Archive for the ‘Orcas’ Tag

Travimals   2 comments

I love zoos and aquariums, the big one and the little ones too.  I remember how much I enjoyed going to the city of my birth, Oklahoma City, and visiting the zoo there.  Over time, at least from the last time I was there, quite a while ago, the zoo always tried to maintain an open environment for the animals and give them what they needed.  Way back “in the day” some of the enclosures were rather small for some of the larger animals but that improved.  The zoo gave me a great appreciation for animals, the diversity, the immensity of some, the concept that there are predators and prey and that this extends to humans.  We are animals and eating other animals is what we do.  Religious aspects aside, and personal choice aside, to demand that others not eat meat is, well, like asking an elephant not to mate, a crocodile not to swim or wasps not to sting.  To be sure, have respect for the sacrifice, from taking the life.  Even vegetarians are killing something.  That grain is alive inside, ready to create a new oat seedling when the moisture, soil and temperature are right.  Doesn’t it have a “right” to be what it can be?  How dare we snuff out its potential to make oatmeal!

Well, I did digress.  I apologize.  When we were in Vancouver we visited the excellent aquarium there.  I still prefer Monterrey’s , Atlanta’s, and even Chattanooga’s along with Baltimore and even New Orleans.  But is had some very good exhibits.  They were promoting their new exhibit with  African penguins.  As to be expected they were really cute.

Cute little African penguins.

As cute as they are, they are still in an aquarium.  They are still in captivity.

Daryn and Little Nora move out of the way on the left for the hoards lining up to see the little guys who seemed just as interested in the people.

But what travel allows is the opportunity to encounter animals.  That word encounter, to me at least, implies either a serendipitous experience or an active search with an uncertain outcome.  Granted, there are some animals that many or most would not want to encounter except under very controlled circumstances if at all.  Vipers, sharks, Kodiak bears, Black Widow spiders, and Ted Nugent, as examples!  Some people go pretty far in this, such as the guy in Utah that has dressed himself up as a Mountain Goat and trying to keep up with said animals in the mountains in that gorgeous state.  I just hope he isn’t still romping on the trails come mating season or has left this off before Mr. Nugent decides to show up there for hunting season.  Not sure which would be worse for the goat guy.  I don’t know if he is dressed as a male or female goat but both present potential issues that could be quite threatening or uncomfortable.

Digression!  Mea culpa!  The kids, from the Papa and Nana perspective, had the good fortune of going out in a Zodiac to whale watch and ended up about 100 yards off where we were staying on Pender Island, as was reported in an earlier post.  This would be an active search.  Far better than the zoo, as you get to see the animals in their habitat, in this case, as pod units.

Orcas off Gowland Point.

A day or so after their journey back to where they woke up that morning, we were down at Gowland Point, exploring the beach.The whole gang was there.  We worked around towards Brooks Point watching the geese, duck, sailboats and freighters that were in the strait.  Someone, I don’t know who, was creating a bit of noise out on this peaceful end of South Pender.  Others were gathering along the shore.  And so there they were, sometimes 20 or 30 yards off shore, casually working their way along their course around the southwest edge of the Penders.  It was only a small group, a family perhaps, but did not appear to be an entire pod.  This was exciting.  The serendipitous encounter.  People, including ourselves, ran along the shore, climbing over rock and trying to stay even with the Orcas who pressed slowly ahead through the midst of boats that were already there.  And not a Zodiac in sight, just the serendipity crew to observe at that time.

A small group with at least one youthful Orca.

Only yards from shore. Or meters!


But this was not the only encounter.  Nana, one morning, decided to be the early bird.  Well the early bird didn’t get the worm but got the bird.  An eagle sat just outside our house, looking down over the kelp beds below, scouting for breakfast.  Lightening quick, Nana snapped a couple of pictures before it moved on.

Eagle just off the deck of our rental house on North Pender Island. Looking for food or enjoying the sunrise? Way to go Nana!

Here’s one to fawn over.

Fawn on the heights over Poets’ Cove

While traveling by car we ran into, not literally, other species.  These guys are apparently considering whether or not to risk the falling rock!

Bighorn sheep considering their next move.

Sometimes you can just be too slow to the camera.  As a Where’s Waldo experiment, see if you can spot one of the two bears encountered along our path?

Got to move fast to the camera…where’s the bear??

Find him?  He actually is barely, or bearly in the picture but looks like a shadow.  So this one is just for the memory book of the brain.  As to the appropriate travimal experience, my vote is for encounters!  But I will still enjoy the searches and the zoos and aquariums, as well.  Considering the areas we drove through on the mainland, it is remarkable, but we did not bag that moose we were looking for.  I bet it was there, though, just didn’t have eyes sharp enough to see him.  Next time!


“Killer” Killer Whales   1 comment

Some years ago Nana and Papa traveled the circle route from Vancouver, inland along the Frazier River, up and over to Bella Coola and did the cheap version of the inside passage on the ferry that runs from there down to the tip of Vancouver Island, ultimately working our way down the island and back to Vancouver.  We didn’t pay for a place to sleep as the whole journey was during the day.  We were particularly lucky to see a wedding on the cruise ship followed by the entire wedding party gathering below, boarding their kayaks and embarking on a week or two trip through the islands above Vancouver, camping and paddling from place to place.  A rather unique wedding experience for sure.  They had to be to a certain point at a certain time to catch the ferry back to civilization. Not my choice but rather cool, nonetheless.  First night officially together, on a rocky beach?  I don’t think so!

When cruising along the inside passage in a cruise ship  or even the ferry, there are certain limitations of schedule.  Why does that matter?  Because there are other things to do that just ride along looking at the ocean, or straits and passages, the rocks and sky.  If you are fortunate you will also see some interesting wildlife.  I’m not talking about people going wild, throwing off their inhibitions and doing the Macarena…well maybe that is not so wild.  But that is not what I am talking about anyway.  I am talking more about the watery variety.  Mermaids would be nice but I have not yet spotted any of those up here except when the combination of wine and beer has exceeded recommended daily allowances.  No, what I am talking about are also mammals and almost equally alluring as some of those mythological types.  Whales.

Now occasionally one might see a humpback or grey, and there are other varieties that show up in these chilly waters, waters that I probably watched on the Deadliest Catch that crashed up and were shivering the booties off of really tough guys who smoke a lot, catch crabs on land and off, and say *bleep* *bleep* *bleep* almost continuously because they feel like they have a right since they are doing the most dangerous job on earth outside of changing the diaper on a diaharretic, green-fluid ex-pulsing 18 month old which is  hazardous far beyond mere physical danger like drowning in freezing water.  No Coast Guard helicopter is going to show up for that one.  There are limits!

In addition to these relatively rare sightings there are also the Killer Whales, Orcas.  Not to be confused with the killer clowns, well, as everyone knows, all clowns are killers which is why we take children to circuses so that it is perfectly clear that they are mortals and will someday leave this earth, sooner than later if they don’t behave.  This scars many right into adulthood.  Such as my daughter, Robin, who was foolish enough to read Stephen King’s It.  To keep her in line all  I had to do was put on one of those funny red noses and grin and, boy! did she toe the line!

Killer whales come in pods.  No, they are not aliens dropped down from a mother ship filled with seawater, traversing the stars, stopping every now and then to deposit their little Orcinus Orca spawn across watery worlds all over the galaxy.  Though that would be really cool.  They would certainly not be at Area 51 since it is a tad dry out there.  But I digress.  The resident pods stay more or less in one area and while not exactly vegetarians they mostly eat salmon.  Now there are those transient orca, that are kinda like gangs or assassins, that travel about and eat almost everything, like John Pinette.  There is another type of orca but you can look that up on your own.  It will do you good.  But you don’t see much of them around here.  The different pods have letter names.  They are like extended families.  Each individual in the pod can be identified based on the shape and size of the dorsal fin on their back. I am really glad I’m not identified based on the size and shape of my body parts.  That would be embarrasing.

Now around Pender Island there are a few pods that wander about looking for salmon.  Rarely, these pods come together.  Maybe to exchange greetings, share gossip about what is happening in L pod, discuss the latest sports results, knock back a few at the local sand bar.  Now speaking of bars, some of the northern pods like to head to bars of the rocky type and rub their lower sides up against the rocks.   I think we know what that is all about.  Wink ;).  The others just haven’t caught on yet.

Several of our tribe went on a whale watching trip while here at Pender.  Nana and Papa had already done this at Telegraph Cove on that previous journey down the coast.  For this you go out in small boats.  Sometimes really small boats.  We were fortunate enough to see two pods come together on that trip, but Daryn, Robin and Megan trumped us by seeing three pods unite for fun, frolic and f…um…mating!  At least that is one theory.  Supporting this hypothesis is the breaching they were doing during their little get together.  Flipping and flopping and acting silly.  Had to be the guys trying to impress their girls.  Look!  I don’t have to be in the water, I’m so cool I can float like a butterfly, albeit a very substantial one, in the air.  Briefly.  Very briefly.  Except I don’t really know what a butterfly is but I think I saw something on Wikipedia.

So J, K, and L pods came together in a superpod for this little family reunion.  And our guys were there!  They were in a Zodiac that probably held about 14 or 15 people. Zodiacs are so named because they make you throw up in all twelve directions of the constellations.  But this was a rare moment where even that did not matter.  Irritatingly, while Nana and Papa and little Nora were out running around the islands, this all happened some few yards right off the cliffs where our rental house is located.  And WE missed it.  Little Nora didn’t really care much, she was more interested in when she would get her next serving of avocado.  Her favorite food.  Go figure.  So documented below are a few of the images of this encounter.  Following said images are a few more that were totally serendipity do dah!

We were down at Gowland Point on South Pender Island picking up pretty, pretty rocks, taking artsy photographs and clearly looking like tourists when lo and behold a family of Orcas, just minding their own business, came strolling by, sometimes only 20 or so yards from land.  This was so cool since Nana and Papa had missed out on the excitement of the previous day out on the water and also since we were so P. O’ed having missed the show from the deck at the house.  But there they were, clearly with some juveniles.  Not the delinquent type because they stayed right there with their parents as good children should.  They moved slowly around to Brooks Point and beyond.  About this time the whale watchers of the commercial type showed up.  The whales moved on, feeling violated by the brazen exploitation.  And so there it was, another exciting day living The Life in the islands.


Near Swanson Channel, just before the action begins. Mount Baker, 75 miles away in Washington, in the background.

Out to the sea, she be a cruel mistress…and you wear funny clothes.

An arriving pod, probably J.

Next day, family unit passing Gowland Point.

Sailboat violating the rules of maintaining distance to the Orcas.

Slowly moving away after the show.