Archive for May 15th, 2010



This morning Kathryn and Libby left at 6:30 to go to Sidney, a city a little further North of Victoria on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, to walk to raise awareness about the fish lice outbreak that is occurring in wild runs of salmon due to the presence of fisheries.

Horace and I stayed to man the boat during the open house day at FHL. It was actually quite fun, contrary to our expectations.  People from the community as well as other students and researchers from FHL came aboard the boat to learn a little about what we are doing. We had a whole set-up with a poster, a video of a greeting ceremony (where all three of the Southern Resident pods come together and vocalize a lot) and us to answer questions.

Toward the end of the open house I got some time off and I went to see some of the other ‘exhibits’. I saw two of my favorite non-mammalian sea critters, a slimy sea star and a giant orange nudibranch.

After the open house was over, we decided that since it was so late we wouldn’t have time to fill the water tanks, get groceries, pump out and find a new port before dark so we would stay the night at FHL. Horace and I spent the night relaxing on the boat. He played on his computer and I caught up on my TV shows. Pathetic I know but CSI shows make me really happy.


We left FHL this morning around 10, pumped out and headed out to sea. The weather was amazing, I only wore 3 layers instead of 4 or 5. On the way out of Friday Harbor we saw a bunch of harbor seals poking their heads out of the water and looking around. They are getting a lot easier for me to spot.

We headed around the southern top of San Juan Island and when we hit Lime Kiln we decided to drop the SplashCam down one more time to try and find the Lime Kiln hydrophone array. After about 15-20 minutes we FOUND the array!!! Finally! We took a waypoint (the GPS coordinates) so Jason and Scott could dive for it later.

By this time Libby and Kathryn had been able to contact us to tell us they were back so we headed up to Snug Harbor to pick them up. Shortly before we got into Snug we heard that two Transients had been spotted about an hour away, so after getting Kathryn and Libby we headed out to see if they were still there. They were!  We think that it was the same two form a few days prior. They had been identified as T124c (a female) and CA58 (a male? a Californian Transient).

While watching them, we think we saw what is entertainingly called a ‘sea snake’ (a male orca with an erection).  The whales got very close to a few of the whale watching vessels, circling and diving. We thought maybe a seal or something similar was hiding under the boats since we couldn’t think why they would want to be right next to the boat. Then we saw the ‘sea snake’ and decided that they were probably just socializing and didn’t care about the boats.

About 5 or 5:30 we headed back to Snug for the night and  watched the first little bit of “The Life Aquatic”, which is a tradition on Beam Reach.


We decided to head out to Discovery Island off the southern cost of Vancouver Island. We were hoping that we might catch the Residents on the way back in to the inland waters. Alas we spotted no whales. We did however see a stellar sea lion feeding on what looked like a large food source it was pulling giant chunks off of.


Today is the last day of our first 2 week stretch at sea and still no Residents! We decided to head out to Discovery Island, again, to wait and try to catch the Residents if they come back in to the Inland waters. We saw a Minke whale, which was very exciting as as I have never seen one before. They are incredibly hard to spot and so have earned the name ‘slinky minke’ in these parts, or so I have heard.

After drifting all day we decided to head back and anchor across from Friday Harbor in Parks Bay on Shaw Island. On the way into Cattle Pass we passed Whale Rocks which is a sea lion haul out. We saw maybe 10 sea lions. It was pretty cool!


About 3 minutes after we got everything off the Gato Verde and up to Lab 8 Jason got a text about a gray whale right outside of Friday Harbor. We decided to jump on the buzzard and go get ID pictures of it for the Whale Museum. We went out and found the whale pretty quick and even managed to get some great ID pics, which is much harder than it seems. It was interesting how different the breathing noises are between grays and orac, orca are much louder.


Today Horace and I went to Wolf Hollow, a wildlife rehabilitation center, for our service project. Wolf Hollow is amazing! They are huge and have a great set-up.  Shona, the head of the center, is very nice. She gave us a tour of the facility when we got there and was a joy to talk to during lunch.

Horace and I were given the task of weeding one of the enclosures usually used for herons. I found a lot of slugs on the walls and pill bugs were everywhere. It was like a pill-bug breeding ground, but I like pill bugs so it was OK. About 1 hr before we were scheduled to be done, we got a phone call telling us that the Southern Residents had been spotted close to San Juan Island heading South.

Yesterday we went to the Center for Whale Research and met the man in charge, Ken Balcomb. He offered to take us out on his boat with him if the whales showed up.

Libby and Kathryn picked us up about 20 min later and we raced over to Snug Harbor to meet Ken, hopped in his boat and went to find the whales. We found them pretty quick and spent the next 2 hrs with him following the whales taking ID shots as well as doing a few recordings. It was one of the most astounding and exciting moments fo my life. I saw two breaches!  Ken identified the pod as L-pod.

Be Joyous

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In other news….WHALES!

Beam Reach went out on the water with Ken Balcomb (of the Center for Whale Research) yesterday, and we had our first close encounter with Southern residents!  L41, a big male from the L12 matriline, is pictured here.

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Observing transients orcas at sea

Beam Reach observes transients

Thanks to John Boyd for snapping this great shot from the Western Prince.

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