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Monday, May 18, 2009

BC Resident Grey Whales and Sea Otters

The following photos were taken near Flores Island, Clayoquot Sound on May 13, 2009. We encountered the same whale on two different occasions and is easily recognized by the local tour boat captains as a regular summer resident grey whale though its light coloured head and unique markings. There were other grey whales in the large outer swells and foraging in the bays off the west coast of the island but this individual seemed to prefer the more sheltered east and south sides that day.

1st Encounter (11:56)
Whale Watching
Whale Watching
Whale Watching

2nd Encounter (17:06)
Grey Whale
Grey Whale
Grey Whale


Sea otters were spotted near the area and are a successful 1960s translocation experiment from the Aleutian Islands after being hunted to extinction in British Columbia during the fur trade 1700-1800s. In 1911, an international treaty protected the sea otters allowing existing populations in Alaska to grow.

1st Otter
Sea Otter
2nd Otter
Sea Otter
Sea Otter

Fish farms and active heli-logging were present in Clayoquot Sound.

Whale Watching
Heli Logging

Whale Watching
Oyster Catcher

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Robson Bight salvage set to begin

Breach

At long last, the salvage of the diesel fuel tanker that fell to the bottom of Robson Bight, on August 20th 2007 is set to begin. A barge laden with salvage equipment is anchored over the site, and a 30 person crew from Mammoet Salvage, a Dutch company, and Seattle based Global Diving & Salvage, has been busily getting everything ready for the operation over the past few days. Local First Nations and NGOs are also involved, helping to monitor the sensitive environment surrounding the Ecological Reserve that was created in 1982 to protect vital orca habitat. The salvage will probably begin tomorrow (May 13th). Giant anchors have already been deployed to keep the barge in place. Today, a small remotely operated vehicle (ROV) equipped with cameras is inspecting the underwater site. Hopefully, this inspection will ensure that the tanker truck and other debris are located exactly where they were when last seen in December 2007.

Rubbing Beach

Hopefully, too, the inspection will determine that the condition of the diesel tanker truck has not deteriorated to the point where it will break apart when moved. To help avoid the possibility of a spill of diesel oil during the tricky lifting part of the operation, a metal box (yellow in the photo at http://www.orcalab.org) will first be lowered over the tanker truck, which will then be secured inside the box. A huge crane on the barge will lift the box and its deadly cargo to the surface. When the load reaches 10m below the surface, divers will inspect the box and tanker, to determine whether any diesel has leaked during the lift. If there are no leaks, the box and tanker will be hoisted onto the deck of the barge. At that point, the diesel will be pumped out of the fuel tanker into another storage tank, and everyone involved will breathe a collective sigh of relief. Weather permitting; the job of lifting will start tomorrow, beginning with a container filled with dozens of pails of hydraulic oil. If all goes well with this initial lift, the fuel truck will be hoisted to the surface the following day (Thursday) or perhaps a day later. On the surface at least, the plan is a sound one, though the operation is still complicated and unknowns may lie in the way. To guard against the possibility of an inadvertent spill of oil, booms will be deployed around the site. Everyone involved hopes they won’t be needed, and that the weather cooperates. We will let you know what happens once the salvage operation is completed. In the meanwhile, our fingers are crossed.

As ever, this comes with our best wishes to you all, Paul & Helena

Main Beach