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Saturday, September 30, 2006

Superpod - audio clip

Today’s Ocean Magic II trip took us out east toward North Pender Island. There we met up with the southern resident, fish eating, killer whales. The superpod was spread out across Swanson Channel foraging north for salmon. The whales were quite active and acrobatic in their fish chases. Baba / L26, Alexis / L12, Polaris / J28, Shachi / J19, and Eclipse / J41 were all identified among the groups. A male and female pair was engaged in mating behaviour. As we watched all the activity, a young whale swam under the water looking up at the passengers as it passed. Wow, some of the best whale watching this year!!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Humpbacks & T100 Group

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Humpbacks
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T00 Group

Today’s Ocean Magic II trip started out at Pillar Point, WA, to view a pair of Humpback whales. Along the way groups of Dall’s porpoises were seen traveling at high speeds, creating ‘rooster tails’ of water. The Humpback whales were a half-mile from shore and were different animals than yesterday. The mother and calf logging at the surface then took short dives as they circled around the vessel at a good distance. Female Humpback whales get up to 50 feet long (15m) and weigh over 60 thousand pounds (30tonnes). Their massive size was revealed by the sound of their loud strong breaths against the calm waters. Humpback whales feed in the summer on schooling fish (herring, capelin, mackerel, and salmon), krill, and other crustaceans then migrate to the warmer waters of Hawaii for the winter. These baleen whales are well known for their long flippers and distinctive head knobs. Each tubercle is a hair follicle with a single coarse hair growing out of the center. Humpbacks are probably the most energetic of all the large whales and are fortunately recovering their territory after being nearly wiped out from the whaling industry. On the way back to Victoria we saw a US submarine being escorted by two coast guard vessels. We then had a nice surprise with the T100 Group of transient, meat eating, killer whales about a half-mile west from the Race Rocks ecological reserve. Sea gulls flew overhead while the family traveled northwest toward Vancouver Island.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Superpod - audio clip

The noon Ocean Magic II trip lead us out through Hughes Passage to meet up with the southern resident killer whales a couple miles from Turn Point, Stuart Island. The whales had just turned south and were spread out north to Pender Island. Groups of animals were engaged in foraging behaviours and others were social and very vocal. A mother and calf pair logged at the surface for a period of time and rested. The calf spy hopped and the mother lunged forward as they continued along their way. We then stopped over at Race Rocks to view the male sea lions battling for prime territory. On the way back to Victoria we stopped to view a mother and calf pair of humpback whales a couple miles offshore. An amazing end to another stellar whale-watching day.


Monday, September 25, 2006

Superpod! - audio clip

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Today was one of the most amazing whale-watching days all year!!! All three pods were coming around Turn Point, Stuart Island, creating a superpod when the Ocean Magic II noon trip arrived on scene. The whales spread out and were breaching, speed-porpoising, and foraging south down Haro Strait. Ruffels / J1 and Granny / J2 were traveling together and swam near the vessel. The J16 matriline, Spock / K20, and her calf Comet / K38 were seen off near Henry Island. Flash / L73 was seen near by Sydney Island and the backlit whales in the fall lighting were spectacular sights surrounded by the coastal islands.


Balaenoptera omurai



Balaenoptera omurai is a species of whale about which almost nothing is known. It lacks a common name. The announcement of the discovery of this whale was made in the November 20, 2003 edition of Nature (426, 278-281) by three Japanese scientists Shiro Wada, Masayuki Oishi and Tadasu K. Yamada. Whether the claim of a new species will be accepted by the wider cetological community remains to be seen. Indeed other scientists were cautious in their immediate response to the announcement of the discovery. Quoted in the New York Times, Dr. Howard C. Rosenbaum, a conservation biologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society, said the Japanese researchers had done "an admirable job to at least open the question as whether this is a distinct species," but added that more DNA analysis needed to be done. If the claim does gain wide acceptance the common name for the whale is likely to be Omura's Whale, in honour of Japanese cetologist Hideo Omura. The three scientists determined the existence of the species by analysing the morphology and mitochondrial DNA of nine individuals - eight caught by a Japanese research vessel in the late 1970s in the Indo-Pacific and a further specimen collected in 1998 from a small island in the Sea of Japan. In their paper, the scientists describe the species as resembling the Fin Whale in external appearance, albeit smaller. In the third edition of Mammal Species of the World, the "species" is relegated to being a synonym of Bryde's Whale. However the authors note that this may only be temporary.
(source - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balaenoptera_omurai)

Whale species is new to science
A previously unidentified species of whale has been recorded by researchers. The creature is a close cousin of the blue whale and has been given the formal scientific name Balaenoptera omurai, reports the journal Nature. Its Japanese discoverers say the 12-metre-long animal's DNA and anatomical features mark it apart from other whales that use combs to trap food. Commentators believe the new finding may complicate the debate over whether commercial whaling should be resumed. It was likely to delay any return to the regular harpooning of certain whale species, they told the BBC.

Food trap
The new discovery was made by a team led by Shiro Wada of the National Research Institute of Fisheries Science in Yokohama. They examined the DNA of a number of individual whales belonging to the species known as Bryde's whale, also called Eden's whale. There has been debate for many years over whether this species has the correct taxonomic classification. "The classification of these whales has been confusing because Bryde's whale has often been confused with Eden's, and we didn't know whether it's one species or two," Dr Wada told the BBC. His team now argues that in fact there are three separate species - Bryde's, Eden's - and a new whale species, omurai. All are so-called baleen whales, which use a comb, or baleen plates, to trap their food, such as krill. They belong to the rorqual sub-group which have throat grooves that expand as they feed.

Controversial 'science'
If the team's assessment is accepted by the international scientific community, it will at a stroke increase the number of known living rorqual species from seven to nine. The others are the blue whale, which is the world's largest mammal; fin, sei, common and Antarctic minke, and the humpback whale. The new findings are based on the study of a dead whale that was washed on to the shore of the Japanese island Tsunoshima in 1998, and several other specimens caught 30 years ago by the often-criticised Japanese scientific whaling programme. "Without that programme, we would not have made this discovery," Dr Wada stressed. He said the separate species classification for B. omurai was attributed to its distinct DNA profile, its cranial structure and, in particular, the mammal's smaller number of baleen plates.

Big finding
Commenting on the discovery, Professor Bo Fernholm, from the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, and a former chair of the International Whaling Commission, said the evidence was "quite convincing". He also said the research could impact the debate over whether countries such as Japan, Norway and Iceland were allowed to resume commercial hunting of whales. "This is important because the Japanese want to hunt Bryde's whales. "The situation then becomes more complex if Bryde's whale is in fact three species." Estimates of the number of the Earth's species yet to be discovered vary wildly but all are high - some more than 100 million. These are thought to be mainly fish, fungi, microbes and insects - on the whole very small organisms. The identification of a new mammal species is a rarity, especially one as big as a whale.
(source - http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/3284843.stm)

Sunday, September 24, 2006

T21 & T100 Groups

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On the noon Ocean Magic II trip we first visited Race Rocks Ecological Reserve. There were adult and juvenile male sea lions hauled out on the rocks and swimming in the kelp beds. Harbour seals were on the lower rocky areas lying on the smooth algae. Double-crested cormorants, Brandt's cormorants, and Heermann's gulls were seen on the rocks. We then crossed over to Haro Strait to view T20 and the T100 group of transient killer whales. Along the way we spotted a group of Dall’s porpoises busy foraging in Juan de Fuca Strait. When we arrived on scene with the transients they were traveling northeast a couple miles off Lime Kiln Lighthouse, San Juan Island. The winds were calm, and the spray from their breaths hung in the air. The two males were traveling tight together while the rest of the group was a bit further inshore. The whales continued along their path until nearing the coastline then doubled back toward the middle of the strait.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Race Rocks & L pod - audio clip

Race Rocks
Male California Sea Lions
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Mega / L41
Racer / L72
Oceansun / L25
Flash / L73

Today was a beautiful morning trip aboard the Ocean Magic II. First we headed to Race Rocks, just south of Victoria, to view the numerous seals and sea lions. The low tide provided abundant haul out areas for all the marine animals. We then traveled east toward San Juan Island to watch the southern resident, fish eating, killer whales. Flash / L73, Mega / L41, Racer / L72, and Oceansun / L25 were all identified among the groups of whales foraging in a northerly direction. The whales were calling and searching for prey using sonar, echolocation.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Transients & Humpback Whales



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Humpback Whales

An amazing noon trip today aboard the Ocean Magic II. First we saw the T30 group of transient killer whales a couple miles east of Race Rocks. Adult male T30A was ahead and about 500m north from the two females and calf. They were heading east and coming up for short breaths before going on longer dives. We then headed over to Race Rocks Ecological Reserve to view the many Steller seal lions, California sea lions, and Harbour seals in the flourishing kelp and rocky areas. To finish off the trip we watched a couple Humpback whales about a mile east of Race Rocks. The mother and calf would come to the surface to breath a few times before going on a dive deep revealing their massive tail flukes. A young Harbour seal nearby seemed curious of the pair. About a dozen Harbour porpoises were in the same vicinity of the whales. There was lots of krill in this nutrient-rich area concentrated with remarkable marine-mammal life.

Humpback Whales

Thursday, September 21, 2006

T30 Group

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Steller Sea Lions
Race Rocks

Today on the noon Ocean Magic II trip we met up with the T30 group of transient killer whales just west of Race Rocks. The whales were in pursuit of a harbour seal and after the kill continued traveling east in search of marine mammal prey. We watched as the group hunted animals a few more times before we headed over to Race Rocks to view the sea lions hauled out on the rocks. The Stellers were testing each other for the top positions. After visiting the ecological reserve we stopped over at East Sooke Park where there were a couple of harbour seals on the rocky shorelines and turkey vultures soaring in the treetops.

T30A