Thursday 12 October 2017

Wolves of another kind

This past week, we had an opportunity to travel to Vancouver, and on this trip, we managed to go out and do some whale watching. I often wonder if my grand kids will ever have an opportunity to see wild whales.  With the rapid decline of so many species this really is concerning.

I have seen whales before,  off the coast of South Africa,  for me not the first time, however even though not the first time, it definitely is awe inspiring to see these animals. 

I understand much of the controversy surrounding eco-tourism, but I also have this belief that if we expose people to the issues, and use these moments to educate people, then perhaps this would have a positive impact on protecting and conserving both the animals and their environments.I do find that once you see (any) these beautiful creatures in their natural environment, one would possibly be more inclined to want to do more to ensure their survival.
 I found the boat operator to be highly respectful of the animals, staying far enough away and being as unobtrusive as possible. He was also respectful of the amount of time spent with the whales. Bearing in mind that these whales live in a strait that is also full of large tankers and many boats and ships, one did realize how used to boats these animals are. In many of the photo's I took, one can see these ships on the background. These animals were also close to shore, hunting fish and seals.

We had the privileged to spend time with 2 humpback whales, one who is well known in this area, a female called Windy, and her un-named companion.

The tell tale puff. 

I can see you.
 Not many people can tell you,
 what humpback whale breath smells like,
I can, and it  does not smell anything like rainbows...


The seagulls give away the spot where the whales were.

And ever so gently they rise back out of the water, before diving down.

When diving deeper, the tail fin flags in the air before sinking down.
The whales travel quite a distance under water and where they pop back up is very unpredictable and can be quite a distance away.

The animals are identified by their tail fins, shape, coloring, nicks and other identifying features.

We left the two humpback whales, and met up with 2 orca brothers on the hunt. The orcas are regarded as the "wolves of the sea". These orcas are also similarly named by identifying dorsal fins. These can be as tall as 6 feet. Some are wider others narrower, each set of orcas are also identified by the "pod" they belong to. These are family groups. These two bothers were aged 33 and 24 years old, they were not together with their pod initially, but did later join up with mom, a young brother and another female. 

The 2 have different shaped dorsal fins, the older male has a thicker and taller dorsal fin than his younger brother. As you can see by this bottom photo big container ships move through the strait.

Our guide was saying that she thought these two had caught a harbour seal by their behaviour, rolling around over on to it, tail splashing and some other excited behaviour. We did not see a seal. The hunt co-cooperatively and both will share in the food.

It is amazing to see how fast these animals are. Once they decided to join back up with the pod, including mom and another younger brother and a female, they traveled very fast.

This is the other "half" of the pod, Mom and the other two.

They sped off into the distance so we left them alone and headed back to the humpbacks for a short visit again.

These two surfaced pretty close to the boat, and we could see all the bumps on their bodies.

More diving and fishing, at one moment they came up and out of the water, mouths open, swollowing as many fish as they could, the gulls would fly overhead hoping for some morsels of fish.

Going, going, gone... 

We ended up our tour in a small log bay, where logs were held before being transport. We say this eagle and a bunch of fat lazy seals.

The orcas we saw were not reguarded as 'residents" but rather transient animals coming up from the US coast. We were told that the local  resident orcas were having a hard time with the poor salmon runs in the past few years. As the residents will only eat (chinook) salmon, they are less adaptable as the transients, who will hunt seals, other whales and of course salmon.

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