Around St. Paul and Otter islands

by Guest Blogger

July 11, 2006

The following posting is from Adam, who is onboard in the Bering Sea

Foggy and very cold.

We got up early to make maximum use of the calm weather. It was a little daunting heading out in the RIB, knowing we would be at times fogged in and unable to see land or our ship. Safety first though: GPS, compass, radio x 2, water, food, first aid kit, survival suits, basically the works. Plus the ship could see us on radar and we made regular radio calls.

We searched and searched and searched some more, but not a whale in sight. About 1300 we gave up and went back to the ship for lunch. Shortly after, the fog lifted so it was up in the rigging with the binoculars for another couple of hours.

We had just decided to change our search area when there in front of us they appeared: A huge male and three females.

We scrambled the boat again and took off in pursuit, lost them for a while then found them again. Then it was a game of cat and mouse as we tried to get close enough for Craig to get a biopsy and attach a satellite tag.

My lesson for the day was that killer whales are extremely crafty.

I actually felt privileged to be outsmarted a number of times. He would let me drive up nearly alongside then dive and come up on the other side of the boat. He would then cruise along just ahead leading us on so we wouldn’t notice the females had gone, then he would vanish and we’d spot them all together again hundreds of meters away going in the opposite direction. Eventually though I guessed his next spot to come up right and Craig got his biopsy.

After all that this pod of whales was not going to let another be tagged. Their evasive action was second to none and they outsmarted us on every turn. At about 8 p.m. we decided to give up and let them get on with their lives without the pesky RIB chasing them all over the ocean. I’m very glad there are strong rules about not harassing whales. I sent a silent apology and thanks as they swam off on their way. They have helped to protect themselves and the environment without knowing it.

Now back to the island, a quick dinner and back up the rigging to do more spotting in the last few hours of light (dark’s at about  1 o’clock in the morning). Make hay while the sun shines as its forecast to blow and rain tomorrow.

Going to sleep well tonight

– Adam

Note: Craig Matkin has Scienific Research Permit No. 545-1761-00. It was issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) under authority of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and the Endangerd Species Act (ESA).

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