Week 1


It’s our first week on San Juan Island and it’s been great. It never ceases to amaze me how beautiful it is out here. Even the ferry ride out was abundant with beauty, passing Lopez Island and seeing all the trees and sparkling water, it’s lovely. Also the Friday Harbor Labs where we’re staying are awesome. There’s hiking trails through the campus that lead to secluded beaches and a dock where we can rent boats to row into town whenever we please. I’ve been here one week and I love it, even if we have only had little bits of sun. I can’t wait till it starts getting warmer, then we can really take advantage of what the island has to offer!

For our first Beam Reach activity we headed out to Lime Kiln State Park. Lim Kiln Park is a day park located on the west side of San Juan Island that’s known for its whale watching. Since the park is on a point where the rocks abruptly drop off into the Haro Strait, it makes for fantastic whale watching because the whales can come so close. Upon arrival, we went for a small hike to see the famous Lime Kiln. On our way there we admired the scenery and learned the history behind limestone that was mined in the park. In the 1900’s people began to mine the island for limestone and built giant kilns to fire it to lime, which can be used to make concrete. The amount of wood needed to supply the kilns was tremendous and resulted in severe deforestation of the island.

After we walked back to the light house, we were given the assignment to think of 21 questions about killer whales and anything related to them. Scott sent us out to go be in nature and reflect on our questions. It was nice to be able to just sit outside and ponder, much nicer than sitting inside a classroom. We then gathered in the warm light house to go over our questions as a group. Little did we know we were about to get lucky. While in the light house going over her questions Kelsey spotted some transient killer whales out of a tiny light house window! We will later learn that the odds of this are extremely rare, about 1 in 1000.  It looked like they were headed north around the island so we decided to hang the lesson plan and follow them. We ran to our cars, literally ran, and went to Val’s house to get a better look. From Val’s house we saw what we thought to be about 6 orcas! We were all pretty excited. Jeanie’s blog on March 28 has more info and pictures because she was out on a boat. Then we saw some bald eagles. It was a good day for wildlife.

Transient orcas!

A side note to those who aren’t as familiar with orcas, there are actually 3 different types; resident orcas, transient orcas, and offshore orcas. In this program we will be studying resident orcas, more specifically the Souther Resident killer whales (SRKW). To learn more about the 3 different types and brush up on your killer whale knowledge go here and scroll down to “3 Distinct Populations”.

We were all excited when our transient spotting came up in Orca Network the following day. We felt pretty special. That was one fabulous way to start the week. The following days we had guest lectures from Jason Wood about animal communication and Monika Weiland about SRKW natural history. We were also fortunate enough to hear from Kari Koshi about boating and being whale wise and Anna Kagely about tagging fish and salmon issues. We also scratched the surface of working with the hydrophones and learned to tie 3 new knots, the bowline, double half hitch, and the clover hitch.

In the afternoons we managed to have some fun this week and go on a small hike to a beach and enjoy the glorious sunshine.

On Saturday we got to utilize our newly refined rowing skills and row into town to check out the whale museum. It was sunny with no wind which made for a rather lovely row and not capsizing made it even better.
The museum was really cool and had big skeletons of whales and needless to say, we had a lot of fun.

Me and the giant Orca skeleton

The first week has been great and I can’t wait for the adventures that next week will bring!

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.