Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The past two days have been very good; appropriate for the celebration of The Winter Solstice. Yesterday morning I did a little Medicine Wheel talk and with Alan & Charlie’s help set The Solstice Stone. Lisa & her son Daniel had come over the day before to help me line out The Medicine Wheel. I started “Grandpa Fire” and after setting the stone gave my Medicine Wheel talk. Attending were Alan, Charlie, Lisa, Daniel, Carol & Katy. About half way through the talk 2-3 whales started breaching off our beach so we went up to the roof to observe….very cool.

After finishing the talk I went down to the beach for laps & run and then read the rest of the afternoon. I was then invited to a delicious dinner at Charlie’s clan and retired as usual at “Baja Midnight” (9:00 pm).

This morning I got up and with almost no thought at all, ate breakfast, got my kayak gear and headed for the beach before the sun rose. I went out to the Whale Zone and hung out but no action. The wind came up a bit and I was cold so decided to go in. About ½ way in I hear a blow behind me and see a HB roll right next to a fishing panga nearby.

I hustle over and it is Vicente with the folks from the big house.

They agree to tie me off and we’ll follow the Whale so I can have a close encounter. This takes place about ¾ mile further South where we pick it up again, I am let loose and then I have the wonderful experience of “hanging out” during a close encounter.

I was with it for three blow series and then I tired. My closest approach was about 15-20 feet. It was a young Whale maybe 25-30 feet long. Paddling back against the wind and a bit tired I was nonetheless in an ecstatic state and it was all too good!

My friends on the panga even got a good fluke shot. This will be HB# 2 10 (2010 season)

After coming in I went straight to my friends hot tub and soaked while enjoying the company of the “kids”. It is now 11:00 am and I am anticipating a quiet afternoon of reading….I am thoroughly enjoying my Shangri-La.

Monday, December 14, 2009

MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT: There will be a benefit sail on The Brigantine Schooner "Talofa" on Jan. 10th, 2010 to greet and honor the return of the humpbacks and support my work with them. For information and reservations please contact Capt. Cactus Bryan at 624-155-7271 or talofatallship@gmail.com

Big day today, happy guy! Went out on my bodega roof with my hot chocolate this morning (mornings are cool) to see what I could see. Within minutes I saw three blows off Los Algodones (a village just south of me) and I took off looking for Vicente. Took me awhile but I found him and we agreed to meet at the boat in 20 min. I stopped by Alan’s to see if he wanted to go and he started gathering his gear. We picked the Whales up in front of Punta Pescadero and followed them for about 2 ½ hours until the wind came up. I got one good fluke ID and plenty of good flank shots. Great to go out the first time in the season and get an ID! There were two males and a female. The males were in combat part of the time with the female just cruising as they do. We saw some spectacular “peduncle throws” by the males and heard lots of “trumpeting”.

This is the ID shot. Taken almost directly into the sun but iPhoto is a marvelous thing on a Mac.

These are two shots of “combat”. The whale on the right is the aggressor.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Well it is now Sunday morning and I am “recuperating” from the last two days. I misplaced my wallet on Friday, losing $200, credit cards, SS card, Drivers license etc. All my fault and it’s going to take some doing replacing everything from down here in Mexico. I do have to admit though that after the initial panic about it I simply canceled the cards (as anyone would of course) did all that I could and then continued my drive to San Jose del Cabo in a meditative state.

Included in the wallet was also evidence of a free night due me at the hotel in SJD. Upon checking in (it is a small hotel frequented primarily by Mexicans and having a tranquility not found at the larger hotels) I explained my situation and after about 15 min of checking they smiled and said of course they would honor it. The staff remembers me from the times I have stayed before and vouched for my integrity. It was really all rather touching.

During the night I agonized over all the worst case scenarios regarding the loss of these important “things” but once again I meditated on them being just “things” and not me per se and felt a lot better. Yesterday morning I went to the beach and did my running and pushups. It was a beautiful day here in The Los Cabos area, truly beautiful. I watched two Ospreys hunt the beach and kept my eyes out for whales but saw none. It is true though that everyone I have talked to in the cape area has commented on seeing more whales earlier than usual. This is a photo sent me by my good old friend Peter Armstrong in Ukiah (a master photographer by the way), California. Appears it’s a bit cold up that way, glad I’m here in the sub tropics.

Later yesterday evening I gave my presentation to about 30 wonderful, attentive and generous people. Their contributions will allow me another 5 times out with my pangero Vicente and that’s what counts. I am deeply grateful to these fine people and their continuing support of my work. It was a treat to be with them last night. Stayed talking well into the evening so thereby the “recuperation”.

Here are two recent photos that I took which you might enjoy. The first is the moon rise a week or so ago. They are really spectacular here over The Sea of Cortez and “The Shining One” always fills me with love for the grandeur of The Cosmos. The other is of a visitor that came by the other day and fell into my foot bath outside my trailer door. Needless to say it caught my attention. I scooped the poor thing out and placed it on the step to dry out and relax a bit. About 15 min later it flew off and I had the treat of seeing yet another of Earth’s delightful….and colorful creatures. Have no idea what it is.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

As long as I introduced you to my mom and brother in the last post I thought I may as well have you meet the rest of them. I have no other pictures to share at this time.

This is my dad Ilmar as a young student. He went on to receive his law degree and then WWII came along and he was deported to a labor camp in Siberia. He volunteered to join an Estonian regiment in the Russian Army and he then fought the Germans on The Eastern Front. He survived but upon returning to Estonia found the rest of us escaped to Sweden. The Soviets would not let him visit The U.S. until I was already 35 and I had never met him. He was a very nice man. We got along well.

This is his brother Yuri. Yuri was conscripted by The German Army and was later captured by The Soviets, sent to prison camp and was shot dead attempting an escape. He was supposed to have been one hell of a jazz pianist.

This is my grandfather, Capt. Peeter Mender or “Piepa” as everyone in the family called him. He was deeply loved by all of us and a wonderful role model for me. He was the hero of “The Panay Incident” that occurred in China in 1938. A movie was made about the incident called “The Sand Pebbles” with Steve McQueen but Piepa was not mentioned in it.

This last picture is of Piepa and “Ami” (Adelaide) with their three daughters, from left, Adi, Leida and my mom Erika. Called by all as “The Mendere Kitza”, the three Mender kittens. All gone now. I was incredibly fortunate to be loved by all of them….and there were more!

So what has been going on here? Winter of course but I am still walking around during the day in shorts and no shirt. The Humpbacks are here but I haven’t been out yet to do any IDs because I have to conserve my funding. That’s OK they will be here for some time and I have two benefits coming up in the next month.

I have become addicted to working out and just came in a while ago from running (never thought I would do that again after HS football) and pushups (never thought I would do that again after the fraternity) which pump up the old endorphins and make me feel that I am not 68 at all.

Looking forward to another great dinner and then some reading. Saturday I give my fund raising presentation in San Jose del Cabo. I am going in on Friday (it is about 2 hrs away) to stay at my favorite little hotel, have a dinner out and “chill” before the presentation.

I feel this is the very best power point show I have ever put together, hope someone turns up!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Just feel that I need to put a photo or two up for color. This is an artist’s conception of the “Quantum Foam” that I lectured about for years. It is my favorite theory of Cosmology.

This is a picture of my mother, brother and me just before our escape from Estonia during WWII. My mother passed into the Spirit World 6 years ago tomorrow. To a very great extent her hard work and love made it possible for me to be living here in Baja Sur today. I would like to think that the way I am leading my life now honors her memory......and makes her smile.

A fine day yesterday in every way. The morning was clear, calm and crisp but not at all cold. Perfect for a kayaking day. I e-mailed Alan (who is always ready for an adventure and you really never know what you will see and/or experience once you go out into The Sea) and told him I was going out and then launched around 9:00. I could see the water was really clear and it was going to be great diving on the reef….but first the Whale Zone. As I write this, it is 7:30 pm and the full moon is just coming up, I can hear the Humpbacks breaching out in our little bay. When they hit the surface coming down it is like a thunderclap, way cool. I am too comfortable right now to go out in the kayak and look for a close encounter, perhaps next full moon.

Anyway, Alan and I hung out in the WZ for about an hour and then came in over the reef as we usually do. We anchored at our favorite spot and went in. It was truly grand, one of the best days I have had on the reef and I have had plenty. The water was exceptionally clear and there were hundreds, thousands of fish everywhere. We both agreed that today was a special day on the reef for sure.

Later in the afternoon (around 4:30 pm) while sitting on my bodega roof wondering if I might see a Humpback go by, I saw 2 maybe 3. They were about a ¼ mile out and just south of the bays southern point. Two of them fluked up so I was sure of the species and that there were indeed at least two. It is clear that they are back in my area and perhaps in greater numbers than usual. I did see Vicente (my pangero) in town later and he said that he does remember seasons where they were here this early. I may go out with him next Monday if I continue to see them around.

After fixing myself a sumptuous dinner I got behind the computer to do the post and then I heard the Humpbacks out there dancing under the full moon, how cool is that??

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Obviously not my picture but I just wanted to share it with you. If you feel we spend too much money on “Space” ventures, consider the costs of the Military and the bailouts of the scumbags on Wall Street. I will be using it in my slide show in San Jose del Cabo on the 12th of December as an example of “Free Fall” and our relationship to The Whales.

All is well. Even with Thanksgiving and the many Gringos in the area it has been pretty quiet. “Winter” here in Baja Sur has begun. I went to dinner last night wearing long pants and a warm shirt…almost put on socks! It was a traditional and warm Thanksgiving dinner with Alex & Leslie Cook, along with family and friends, a delightful evening.

The beach has changed dramatically with the North Wind eating away the sand and exposing the rocks again. All the sand is being carried down to the southern end of our little bay where it will be until June/July of next year when the South Wind will return and move the sand once again. I wish I had paid more attention in Geology class so I would know more about these processes. Fortunately I have time to observe the changes over time and I am beginning to understand them better. You can see that there is a good 4 feet of sand that is being washed away. If you have the inclination you can see the same beach as it appeared in August by going back to earlier posts.

Another natural sculpture crafted by the Wind and the Sea. I love the color and textural contrasts!

I built this cover over the past few weeks as a beach project. I use it as my forward observation post when looking for Humpbacks. It was fun to build (Robinson Crusoe right?), cozy and has been used by many a beach stroller since it went up.

I find myself looking out to Sea more often now, hoping for another glimpse of my Cetacean friends. I so look forward to being with them again.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Today is Nov. 20th and it is a day when The Mexican People commemorate The Revolution of 1910. After gaining independence form Spain in 1823 a series of men, some good, some bad, led Mexico in its path to Nationhood. Unfortunately, as happens in all countries, many of those men and their cohorts abused the rights of The People. Once again it was necessary to commit their very lives to change and reform a system that had become corrupt. On November 20th, 1910 various leaders emerged from the ranks of The People. In my mind the greatest of these was Emiliano Zapata. If ever there was a revolutionary leader who’s ONLY AGENDA was to bring liberty and justice to his people, it was Emiliano Zapata.

All the pictures I have ever seen of this man show the dark, bright, part Indian passion of his soul.

Here in El Cardonal there was a parade this morning to remember the sacrifice made by those revolutionaries in 1910. I followed the short but sweet parade down the newly paved main street and felt more at home than I have ever felt before. Today I too honor the people who had the passion and courage to fight against an oppressive system. These are “my people” now and it felt real good.

That's it, that's the whole parade.

May it never be necessary for these little ones, anywhere in the world, to have to do this again!

The beauty of the people in Mexico is staggering to me.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Buddhist symbol for Peace

Exciting morning. I woke up around 6:00 am after a good nights sleep and was enjoying the cool sea air under two light blankets; feeling very cozy so I thought I might stay in bed and read for a while.

I picked up Bryson’s wonderful book, “A Short History of Nearly Everything” (a gift from my dear friend Susan Janssen) and picked up where I had left off the night before. He was discussing Plate Tectonics and Continental Drift, fascinating subjects to say the least. As I began to read I heard an unexpected sound from Seaward, vaguely familiar but hard to imagine at this time of year. It was the sound of “trumpeting” by a Humpback Whale. Trumpeting is not “singing” it is an unusually strong blow often meant to attract attention. It is a bit early for Humpbacks here in my area so I continued reading but with the nagging feeling that I might be missing something. Two of my good friends had seen what they thought was a Humpback about 4 days ago while kayaking south of me.

I couldn’t stand it, I grabbed a poncho and my binoculars and headed for my bodega roof. The Sea was pretty flat this morning and the sun was just coming up so my chances were good of seeing anything if indeed there was a Whale out there. Then I heard the trumpet again and saw the blow as the unmistakable wake of a rising whale ruffled the surface. And then the Sea was cut by the dark flank of a Humpback preparing for a deep dive (arched back and flukes up). I was awed, honored and so glad that I had gotten out in time to see my first Humpback of the season. It was about ¼ mile out and leisurely heading south.

I rushed back in to get my computer so I could e-mail (no phones here) my friends Alan & Marilyn who live down the beach to get out and see it as it passed by them. I saw the whale (maybe two) come up once more but just for a short blow. I am delighted and inspired by the return of my Whale Friends! It was like seeing family again.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The last few weeks have been.....well, different. It is time to start gearing up for the Whale season that is coming up in January (The Humpbacks reach my area in The Sea of Cortez right around the middle of the month). This mainly involves fundraising, giving presentations and rethinking field strategies. It is in it’s own right nostalgic because it has now been 5 years since I began my Whale Studies here. This is a milestone because in the scientific field a reasonable period of data gathering is necessary to establish the truth of one’s hypothesis (mine being the importance of this area for breeding/calving). I have done this. In honor of that I include in this post the following pictures.

This one is of my very first student “interns” down here. Some of you may recognize her. It is Amber Trotter. She chose to take her semester break from Middletown University in 2003 to help me establish my transect for the reef work I had intended to do. On a trip out in a panga one day is when I saw the large number of Whales in the area and reconsidered my research priorities.

The next is of my interns, Lenee Goselin and Kristin Paiva (top & bottom), who volunteered the winter of 2005 to help me do my photo ID work of The Humpbacks.

I already posted the picture of this season's interns (2009) some time back but here they are again anyway. That’s Elizabeth Plumb on the left and Jessica Pletz on the right.

The assistance of all these young women was instrumental in my success in establishing the truth of my hypothesis.

The next picture is of me in my kayak. This kayak has been with me for 12 years now. Her name is Haldjas. That is the name of the ancient pagan goddess of nature among my People, The Estonians. She has been with me on rivers, Lakes, Seas and Oceans. When we leave shore we are as one.

The last picture is of my new resident Spiny Tailed Iguana who enjoys afternoons in the quite solitude of the desert....as do I.

If you have the inclination to donate to my work, please do. My very dear friend and fellow traveler, Susan Janssen, has generously agreed to handle the temporary treasurer duties. Send your donations to me, care of Susan at 106 Canyon Drive, Ukiah, CA 95482. My quest is to establish this area as a part of the new “protected” region for Humpbacks here in The East Cape. I am very close to realizing that dream.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

This is a photo from 2006 of the first whale of the season that year. He was a delight to watch and eventually spent about ½ hour with us. I hadn’t begun to swim with these critters yet so I missed what could have been a wonderful connection. I put this photo in because it relates to the meeting with Jorge yesterday. The Humpbacks are returning (in abundance)! So this is just an example of one happy Humpback.

And this is one happy researcher!

Had a meeting with Dr. Jorge Urban and Ursula (Ursula is Jorge’s chief Ph.D. candidate and field worker) yesterday. Delightful! Started out as always a bit strained because they just don’t know what to think of me but after lunch we met in his office and things began to be more causal and intimate. The upshot is this: though my work here in El Cardonal has not been revelatory, it has been important. Important enough to perhaps extend the border of what has been planned as a “protected” area for Humpbacks in The East Cape area into my region rather than ending at Cabo Pulmo, 30 miles south of us!! I am very pleased, thankful and honored to have my contribution be of value.

I am incredibly privileged to be working with these individuals. The Gods/Goddesses surely have blessed me these past 5 years. I am happily awaiting the return of my “Whale People” for my 6th season and who knows what is in store.

Some SPLASH results. There are perhaps as many as 20,000 HBs in The North Pacific. Because of these numbers they may be taken off the endangered list (bad/good). Our Mexican population is the second largest in The North Pacific, perhaps as many as 6-8,000 of the twenty. They concentrate in three separate places; The Cape region (which includes my People), The Mexican Mainland around Bahia de las Banderas (near Puerta Vallarta) and The Revillagigedos Islands about 600 miles off shore of The Cape.

There is intrigue regarding a 4th breeding ground “somewhere” between Hawaii and Japan. No one knows for sure where it is but speculations are that it might be around the Marianas Islands between Hawaii and Japan. As many as 3,000 whales my breed/calve there….what a great discovery.

In regard to individual whale returns to the three Mexican centers: there is a 40% return of individuals to The Islands (Mexican) off shore, 20% to the mainland (Bahia de Banderas and 8% to The Cape (my people). It is therefore not surprising that after 5 years of work I have only ONE returnee…Odin; my son’s adopted whale, how cool is that!!

Ursula recognized two of my whales from this year right away. 50% show damage but the population goes up at a rate of 7% a year!! Jorge did warn me that swimming with them is always risky. I am hip to that but at this time in my life that is no longer a concern.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

One of the really nice things about having my friends back here is sharing the beauty and surprises that nature has in store. We have been kayaking, snorkeling and doing a bit of research (limited to determining the best location for the reef transect and setting anchors). Saturday/Sunday we are going out to The Whale Zone and see if we can call somebody in.

I am going to La Paz to meet with Dr. Jorge Urban tomorrow to turn in my data and just visit.

He is one of Mexico’s numero uno Whale Man and I am delighted to be considered as one of his “collaboradores”. He recently returned from The Annual Marine Mammal Conference in Montreal and told me he had much new info to share, particularly in regard to the work we did during The SPLASH program in 2004-2007.

In regard to the surprises: yesterday I was lying in my bed inside the trailer reading and happened to glance out the window and I saw this strange “thing” attached to the under side of the window. I looked closer and realized it was an insect; this one.

I went outside with the camera and took this shot.

Then I decided to move it to a more natural place so I nudged it with my kayak paddle (I never mess with an insect I don’t know) till I got it to sit on the paddle blade and then placed it on a nearby plant.

Now this is what you call mimicry! Many, many animals and plants do this as a means of avoiding being eaten….and sometimes to be eaten.

So today, the next day I return from kayaking and there it is again, but no, it’s a bit different.

This one is thinner and has beautiful dark green surfaces on it’s legs and back. Is this a male?, or maybe a female?, or a different species entirely? I don’t know, I’m not an entomologist (and I don’t have a field guide) but how interesting, eh? Of course to someone whose interests lie elsewhere it is all “just an insect” but it sure was fun for me. Check out it’s pincers (or what I think are its pincers). That’s why I don’t mess with insects, could be a toxin there.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Nice to see some old friends again and not just humans. Here is a shot of a Spiny Tailed Iguana that has taken up residence in the driftwood piece I call "El Dracon" in my garden. This is not my old buddy Huchiti that returned to El Dracon four years in a row but I am pretending it is one of his offspring.

Autumn has come in with a swift change in weather. The last 3 days we have had a steady cooling wind from the north, enough to require a blanket at night. It is interesting how even here in the sub tropics the weather changes can be so dramatic.

Also brought in these guys (not my pic)...Moon Jellyfish. Stung by one about a week ago, hurt but not like an Agua Mala!!

Hope you all enjoy the holidays coming up....be joyful, be safe and pray for Peace and Justice in the world!