Beaked whale bits

Flight in

Flight in

Life has been treating me well over the past few years as I have blindly followed the whale migration from mild climate to mild climate. Although I have started to gain an appreciation and love for whales that did not exist before, I find it necessary to explore the roots of my magnetism to the ocean, sharks.

I took a puddle jumper from Florida this morning and have since arrived in Bimini at the Bimini Biological Field Station where they specialize in shark research! Specifically lemon sharks.

Within thirty minutes of being shown around the station and the property I was out on a boat preparing to jump into the water with about 15 to 20 different sharks, big ones and little ones alike. There was none of the nervous anticipation, fear, or anxiety that one might expect to experience when planning on swimming with a few of mother nature’s top predators, just simple magnificent awe to watch them feast on some bait treats we provided for them in return for their company (some of which included beaked whale, a rarity that washed up recently).

The current had a pretty decent pull to it and we switched locations for more snorkeling. Although there were no sharks at the new location, there was a shipwreck large enough to swim through. The cherry on top being flamingo tongues! I feel like it has been years since I have seen any, and it was exhilarating!

How nice it is to be in warm water again. No wetsuit. No drysuit. No problem.

sigh of happiness making way into Alaskan waters

Lucky for me our salt water filter on our water pump is broken, meaning we have to stop to take on water more often than we normally would. Our surprise stop of the morning to pick up water today… ( questionably sunny) KETCHIKAN ALASKA! How wonderful to be in Alaska again, and how refreshing to be in a familiar place… and with familiar faces, Greg and Gill from the kayak shop came over to my boat this morning, and it was so wonderful to see them, really REALLY wonderful. Greg had enough time before work to come on the boat and come down for a cup of coffee in the lounge :o)

After all this time living on this little boat I have now been able to share it with two friends in less than one week!

Today was spent in the incredibly unmisty, Misty Fjords. A national monument which stands on the back side of Revillagegiedo (the island Ketchikan is on), and main land North America. The misty fjords are breath taking glacially carved fjords whose extreme landscape on land is completely mimicked underwater as well, reaching deep depths only a few feet from the shore.

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A beautiful picture of the garden of underwater sea pens, Photo taken by Justin

The importance of the underwater landscape here is significant mainly for the fact that I was able to go diving today! I have now experience my first successful Alaskan dive, and no, for some reason or another, I wasn’t even cold. I can only give full thanks for the success of this dive to my new dive buddy Justin, who ensured that there would be gear my size purchased and available on the boat this year, since unfortunately most fun stuff come in sizes made for full grown men.

Things are going well, and it is strange to see all these little familiar towns again knowing I won’t be coming back again next week. Next week I will be in another time zone, smiling about another adventure.

 

spoiled alert:alert bay

Spent the afternoon today sitting on the beach of Alert Bay, “home of the killer whales”. It is amazing to be in the northern pacific again, listening to the unique squawks of the bald eagles, the ornate calls of the ravens, and even watched an otter that was swimming in the shallows pull itself out of the water to eat something.

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I am not nearly as excited to be part of this 12 day photo expedition as I should be. It has been amazing to find teeny reminders of why it is so wonderful up here. The huge frilled anemones hanging off of all the pilings, the brightly colored lichen attached to the docks, the silly awkward juvenile bald eagles, and perhaps that is all almost as exciting as the killer whales we watched during sunset last evening.

But truth be told, I have been here for some 15 weeks now, and I am not sick of being here, I am not exhausted, worn out, irritated…. And maybe if I didn’t have my plane ticket home in my hand things would be more exciting here, but I don’t feel like I belong here anymore and I am finding myself counting down the days till I get to leave. It is silly and I am in a funk, because it is amazing here, it is beautiful, and I have been asked to go diving in the Misty Fjords this week, which is another amazing thing in an amazing place, but my head feels clouded, and my heart distant. I wish the magnificent breathtaking surroundings here would make my heart smile as they have in the past, but the past 5 days being able to get off the boat in real cities, with real coffee shops and paved roads has made my heart yearn for a slice of the real world, even if just for a minute. The grass is always greener, but Alert Bay, Canada is about as lush a green as you could imagine. Missing you all and probably mainly companionship. Wish I could share these places with you.

real world

It was amazing to spend a few days in Seattle.

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me and my little home

I was able to get my passport renewed in less than 24 hours, enjoy a good cup of coffee, and even get to give my first tour of the boat ever to Batman! I had an evening off of work and we hung out in an area of Seattle called Fremont, caught up on old times, and chatted like we’d never been apart.

We were also docked next to the Sea Lion for the better part of the day and the company ordered us a a food cart to the dock and we all ate outside together. It was great to see people I haven’t seen since last year, as well as people I love that I only get to see occasionally on the boat.

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It was amazingly refreshing to walk around the city by myself, see the first trees I have seen in 3.5 months, and even watch a cute fuzzy caterpillar walk around in a park.

North like a whale

bow riding

bow riding common dolphin

We have accepted the advice from the great humpback and gray whales, and have started our yearly migration north. We sailed away from the dock on Saturday afternoon, out of La Paz, and headed south out of the Sea of Cortez. The last few weeks have been full of memorable beach combing, snorkeling, and scuba diving, but it was impossible to ignore the unending agitation the sea of Cortez seemed to possess about us still being there. The water has been more calm out in the Pacific Ocean, as were are currently 30 miles from shore, than the Sea of Cortez has been for the past 3 weeks. It was time to go, and she let us know.

We are still currently off the coast of Northern Mexico, and will be heading into port and customs in San Diego tomorrow morning.

The humpbacks that we have been viewing all winter are said to only travel up to British Columbia, and summer there. We will be heading all the way up to Alaska (after a brief stop in Seattle) where we will meet new humpbacks that have spent the winter frolicking in Hawaiian waters.

The positioning trip thus far can be deemed uneventful, which in most cases is quite better than the alternative.

jackpot beach

had a little over an hour to go beach combing and snorkeling today and look what i was able to acquire.

beaches here are ridiculous

Yes I am still saying awesomeness

It is Friday and nearing the end of this two week photo voyage we have been on. The pure awesomeness that I described during the first half of the trip has been exponentially achieving new heights of awesomeness every day.

We are on day 11 of our trip, and we have already seen 11 different species of cetaceans. I would have felt grateful to experience seeing 11 different species of cetaceans over the 3months I will have spent in  baja, but to see 11 in 11 days and have very good looks at all of them is more than amazing. ! have also acquired two new species of sea stars for my collection, as well as a paper nautilus.

Yesterday Alberto and I went diving at San Pedro Martir in conditions I can only describe as salp soup. The water was murky and the water column was completely saturated in gelatinous membrane. There was this mysterious, but overwhelming majestic feeling swimming through jellys in the dark water with the rocky bottom completely covered in plant life. It felt strange like something you could only feel from looking at a picture in a magazine, not something that you would actually experience. This could have been thoroughly enjoyable and serene if it were not for the extreme numbers of sea lions swimming with us and having their curiosity grow the longer we were in the water with them.

We did not end up staying down too long, but I believe it was good that we got out when we did because I don’t think either of us knew how bad we had been stung by the hydroids in the water. I am currently completely covered to the point of blistering on my legs. Last time we were out diving I got stung on the lips and it made my tongue numb, so I am thankful to only be stung on the arms and legs for now.

Short finned pilot whales

Short finned pilot whales

The afternoon intentions were “at sea” with “…sperm whales…???” written next to it. So although I did not get my hopes up too high to spot a sperm whale, I had been looking forward to this afternoon of the trip all week long. The first thing we spotted on our at sea afternoon was something much more exotic to the area than sperm whales, killer whales. Off in the distance we could see the large dorsal fins rising out of the water, but as we got closer the view was a little more confusing. The killer whales did not seem to be traveling in a particular direction, and there seemed to be something else in the water with them. We got closer only to realized that there was a pod of 10-11 sperm whales in the water and that the killer whales must be trying to attack one of their young. Away from the group charged a large male sperm whale, traveling at such a rate he created his own bow wake while smacking his fluke on the surface and headed straight towards the pod of sperm whales and killer whales. The sperm whales then formed a rosette with all of their heads facing towards the middle and the young sperm whale protected in the middle [much as musk oxen do].It was not long after we showed up, and the adult male sperm whale charged the killer whales that the killer whales left the area.

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After the killer whales “retreated” or “gave up”, the sperm whales came out of their defensive positioning it was easy to see that it wasn’t a young sperm whale at all, but a very small baby. There is no way to know how long the killer whales were there harassing thesperm whales before we arrived, or the full reasoning on why they left, but I don’t think there has ever been a photo cruise more content with the swift departure of killer whales.

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Off in the distance we began to see fins breaking the surface, which turned into an extended visit from a pod of short finned pilot whales, traveling with some bottle nosed dolphins in the mix. With all of the larger baleen whales we have been watching this trip, it was pretty amazing to see 4 species of toothed whales within an hour. The pilot whales stayed for as long as the light did, getting close to the sperm whales who stayed in the areaand allowed us to get continued good looks at them all. The sperm whales did not seem impressed with the visit from the pilot whales, but how were they suppose to know the sperm whales were having a stressful day?

sperms

watched a blue whale as the sunset this evening. Tomorrow is a new week.