Archive for May 14th, 2011

Quality Not Quantity

During the last few days at the end of the third week at sea, we were beginning to question if J-pod was real.  We had been out with vigil eyes, but had a better track record on land for seeing killer whales.  Each and every time a report came in, it seemed we were in the complete opposite area.  The Gato Verde is not fast, so each path has to be carefully planned out in order to find these elusive (well at least they were to us) animals.  One evening we got word that they were in Active Pass.  After mooring at Patos Island, we all took shifts staying up and listening to the hydrophone hoping to know if they tried to get past us.  We got up early and headed just a bit north to wait for them to pass by.  Unfortunately, they had not gone the way we had planned and had been sighted at Lime Kiln, a location we frequently visit.  We were too far north to catch up and would not get our wish of seeing J-pod.

This past Monday ended in us hearing word of residents, possibly J-pod, at Neah Bay.  We were already stopped for the night, but tried to calculate when they would head our way.  If they did decide to come into the area instead of going back out into the open ocean, it could take them anywhere from 17 hours to one and a half days.  I was convinced we would get back to land and then be able to catch them once again from Lime Kiln’s rocky edge.  Tuesday we headed to Lime Kiln.  We planned to get some samples and do a sound spreading experiment in the area.  Things were going great in terms of our science.  Then, Val radioed us from the Gatito and said he had gotten a text claiming J-pod was close.  I did not get excited because they were always close just never close enough.  Mandy of course went into observer mode.  To our surprise we saw several whale watch boats just south of us.  We packed everything up and headed down the west side of San Juan Island.  Mandy then let out a high pitched sentence…WHALES in sight!!!  Excitement filled the air as we got close.  Suddenly two orcas surfaced on our port (left) side.  The whale watch boats were spread out pretty far, so we continued further in.

Eventually we found ourselves surrounded by these whales.  We stayed there for hours and got great recordings from the vocal J-pod members that were all around.   Slowly the small groupings left us.  We headed back to Friday Harbor, since we were close and would be getting off the boat Wednesday morning.

I still find it hard to believe that day was so great.  Val and Todd speculated that these recordings are the best Beam Reach has ever gotten.  Here are a few short clips.

many S1 calls

J-pod 5/10/11

What a great feeling.  We all could walk back on to land with our whale fix.

Looking back we have had some great once in a lifetime whale encounters.  They have by no means been numerous, but have led us to our motto, “when we see whales, we SEE whales”.  Our first day, we spotted transients through the Lime Kiln Lighthouse window, a fluke to say the least.  It continued with our literally unbelievable Minke whale breaching.  Several days before seeing our beloved J-pod, we stumbled upon two humpbacks.

They were an unexpected surprise to our morning.  We have been told humpbacks in Haro Strait are rare.  Seeing these two off of Kellet Bluff breach and pec slap repeatedly was nothing short of amazing.

I am grateful  for our encounters and can not wait for the ones to follow.  I will leave you with something I found today by a fellow Aggie…

The truth is that billions of us live on this small blue planet with millions of other species. Even 90% of the cells in our own bodies are other species….

Next time you feel lonely, go meet another species of this world, they’re all around us and they have much to say.

I have never met another species I didn’t like and they are usually more like us than they are different. They dream like we do, they are made of the same stuff as we are, they think and feel, they play… and they are all so very present. Each one has so much to teach us and we know practically nothing about 90% of the species on this planet.

Begin your discovery today and I promise you’ll not regret it. Start by watching the bugs, the birds, your dog… watch them just be. Then go to the park or the forest or a reef and look for them, they are waiting for you.

We are not, nor have we ever been, alone.

– David Campbell, MarineBio

Happy Watching,


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Waves of Fun

Who needs a roller coaster when you can go out on the water?  At first this wave action was despised and sent most running for ginger and soda crackers, but now we have gotten used to it and say, “Bring it on!”  On this particular day I was cold (actually most days I am cold), so I moved up to drier ground.  Mandy was a champ and faced the waves as each one rose through the net.

photos by Val Veirs

Several times I thought she was going to be swept right off the trampoline.  Later, Kelsey joined her for the fun.  Watching the two of them get doused with each wave sent Ally and I into laughter every time.  Their faces were as unpredictable as the waves, luckily Val captured a few of them.

Along with conquering waves, we have improved our sailing skills.  We had a great day sailing.  We each got to practice a tack.  Check out this video of us in action.

Through The Eye Of The Wind

We also got a chance to experience each point of sail.  A close reach is the first range at which you can sail if trying to go against the wind.  In this point of the sail we were hitting each wave head on which made for a more exciting ride.  At a broad reach the waves are virtually undetecable and is one of the calmer points of sail.

Did you know beam reach is the point of sail in which you travel the fastest?!  Fitting name for the program.  We are definitely speeding through things.  It feels like so long ago since we got our first row boat lesson or our first lecture on the physics of sound.  The information has definitely not stopped though.  We have been trying lately to get a grasp on whale watch boat names and their operators, as well as parts of a boat and sailing terms.  Our vocabularies have exponential expanded for sure!

It is not all work though.  When possible we look forward to walking along the beach or enjoying the sunset.  We are definitely allowing ourselves to enjoy the simple things in life.  The little unexpected things are those that seem to bring the most happiness.  We have all enjoyed small care packages from our families, the random ice cream deliveries (THANK YOU CARLOS!), and perhaps the most unexpected, a payment in prawns for allowing a neighbor to use our drill.

photo on the left and right taken by Carlos Javier Sanchez

I look forward to tackling more waves and enjoying the simple things on this grand adventure.

Happy Life Living,


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