Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Day 31/July 31 – Clarke Cove to Whale Point to Cameron Cove

Another spectacular day (one of these days I’m sure I’ll stop starting the blog this way). Bit of a sleep-in until we realized the high slack tide was actually quite a low one and if we wanted to get out of Clarke Cove we were going to have to do it at 9am. Pulled anchor and carefully inched our way through the amazingly narrow opening to Clarke Cove and headed out into the open rolling ocean. Fog rolled in and crept around the islands and we kept a few steps ahead and up into the islands of Taylor Bight – the location of Cetacea Lab headquarters – Whale Point. We passed a colony of sea lions sunning on a rock, 4 or 5 humpbacks and a million leaping salmon shooting out of the water in every direction.

Anchored one cove over and headed over in Sturdi. Whale Point is a lovely place of welcoming people who are there for the cetaceans that gather here every year.  Janie welcomed us and walked us up from her house to the lab. She told us the story of how her and the other whale researcher, Herman, had arrived in 2000 seeking a place to observe whales. They asked the Gitga’at who pointed them towards this location in Taylor Bight – she glowed as she remembered coming up and finding the location that looked out perfectly over two channels and the bight, had a beach where they could safely keep their boat and a fresh water source. Janie’s dog Cohen, the closest thing we’ve seen to a spirit bear to date, walked us past an outdoor clawfoot tub with the most spectacular view, golf-ball sized huckleberries, clothes-lines and the tents of interns under speakers mounted to trees for night observation and recording of whales. We entered the lab to find two welcoming, but focused, interns and Eric, a Phd candidate from San Francisco who was working on some plans for Bangarang – his sailing/whale research vessel that he is using to collect data on food sources in the water columns in this region.

This is a very important place for whales. The number of humpbacks returning to this area have increased substantially since Janie and Herman have been monitoring them. The most amazing thing is that the second largest mammal on the planet, the Finn Whale (second only to the Blue Whale) started showing up here in 2006 and have been increasing in numbers dramatically. No one knows where fin whales winter, but we do know that they are coming here to feed in the summer. The channels of this area provide a rich food source for these whales, it’s also very quiet. Ocean noise has a significant impact on whales – when ocean noise increases, whales stop communication. There are fewer and fewer quiet fertile places for whales to go in the world and this is one of them.      

In studying the sounds of humpbacks, Janie has noticed that there is a song that they sing when they mate in the fall. The main chorus of the song is consistent, but she has noticed that there is usually a new verse that has been added or changed from year to year and all of the whales know it! Janie played us some samples as we looked out over the sunny bight and watched salmon jumping and a few whales breaching in the distance. Such a magical place.
We made our way over to Cameron Cove which is usually home to two lodges in the summer – King Pacific Lodge and another sport fishing lodge – but they were both gone for the season so we had the whole place to ourselves.

Anchored in a nice location with a good view of the estuary to keep look out for bears. Fish were frantically jumping all around us. A school of herring came in and filled the bay – Scott thought he heard rain, but it was the sound of herring schooling on the surface of the water. 

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