Beam Reach Bulletin Board
A primary goal of Beam Reach is to continually learn new aspects of the killer whale and share that knowledge with the community. The knowledge gained through the program is expected to create awareness in the Salish Sea, but has spread all the way to Delaware, OH.
Mrs. Williams’ third grade class at Carlisle Elementary has been in correspondence with Beam Reach via letters and phone calls. They are currently in their animal unit in science class, and every student in the class wrote a letter with their questions about orcas and the requirements of being a scientist.
I wrote back trying to answer all of their questions. A lot of the interests of the students involved the different kinds of animals seen during the Beam Reach program. Since the animals in the Salish Sea are not native to Ohio, the students spent time researching and learning about the organisms.
Mrs. Williams' 3rd Grade Class
I think the interaction between students of Mrs. Williams’ class and the Beam Reach students has been beneficial for both parties. It is important to remember that the information we learn in Beam Reach is meant to be shared with the public. If we do not communicate our findings, all of the hard we put in to studying the orcas will not be able benefit the killer whale population.
We left FHL at around 14:00 and were heading towards Jones Island when we were alerted by whale watchers on the radio that killer whales were by Sinclair Island and heading north. We continued north, passing Jones and Orcas Islands and cutting in between Sucia and Matia Islands to arrive in Rosario Straight. We first saw the whales on the west side of Matia Island at approximately 17:15. They were traveling towards the south side of Matia Island. We went west along the northern coast of Matia and met up with them again as they traveled north between Sucia and Matia. Male J-1 was easily recognized from the other individuals. We began recording with our hydrophone array at 17:27 and continued for a little more than an hour and a half. Clicks were present throughout the first hour and twenty minutes and through the final twenty minutes there were whistles and calls as well. There were quite a few tail slaps throughout the entire process along with a couple breaches and spyhops. We parted ways from J-pod as we passed along the northern side of Patos Island which caused us to choose Active Cove for moorage for the night. A listening hydrophone was left off of the stern overnight so we would be able to hear if the orcas travel south through Boundry Pass.
Port Angeles – Garrison Bay
The stong ebbing in the Straight of Juan de Fuca kept us anchored at Port Angeles until lunch. We spent the morning working on our research proposals and calculating the calibration for the array of hydrophones. As the currents began flooding, we cruised along keeping an eye out for the Southern Residents. We deployed the listening hydrophone at 15:35 for a period of 15 minutes to try to hear the whales. After a day of searching, all we were able to find was a couple of harbor porpoises. Since people have been paying attention in the 1970s,the Southern Residents have always returned to these waters in April. So we should have a better probability of seeing them with each passing day.
Mitchell Bay, SJI to Prevost Harbor, Stuart Island.
After stopping at Roche Harbor for lunch and switching captains, we began sailing towards Stuart Island. At 14:00 we deployed the CRT hydrophone. The cable for the hydrophone was very sensitive causing interference and picked up a lot of flow noise. At 14:30, the hydrophone array was deployed.
There was still some flow noise interference, but it was much better than the CRT. As we reeled in the hydrophone array at 14:50, a group of Dall’s porpoises swam alongside the Gato Verde. There were 5-6 which included a hybrid with a Harbor porpoise. They were seen at latitude 48 deg. 43.08 min. N and longitude 123 deg.14.90 min. W.
students watching Dall's porpoise ride bow wake
While the Dal’s porpoises were riding around our boat, a male elephant seal poked his head above the water for a minute.
Just two days after having our first encounter with the transient killer whales, another marine mammal drew our attention. We were practicing deploying the linear array of hydrophones and comparing the differences between it and a single hydrophone in the afternoon of Wednesday April 22nd. As Peter was reeling in the array, a group of 5-6 Dall’s porpoises began swimming in the wake created by the bow of the Gato Verde. They swam with us for a good ten minutes, easily surpassing the boat just to fall back underneath again. Everyone ran to the bow of the boat and sat on the trampoline (net) between the two hulls of the boat. There were a few times that the porpoises surfaced under the trampoline seemingly to get everyone to scream in startlement.
Having fun swimming with our boat.
There was one porpoise that was determined to be a hybrid between the Dall’s porpoise and the Harbor porpoise. The animal was gray and white instead of the custom black and white of the Dall’s porpoise. The hybridization between the two species of porpoises always seems to occur with a male Harbor porpoise and a female Dall’s porpoise. The offspring is always seen with the Dall’s porpoises because the mother raises the young.
These animals are being massively hunted in the Pacific Ocean by Japan. When the International Whaling Committee banned commercial whaling, fisherman began focusing their attention on the Dall’s porpoise. More information about this animal can be learned at http://dallsporpoise.org/, and what you can do to help their plight.
Watching transients under sail (credit: Jeanne Hyde)
Today my classmates and I were heading into Mitchell Bay after our first full day at sea when our Captain, Todd Shuster, noticed a collection of whale watching boats off in the distance. We took the opportunity to turn around and were rewarded by seeing a group of transient killer whales by Sidney Island. There was one male orca, which we later identified as T40, with four females or juveniles. We have not identified the other four whales yet. Males are typically easier to identify because they have larger dorsal fins, but T40 is especially easy to pick out because the tip of his dorsal fin is bent over.
It was a very exciting hour watching the whales and the boats around them. A few times the whales took a view of the world above them by spy hopping and jumped into the air a couple of times as well. After the initial exhilaration, we began to confer about the behavioral state of the whales. We were unable to deploy the hydrophones in time to record any sounds. It was a good learning experience to enable us to be more proficient in organizing equipment so that next time we come across whales we will be able to record all forms of data. I feel fortunate that on our first full day at sea we came across orcas.
There are many more comments and pictures about sightings of this group of whales at orcanetwork.org.
The morning of Wednesday April 15th, Erica, Hilary and I volunteered at Wolf Hollow Wildlife Rehab Center. Wolf Hollow is a non-profit organization that spreads awareness of wildlife on San Juan Island and rehabilitate injured animals with the goal of releasing them back into the wild. The majority of our time that morning was spent helping with the completion of the new Eagle Flight Enclosure. The previous enclosure had been crushed under the weight of a heavy snow in 2006. We spread mulch around the facility and then continued to remove nails from the lumber of the destroyed enclosure. Erica and Hilary continued to help with the enclosure by painting the doors of the building while I moved to the front of the property and mowed the lawn surrounding the office buildings.
Since it is still early spring, there weren’t many animals to see being rehabilitated, but it was pretty neat to see the infrastructure of organization. The commited people of Wolf Hollow spend a lot of time working to sustain the ecosystem of the island. Most of the animals they deal with obtain their injuries because of humans. This can occur when animals get struck by cars, or due to a loss of habitat with human expansion. Living on an island allows you to see your impact on the environment a lot easier than in ordinary conditions. Wolf Hollow does a great job helping others be aware of their impact on the ecosystem.
Please follow http://www.wolfhollowwildlife.org/ if you would like to learn more or donate to Wolf Hollow.
A big part of Beam Reach is learning about sustainabilty. We are learning so much from the resources San Juan Island provides us that it is nice to give back a little. That was the goal on Tuesday April 7th at the Lime Kiln Lighthouse. The Whale Museum, located in Friday Harbor, uses the lighthouse to gather data about killer whales and as an outpost to inform the public. They are able to learn about the killer whales by submerging a hydrophone and listening for whales calls and any other noises under the water’s surface.
Trying to figure out how to reconstruct a desk.
After a morning of lectures, we spent the rest of the day cleaning. By lunchtime, it looked as if everything in the lighthouse was sprawled outside. After a lot of vacuuming, rebuilding a few desks and moving the audio equipment, we were able to start moving everything back inside. It is nice to know that the few hours we spent will help others learn about killer whales.
- Fun times.
If you would like to learn more about the Whale Museum, you can follow this link: www.whalemuseum.org