Thursday, August 05, 2010

North Island Waters

Port McNeill, northern Vancouver Island. Here to rendezvous with some of the long-time supporters of OrcaLab and denizens of the Orca-Live community website.

Luckily actually seeing orcas is not the whole purpose of the exercise, because they are mysteriously absent. Tuesday we were out with the MacKays on the Naiad Explorer. Well we had no orcas, not a hint of one and nobody knew where they were. The big events of Naiad's day were: a black bear on the shore, 100 or more pacifc whitesided dolphins dancing with the boat (if Bill stopped, they slowed down and paraded away, if he started up again, SHOWTIME!!!) We went way west, to look at the sea lion rookery in the Millar Group, drifted among many islands, put the hydrophone out in many places (no calls), and at the end of the day had a minke whale and a friendly grey whale. It circled the boat, it stared at us, it was such an amazing sight that I forgot to take pictures. Later that evening, OrcaLab reported "Bill Mackay thinks the residents may have spent part of the day near Blunden Harbour/Browning Island foraging amongst scores of jumping salmon. Bill was relaying a report he got when he arrived back at the dock."

Wednesday again on the Naiad. We headed west right away, and eventually heard a report of a small group of transient orcas ahead. These are the mammal-eating, far-ranging orcas, not the fish-eating residents who (used to) spend each summer in these local waters, and whose names, family histories, and calls are very familiar to OLers. We found the transients in Goletas Channel, and paralleled them heading west for a long time. Ellen said they were "T18, a sprouter male, a young adult and another female."

Then we (barely) saw some Dall's porpoises out in Queen Charlotte Strait, and they skittered right away. On to visit the sea lion rookery. Then headed back, seeing two humpbacks along the way. Nice synchronized performance from the humpbacks. No resident orcas. Late in the day Bill heard that they were seen rounding Cape Scott, outbound.

Today we go by water taxi to pay a visit to OrcaLab itself, tucked on the back side of Hansen Island..

I seriously considered pitching the camera into the ocean yesterday. All the images are flat and grayish. Well, so is the air, as we are under heavy smoke from huge forest fires in interior British Columbia. Everyone else was getting good images. But I kept doing the wrong thing, or forgetting entirely to try. Nevertheless I saw what I saw, the humpbacks huge and graceful, flukes up as they dove; the T18s momentarily close enough to the boat that saddle patches, eye spots and details of the dorsal fins were plainly visible; the whitesided dolphins racing with the boat, spread out across the surface of the Strait.

T18s in Goletas Channel; SeaLion Rookery on islets in the Millar Group, Queen Charlotte Strait. (Click for larger image.)

1 comment:

Sky said...

what a thrilling day!