city to see and experience as much as he could. I could only get him to slow down by insisting we stop for a beer every so often. Robie is gone, but we can all hold onto his memories.

  46. I have lost a cherished friend, whom I deeply respected and admired. An accomplished and internationally respected scientist, and locally one of our most deserving mountaineering legends and for me one solid climbing partner and a just such a great fellow. Simply put, the experiences I was able to share with Rob enriched my life as I’m sure he did for anyone reading this, and I’m so thankful for the time we did share. I will miss Rob badly. Julie to you and the family, myself and Colleen extend out deepest condolences. We are thinking of you.

  47. Linda L. Macdonald & Andrew& Jenny

    The family of Rob’s late brother , Linda Widow of Ian Alistair Macdonald
    his children Andrew and Jennifer(Jeff Chown) share in the sadness in the passing of their Uncle . We are grieved for his loss but are consoled with the many happy memories we shared with him. We wish to reach out to all who are grieving with us and carry the inspiration of knowing Rob over these many decades.

    • Jen M Macdonald

      Thanks Mom for writing a condolence note here. I am so sad to lose such a great uncle. I felt very close with him every time we did see each other. This was very infrequent because of the distance (NS) and the busyness of life and work. When I visited BC, he always made time to spend with me. He was generous and fun to be around. I could never keep up with him on Mount Work, but he stayed close. He was smart, and had puns just like his older brother, Ian, my dad. He will forever stay in my memories. I send my love to Julie and your kids and grandkids. Love to Louise, Stan, Steve and Carlea and her kids too.

  48. Dear Julie,
    My wife, Andrée, and I wish to convey to you and your family our deepest sympathy for your immense loss of this exceptional man.

    I first met Robie in December of 1973 when I arrived at the old Ocean Chemistry lab on Harbour Rd. We immediately got along great as we both loved all manners of discussions, about life, science, the world, often interspersed with some of his famous puns! Rob was a kind, thoughtful, wonderful person, as well as an outstanding scientist, whom I have always admired. We both pursued our career with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, albeit in different roles and in different parts of the country, but our friendship endured.

    Tu vas tellement nous manquer, Rob.


  49. Sheila Bergmann McRae

    Dear Julie, my husband, Marty Bergmann, always spoke of Robie with great warmth and admiration in their work together in Arctic science. My deepest condolences to you and those who loved him.

  50. Robie was special. He was easy to befriend and just naturally seemed to be a friend for life. No need to go on about his many, many accomplishments. I will miss him very much. He was taken far too soon.

  51. Mary and Josh Redmond

    We were so very sad to hear of the loss of your lovely Rob. It seems far too soon and I know how much you will all miss him, and the gap he will leave in your lives. Josh and I have such happy memories of the time we spent with you and Rob in your home back in early 2004, and the hilarious poem he recited, and the lift he gave us back to our hostel in his huge pick-up truck. I have such a clear picture of his face in my mind which is rare and I know it’s because he made such an impression on us both with his quiet kindness and humour. We feel lucky to have met him and will cherish those memories.

  52. Dear Julie, It is with great sadness that Françoise and I offer to you and your family our deepest sympathy.

    I had a lot of admiration for Rob. I’ve always considered him as an exceptional mentor, a sort of elder brother, but overall his friendship was the most precious thing. I will greatly miss his presence and generosity.

    Rob occupera toujours une place spéciale dans mon cœur.


    • Julie Henderson

      Bonsoir Charles
      You held a special place in Rob’s heart and were truly like a brother to him. After his conversations with you he would be smiling with renewed energy and ideas. A special friendship indeed. Love to you and Françoise,

  53. Claire Ebendinger

    Dear Julie, and family,
    I was sad to hear that Robbie left us so soon. I remember him as a great leader and companion in the mountains, skilled, humble, and encouraging. His humour was much appreciated, especially in times of challenges when facing uncertainty in the mountains. He was very competent in many areas,
    When I saw the first satin flower in bloom on top of Mt Macdonald recently, it reminded me of him, as that was where I saw him last year, enjoying an outing on local hills with good friends.
    i have great memories of my outings with you as well, and appreciated your support and inspiration, as one of the few women in a group of mostly men, when I joined the ACC.
    Blessings to both of you while you journey on, each in your own way, yet always with each other in spirit.
    Claire Ebendinger

  54. Brian Schofield

    Dear Julie, I am so sorry to hear this news about Robie. And I am sorry for your loss. I really enjoyed chatting with Robie about hiking and mountains, and photography and books, from the time that I first met him at IOS in the early 80s. In the early 1990s he was instrumental to my career development, as when I was reaching out for new opportunities, he offered me a term position working for him in his lab. It was a lifesaver. I will miss him. Please accept my deepest sympathies.

  55. Shau-King Emmy WONG

    Dear Julie and extended families,
    The news came as a shock to me, he was still so young.
    I knew him through my late husband Chi Shing (CS) since 1973 when Rob came to BC as a post Doc. He had achieved so much in Arctic oceanography. He will be deeply missed by the scientific community and his sport buddies.
    My deepest condolences to you and your families.
    Love, Emmy WONG

  56. Kerry Kinnersley

    I will always remember going to robie’s seminar’s always entertaining and I never fell asleep!; always remember him playing hockey with us on wed am mornings with his butch goring helmet from the 60’s;
    a great man, an even greater scientist. We got a chance to talk after my cancer and chemo. May he rest in peace now. Hi Robie! Good Luck in your next adventure Robie!

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