Hello, all! Well, I am home. I sincerely apologize for the lack of blogs! Their internet bandwidth was a major problem, so I decided instead of updating every week, I’d write a summary and post it when I got home. So, that’s what I’m going to do.
I already wrote an update while I was gone, so I’ll post that and continue from there.
(Starting around July 20th)
Things have sure been hectic around here! I apologize for my lack of updates.
As you know from the previous blog, many pods of orcas have arrived. They are much more vocal than the A36’s, so we have been very busy in the lab recording. I am slowly learning the different calls. Very slowly. Haha.
Two Mondays ago, Paul’s 20-year-old granddaughter Hannah came to the island with her friend Tyese. They are biking across BC to protest an oil pipeline that’s being planned that runs across BC and into the ocean. The towns they are trying to reach are towns that need jobs and are being promised some if the pipeline is built. They want to tell them that they can get money by working on alternate power, such as solar or wind. Really cool stuff! You can join their facebook group here.
That night it was my turn to be in the lab from 6-9. After I finished eating I went to the lab. It was about 8:50, and I was by myself. I looked up and thought I saw two black fins. The water was rough, however, so I wasn’t sure what I saw. I went outside to bring in some scopes, and sure enough, they were orcas, mid-channel! Much closer than usual! I ran and shouted “ORCAS!” so that everyone would know. Everyone came running. It was a super pod! It was the C6’s and A30’s. Helena said they had arrived a day earlier than last year - orcas are very habitual animals. It was incredible, they were fighting the tide, so they were having to stay close together and use their muscles to get through Blackney. The A30’s moved to the opposite shore and disappeared, but the C6’s came closer to Hanson so that they could use the backwards eddy around the island. They came within several hundred meters, just on the other side of the little bay that the lab is situated on! Absolutely amazing. I never thought I’d see one that close.
The following morning I had the 6-9 shift. It was the most beautiful morning! Clear skies, warm sun. Many animals were out enjoying the weather. I saw four river otters! I believe that it was a mother with older young. I only noticed them because I heard them arguing over something. Momoko and I hiked around to explore the tide pools since it was low tide. It was a new moon, so the low tides were really low and the high tides were really high. I saw red-and-green-colored anemones, purple sea stars, urchins, among many other critters. Nolwenn was on the lab deck and told us that “Minkey Mink” (like Mickey Mouse, but a mink instead of a mouse) was in front of us. We quietly climbed up and saw him! He was only about 40 feet away. So cute. I got some good pictures of him before he ran away under the kelp. We then went over to a rock and took a 30 minute nap under the sun. That was relaxing.
On Wednesday we went on the big boat, the June Cove, and stopped at Cracroft Point (CP) which is situated on the Johnstone Strait. They usually have someone stationed there recording video. We went to spot orcas and sand the deck. We saw possibly the A4’s! They were relatively close as well. I might have seen Springer! There was also a humpback whale in the kelp only about 150 feet away. THAT was cool! It did a partial spyhop, so we saw the bumps on it’s mouth.
I finally got a shower! They got the bath-house working. It started out cold but got nice and warm.
Two Fridays ago, Sam and I went with Paul on a town run. We dropped off Hannah and Tyeese at the ferry in Port McNeill so they could continue their bike ride. We did our shopping for everyone and laundry there instead of Alert Bay. We ate at Subway - fountain drink! I miss ice! I got free wifi there so I bought a few songs for the ride home on my iPod.
We stopped in Alert Bay afterwards because we had to move a huge green couch and a coffee table onto the boat for the guest house. That was interesting. We put the couch in the back of the boat. We went back to their house and I picked a baggy full of Huckleberries. Those things are delicious! They are really tart, and are hard to describe taste-wise. Kind of blueberry-blackberry flavored, but tart. I want to grow them at home, too bad they don’t survive in Kentucky! Then we went home, back to Hanson. Sam and I rode in comfort - we sat in the back of the boat on the couch. Hahaha. That was amazing. We hoped that we’d see orcas, but we didn’t. We did, however, watch the sun begin to set.
I am happy to have been off the island for a day. At the same time, I was happy to be back on the island. It made me aware of how I feel. Hanson Island now feels like home, but I do honestly miss Louisville. I miss my family, I miss my pets, I miss my friends, I miss internet (for music!). But I know that once I get home I will pine for Hanson Island. The place is so beautiful, so wonderful. How many times will I get to stay up all night because I’m recording orca vocalizations? How many times will I see a humpback pass in front of me everyday? Certainly not in Kentucky. Another amazing thing I’ve noticed is that I haven’t had a single migraine. That can’t be a coincidence. I don’t know if it’s the place or the lifestyle, but my head agrees with it.
I wish that I could return another summer. I wish I could have the money to come back and volunteer in the future. It’s such a wonderful place, and I have been having so much fun.
Olivier and I got to go back to CP with Paul one morning. We spotted approximately 21 orcas, and many of them came (relatively) close to the deck! As soon as we returned back to Hanson, the A36's and A12 passed the lab. It was a day of orcas!
Sam went home in late July, as did Christine. Tomoko arrived, however, so we still at least have 5 volunteers. Tomoko is from Japan, and has been coming to Hanson for 10 years now. She is really good at identifying whales by both vocalizations and by sight. Another volunteer arrived as well; her name is Janette and she is 16 and from Germany. Tomoko and Janette are both awesome people!
Helena and Paul returned that Friday. Helena was mad at the deer and concerned about the grey rodent. Olivier got a picture of one in the compost, and it turned out that it was a house rat. Rats have never been on Hanson Island, so everyone is very concerned about the ecosystem. Helena got rid of the compost, and we hadn't seen a rat since.
Momoko and I hiked up to the cliffs. That was very nice, because it was relaxing and it was my last time visiting them. An eagle flew from a tree very close to us once we reached the second cliff, and we spotted a sea lion passing right below us. We then explored the other side of the bay where the lab is located, behind Kurt's cabin, with Janette. I found a piece of driftwood and declared it my staff (like Gandalf from Lord of the Rings, hahaha). Everyone was singing LOTR music while we continued on. We eventually, after getting lost and stuck in certain places, found a trail and made it back to the lab.
The next evening, I saw 4 sea lions swimming past the lab. They kept waving their flippers in the air! It was highly amusing. The orcas had not been around for 4 days, and we were getting restless. Especially me, because I was leaving the following day. But that same evening, the A23's - Corky's family - showed up, heading east. I got to record orcas one last time. I also got to see my last humpback - it was right in front of the lab.
The following day was very bittersweet. I had to leave the place I called home for nearly 8 weeks, and the people I considered very good friends. That morning, as we all waited for Paul to finish getting ready before my departure, I got to see my last sea lion, minks, stellar's jays and eagles. I was also eager to get home, however. After pictures and hugs, I left in the Car at 10:00am with Paul to Alert Bay.
I shipped my sleeping bag, tent and blanket home, and then helped Paul do their shopping at the grocery. Then I left on the ferry to Port McNeill. From there I took a taxi to Port Hardy. I waited in Port Hardy for around 3 hours. Finally, I got on the plane, and just a little over an hour later, I was in Vancouver.
The following day, George dropped me off at the Vancouver Aquarium before I left to come home. It made me sad to see the white-sided dolphins in such a small tank after seeing them swim free. The aquarium was still nice to see, though! I especially loved the sloth and the harbor porpoise, Daisy. After this, I flew from Vancouver to Chicago, and from there to Louisville. It was very nice to be home, even though I was sad to leave Hanson Island!
By no means is that the last time that I will visit OrcaLab. I will be returning, at some point or another. It was the experience of a lifetime, and turned out much better than I ever expected. :)
Thanks for keeping up with my trip!!!