Archive for April 9th, 2008

A Friday Harbor Phenomenon

I am amazed and refreshed not to find a McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, or even a Subway on any of the San Juan Islands. I know for sure because I checked on google maps. I was wondering what makes the town itself look so…pure? (I can’t think of a better word) and the absence of those “golden arches” really makes a difference. While I am a big fan of a lot of fast foods, especially Wendy’s mandarin chicken salad and taco bell chalupas and most subway concoctions, I didn’t even notice they were missing until I thought about it just now after reading parts of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”by Michael Pollan. I suggest it to anyone who is or has ever been curious about food.

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J Pod part II

       Much of this week has been spent closing in on our research proposals which were originally due this morning. However, the whales had their own ideas about how things would go this week. After getting a call about whales off of San Juan again. We quickly got our stuff together, packed some quick lunches from the dining hall and ran to meet the Western Prince at the dock to go on a whale watch. Since there was not enough room in the car for five students and two instructors, Ryan and I went by bike.

On a side note riding to and from town is in my opinon the best way to get there. Although it might be easier at times to row, riding is much more enjoyable working your way through the hilly roads into town. Coming back much of the road is downhill which makes for a great ride. Also, I’ve always enjoyed getting around by bike when and where possible.  But I’m getting a little side tracked…back to the whales.

After a seemingly short ride out of the harbor and around the island to where the whales were we finally got there. We were not alone. There was another whale watch boat getting there as we did and more soon showed up. There was also a research boat studing the whales. When the whales are sighted word travels fast and it seems like so many people drop what they are doing to see the whales if they can. Once again it was J Pod, which is the same group as last time. There were certainly noticable differences between sightings. The first time we saw them they were travelling slowly in a very widely spread out group. This time they were slowly milling back and forth in a much closer group.

Seeing them from the water was a great experience for us. It allowed us to get familiar seeing them from a boat for one. Also, it gave us an idea of how close 100 yards from the whales is. Since we need to stay 100 yards or more away at all times due to the whale wise regulations it was important for us to get that concept in our heads. Even from 100 yards you can still get a very impressive view of these creatures. The one slightly disappointing thing about the sighting was the lack of vocals. Twice a hydrophone was dropped of the boat, but it both cases we heard only silence from the whales.

Although J Pod was certainly the highlight of the trip, there was more to come. On the way back we saw porpoises, harbor seals, stellar sea lions, a bald eagle, and oystercatchers. All in all it was a pretty good day. As for our research proposals, they were still waiting for us when we returned. Due to the change in plans our instructors were kind enough to push the deadline to Thursday morning. Now all of us are hard at work finishing them up before the end of the day. Speaking of which I need to get back to mine now that I have spent enough time telling everyone about our exciting second encounter with the whales.

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