Thursday, February 26, 2009

Research going well. Two more HBs yesterday and another Blue. Went out today with no luck but the past week has been productive and fun. Elizabeth and Jessica are a hoot! Today we came across about eight Pilot Whales and Elizabeth turned to me and said," can I go in"? I said fine and she was in the water with them. Delightful to see....really delightful.

Wind has come up again so we are taking a break from searching for a day or two. This is the first time I have been able to go out during this time of year for five consecutive days. No returning whales from previous years so far. We did hear of a dead, beached HB up the coast from us and went to see it this morning. It was a yearling HB that had been caught up in a net. By the time we got to it today (12 days on beach) the net had been removed to destroy the evidence (these type of drift nets are illegal here). As I said in an earlier post....this will happen more often, no question. Sure wish we could have found him/her a couple of weeks ago!

I would love to post pics with these reports but my server here is too slow to upload for me to wait....sorry.

Monday, February 23, 2009

just like I thought, my volunteers have brought better luck. Yesterday was good, today even better. They encouraged an earlier start so we went out at 7:00 am not 8:00 am. Within minutes a whale is spotted but it has a clearly stronger blow than a Humpback. Has to be a Blue and it was. Got our ID and then saw a blow off in the distance and motored to it....a Humpback! Got a real good ID on it and flank shots on one side. Then Vicente sees some more blows about 1 1/2 away. We motor there and two more Blues Whales. Good IDs all around and a happy group of searchers. Wind came up again but satisfaction all around.

By the way; my volunteers are Elizabeth Plumb from The University of Kwazulu Natal in Durban South Africa and Jessica Pletz from the University of Iowa. Elizabeth received her degree in Environmental Science and Marine Biology and Jessica received hers in Environmental Biology. They are teaching me many new things. It is a delight to be with two intelligent, young, recently graduated, science students. And they listen to my stories with consummate grace.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Just got in from being out at sea. Although the weather was iffy this morning, I could not wait another day so we went for it before the wind came up (which we knew it would). Straight off Elizabeth spots a Humpback a bit south of us. We motor to the area but for only the second time in 5 years of whale work we lose it. No ID of course. For the next three hours we search the grid but see nothing. Then as we are coming in, and the seas are getting serious, we literally come across another Humpback. We decide to go for it even though beaching the panga is going to be difficult. We miss two fluke opportunities and then on the third I get the ID. It was a small whale, possibly a yearling.

The ride back to the beach was exciting and the beaching even more so. Vicente did a masterful job of bringing the panga in and now we are all in relax mode. Fun day!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The wind has again been a major issue in this seasons work. Much to my frustration I have watched 11 whales go by without being able to get to them for an ID. My two student volunteers arrived yesterday and perhaps they will bring some good luck with them. We are scheduled to go out tomorrow but the wind is still blowing so doesn’t look good. I am not however depressed, frustrated yes, but not depressed.
I have begun to understand intellectually, and more importantly feel, that I am on a path started long ago, literally lifetimes ago. It is for me at this time to appreciate it’s unfolding and to use all my physical, mental and spiritual capabilities to enhance it’s expression.

A bit of very good news. The entangled whale that I wrote about the other day was found again and has apparently been rescued (that is freed from the net) by divers from The Mexican Navy and one of the dive outfits in San Jose Del Cabo. I will get more details soon but you may see something about it in the news, certainly online. These kinds of rescues will most likely be occurring more often as the human population grows, more food is needed, more nets are put out and more whales are entrapped. It is inevitable!
Everything we humans do on this planet to resolve the deteriorating environmental situation is futile unless we seriously address the question of population growth and consumption of natural resources. “Over population” is a two headed monster; “people over population” in third world countries leading to poverty and “consumption over population” in first world countries leading to pollution. Until we address this as the core of our problems we are just biding our time.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Wind was up early this morning so no chance for me to try to get down to the entangled whale. The folks at Vinorama made a valiant effort but couldn't find the whale this morning. The Navy will stlll be looking and there is a slight possibility that it might come up my way. There may also be a break in the wind tomorrow and if so Vicente and I will look for it.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Difficult day today because the wind was coming but there was a “window of opportunity” to go out early this morning. I saw two whales going north but quite a ways out. Vicente came by and we discussed it and decided not to go out. Mistake! The wind did not come up as fast as we had anticipated so we would have been good for at least 3 hours. Plenty of time to find the two whales. While stewing over that I spotted 4-5 more whales within easy reach. I rushed over to Vicente’s but by then there was too much wind to launch from the beach.

We are scheduled to go out tomorrow but the forecast is for greater wind so it is doubtful and a golden opportunity has been missed. Frustrating but I have been at this fieldwork long enough to know that another time will come………maybe tomorrow. I remember sharing expedition experiences with Josh Jones from Scripps some years ago and swapping “frustration stories”. He told of the time he went 26 days without a whale sighting. Talk about frustration, that beats any of my stories!

Just got an e-mail that there is an entangled Humpback south of me. May try to get there tomorrow and help out if weather permits.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Lots of wind the last two days so keeping busy with all kinds of projects. This morning however, around 10:30, I glanced out to sea and for a moment I thought there were two pangas off the south point. Turned out to be two Blue Whales (first Blues for me this year) traveling slowly north. The sea was far choppier than I like to kayak in but I just couldn’t resist. Within 5 minutes I was at the beach and launched. I had to paddle into the wind, which was of course difficult but great exercise. Kayaked out about a mile and then waited. No luck didn’t even see another blow. As I sat rocking and rolling in my kayak with the wind blowing and the white caps sighing like powerful old friends I was again transported into that place so dear to my heart…. nature! I stayed out longer than necessary and paddled in comfortably with the wind some time later. Next time.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

For those of you interested in the success of my whale identifications; of the 6 whales I encountered yesterday, I obtained 4 good IDs, 1 fair ID and one good comparison (see previous post). I consider that a very successful day and I am delighted. I now have 13 whale encounters photographed, that's real good for this early in the season.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

It has been almost a week since my last time out. Weather has been good but I’m trying to conserve research funds for the peak of the season. Hard to do when Vicente and his friends are spotting whales every day.

Started the morning on top of my bodega as usual and within a few minutes I spotted two HB’s out about 2 miles east and a mile and a half south of El Cardonal. Even though I wasn’t to meet Vicente at the beach until 8:00 (it was 7:20) I went over to his house and once again he could tell I was on the scent. With no time wasted we were launched and on the track. I am not sure but I think I have two good ID’s, maybe one is just a good “comparison” (that’s when the pic is not of the quality to justify putting it in the global catalogue as an ID but it goes into the catalogue for possible comparison later). I won’t know for sure until I have them downloaded from my camera into iPhoto and can play with them.

Good start…no? Just gets better! We decide to go further out and see if there might be some Blues going by on their way to Loreto. We get out about 12 miles and then one of Vicente’s friends radios us and says he has two Humpbacks where he is fishing. We turn around and head back to La Linea where they are supposed to be; very close to the beach. We find them and then the fun starts. Not two but four…. and are they doing a number (I don’t report this way in my scientific submissions). Breaching, tail lobs…. and way close to the boat. It is the first time I see Vicente a bit concerned because they all come in real close (6’ maybe) and very active. I keep saying to him…”it’s OK, it’s OK” because as far as I am concerned this is a very special greeting from the whale people. I struggled mightily with the alternative of getting ID’s or going in with them. Science and my sanctuary goal dominated so I didn’t go in. I was just talking about such a situation with my friends next door last night.

I took over 150 shots altogether and I am just downloading them now. A cruiser came by right at the wrong time with about 10 gringos on board and they messed up my work for about ½ hour, even after I explained that I was from the Univ. of La Paz Mammal Research Center (I’m not but I am a Collaborador) and if they might not back off. I told them I was attempting to get IDs. Might as well talk to rocks!! I won’t repeat what I was saying under my breath but in order not to alienate anyone from remembering a “whale Experience” with total joy (however mindless) I only gave off extremely negative body language.

After the other boat left Vicente and I continued to follow the whales to make sure we got as good a fluke shot as possible on all of them. We’ll see about that but as I said the other day… can I not be satisfied, and as always, humbled, by such a day.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

So….a good day. Another beauty, no wind at all and the sun shining. Nevertheless I had a project that superseded looking for whales. Hard to believe but true. Fortunately, I have the main part of the season to look forward to yet and two eager students arriving on the 18th who need to meet my whale friends. The project I refer to is only important to me so of little interest for any of you following this blog but let me say that it was completed and I am extremely happy with the results!

I did get out in my kayak however and was pleased to find that once again if I am patient and centered, something good will occur. Doesn’t take much when the sea is calm, the air clear and it’s just me and nature. In this case it was a California Sea Lion that may or may not be a resident here around our reef. He was just lolling (yes, this is the best word) around and I decided to see if I could get up close to him. I paddled very slowly towards him and gave off “tranquil vibes”. It worked. I got within about 20’ and then he went down. I finally got to about 10’ and we started circling each other with him on the surface exposing his side and pectoral fin. I began to laugh out loud because he was clearly watching me and we were just going round and round. I decided to go in and swam slowly towards him. I got within about 6’ and then he dove. I dove with him and for a moment we were within about 3’ of each other. Very cool! That was it, he went out further and I needed to get in to complete my project so I paddled back in to shore.

As I said before, I completed my project and am now under the palapa enjoying a day well spent. At these moments I often think of those of you who attended my Janus lectures over the years and I hope that these few words on my blog let you share my happiness.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Yesterday was a beautiful day to look for whales. Vicente and I were launched at 8:00 am sharp and started our usual grid so that we can cover around 75-100 sq miles of Sea. On a day like yesterday (flat like a lake and plenty of sun) you can see a whale breach and often even see their blow from 3 to 4 miles away. No luck at the southern end of the grid so we proceeded east then north...still nothing. By the time we reached the northern end of the grid it was 11:30 and time to think about heading in. I asked Vicente if we had enough fuel to go further out into the Blue Whale zone and he said yes so we went out another 5 miles.

It is so very tranquil and beautiful out there on a day like yesterday. Every now and again Vicente will say, "beautiful" with such a genuine inflection that I know he understands, or should I say we both understand, a certain thing we share far beyond ID'ing The Great Whales.

Time was getting on so we started in. I suggested we go in real close to shore (mile or two) before heading south to El Cardonal. And then Vicente very excitedly cranes his neck, looks intently towards shore and says, "bote, o posible una ballena". He thought it was a boat being in so close to shore. Well, it was a whale and a Humpback. We started tracking it but he was not interested in giving us a fluke shot so we kept following it for at least 5 blow sequences. Then it finally fluked up and I got my best shot so far this season. All in all it was just too delightful. He was a beauty too. Unscarred, well fed, tranquil and a very artistic fluke. Vicente and I were very happy with the day, with each other and with our new friend.

Wind up a bit this morning, going into Los Barriles for supplies.