Beautiful Blue moments to enjoy and savour!

It is such a neat experience for our guests to not only enjoy the wildlife we have in this area but to really get a good look at, and to start to understand the unique dynamics of the water in this region.

We began our tour at low tide so the intertidal zone along the shoreline was a prominent feature. The rockweed was abundant, sticking way up above the water line and we could hear and see Oyster Catchers foraging on the crustaceans that were tucked inside this seaweed.

Following low tide was slack water, when the current had slowed and became stationary for a short time. During slack water we were able to position the boat amongst islands and islets, turn the engines off and be still to witness the richness of nature that surrounded us.

It was interesting to observe the whales at the change of the tide and current. We noticed the Humpback whales were foraging along a tide line for the hours we were with them. Ripple, Ojo’s Blanco’s and Guardian were the whales of the day and their pattern of 5 shallow surfaces, 1 deep dive for a duration of four minutes were consistent particularly when the current had turned to flood.

As the flood tide gathered speed and surface of the water livened, so did the speed in which the whales foraged. Whirlpools and eddies gave the water a dynamic appearance and we could feel it shift the boat ever so gently as we drifted amongst it.

On our way home we used the current to our advantage, which surged us forward through narrow passes and channels, enjoying the harbour seals who were doing exactly the same.

A splendid day, under a mix of sun and cloud, on a smooth and lovely sea.

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Beautiful Blue!

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Alert Bay Ambassadors on top of the Alert Bay Info Centre!

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Beautiful blue waters and a humpback whale!

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Held Captive In Concrete Tanks Around The World!

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This photo explains without question what happened to resident orcas from the Pacific Northwest Coast in the 1960s and 1970s. Of the 45 delivered to Marine Parks only two are still alive today surviving in their concrete tanks ~ Lolita and Corky remain captive because of us their audience!

~ photo credit: Boycott SEA WORLD ~ urging Cetacean Advocacy

https://www.facebook.com/CetaceanAdvocacy?fref=photo&sk=photos

Captivity of animals of any kind has always bothered me and when we first began our whale watching tours and later created our first web-site, the Captivity of Orcas (aka Killer Whales and Blackfish) has always been a huge source of concern for us and we will often talk about and discuss the topic with our guests on board during our tours.

We fully understand that not everyone can afford to take themselves and their children on a whale watching tour to see whales and dolphins in the wild but we do know that most people if they so desire they can watch them on television in documentaries and video’s so designed today to make us feel that we are there with the whales and dolphins as we watch.

As a child growing up in New Zealand I well remember watching the black and white movie ‘Born Free’ and sitting cross-legged on a mat in the teachers staff room with all the curtains drawn as the film reel played onto a rolled down screen in front of my class of 30 children. I so well remember sitting spellbound through the entire movie with the images showing Elsa’s return back into the wild. Those images resonated deep within me at the time and have remained there throughout my life.

I have never forgotten either when my parents took my siblings and I to the Auckland Zoo. What was to have been a treat for us all became a nightmare for me with the sight of seeing an elephant in a small concrete enclosure, a polar bear also in a concrete enclosure and lions pacing back and forth in cages etc……..I will never forget those images and while I have always dreamed of seeing lions and elephants and all the other animals that one can see roaming wild and free in Africa, I quite possibly never will but seeing them in so many documentaries over the years I feel that I have and it has enriched my understanding of the animal kingdom far more than an aquarium or zoo ever could.

Captivity is not the way to educate ourselves or children about wildlife, not in this modern age with easy accessibility to well made narrated video’s and documentaries that most of us can view from the comfort of our own living rooms.

Born Free is a 1966 Technicolor British drama film starring Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers as Joy and George Adamson, a real-life couple who raised Elsa the Lioness, an orphaned lion cub, to adulthood, and released her into the wilderness of Kenya. The movie was based upon Joy Adamson’s 1960 non-fiction book Born Free.

In my poem below I use the words dolphins and orcas interchanging. With orcas being the largest members of the dolphin family both species are being held in captivity in concrete tanks.

 Held Captive In Concrete Tanks

Round and round they go, the largest
dolphins of their kind. Depressed and
lethargic they circle, from years of abuse
by confinement and isolation, separated
from their families, often solitary and living
their lives as prisoners in concrete tanks.

How can men, women and parents today find
any joy in this heartless captive industry when
technology brings to us for free the sights and
sounds from oceans vast via hydrophones
and wildlife web cams. There is no excuse, not
one today for this captive industry to stay alive!

How can you take yourselves and children to see
a depressed and floating orca that has been stolen
from the wild and from its family? In a pool you
do not see their playfulness and awesome wonder
that delights the rest of us who rejoice in seeing
them swimming free on camera and in the wild! 

Dolphins travel in all oceans that divide our earth
and yet in knowing this you people still go forth
to see them imprisoned in a tiny concrete pool!
How can you? Surely you know better by now
after endless protests for change and powerful
documentaries like the last one ~ Blackfish.

Do you not see that the tanks are inappropriate
to house their enormous size? Compare it to
locking yourselves or your child inside a closet
or bathroom for a lifetime but so much worse
for in the wild orcas can travel a distance of
some 100 miles each day with their families.

Yet still you go! And your children guided by you
they go too, because you tell them it is okay and
that they will love the orcas so much more because
they will see them black and white, up close while
you allow for them to peer on down into the concrete 
pools and through glass walls, shame on you!

~ written by Maureen Towers ~ October 31, 2014

A new documentary:

“A Day in the Life of Lolita” is all about 44 years of misery in a concrete tank!

~ by filmmaker Daniel Azarian:
It’s not easy to cram 44 years of animal misery into one nine-minute documentary, but filmmaker Daniel Azarian has done just that.

Azarian’s documentary short, “A Day in the Life of Lolita,” tells the story of one of the loneliest killer whales in the world, who lives in the smallest orca tank in America, at the Miami Seaquarium.

So why such a short film to tell such a long story?

“The intention was to keep it under 10 minutes so it could be spread via social media and a good amount of information could be disseminated in a fairly short amount of time,” Azarian told The Dodo.

Azarian first heard about Lolita shortly after the 2010 death of SeaWorld Orlando orca trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010. “I never really had given orcas much thought, but the story hit the news and made me curious, so I searched online and learned the plight of Lolita, which simply broke my heart.”

Lolita’s story has broken many hearts.

In August 1970, at just four years of age, Lolita, who was initially named Tokitae, which means “nice day” in the Coastal Salish Indian language, was captured during the infamous Penn Cove roundup. Some 80 whales, comprising nearly every member of the Southern Resident orca community, were ensnared. Most were released, but seven youngsters, including Tokitae, were sold to aquariums around the world. She is the only living captive who survived that roundup.

Tokitae was sent to Miami, renamed Lolita and put in the Seaquarium’s small pool as a playmate for a young orca named Hugo, who was taken from Puget Sound in 1968. Hugo would often send high-pitched shrieks across the aquarium grounds, and repeatedly banged his head on the tank wall. One time he broke a viewing window and sliced off the tip of his rostrum on a glass shard.

The two whales performed together for ten years, until March 1980, when Hugo slammed his head into the wall for the last time. A bottlenose dolphin then became Lolita’s only animal companion.
 Not long after hearing about her story, Azarian met Dr. Ingrid Visser, a killer whale scientist who heads New Zealand’s Orca Research Trust and is a world-renowned anti-captivity advocate.

“I’d never met her in person — I had never seen an orca for that matter — and she graciously asked if I would join her on her trip,” Azarian said. “We decided to film her visit, simply to document and have a record of it.”

One noteworthy aspect of their footage was clear evidence that Seaquarium was in violation of OSHA regulations regarding trainers and their proximity to orca tanks — the film shows one trainer in the water and “riding” Lolita for performance. Last July, OSHA ordered the Seaquarium to prevent its trainers from “wet work and dry work performances” in the pool and the facility had to pay a fine of $7,000.

About a month after filming, Azarian reviewed the footage of Lolita floating alone in her pool. “I didn’t feel sadness. I didn’t feel emotion. I felt dead,” he said. “Lolita was just bobbing there, and appeared to be so out of it. I realized we had something potentially very powerful and at the same time very simple on our hands.”

The film follows Visser as she visits the Seaquarium. “It’s not just a mission of passion, it’s a mission of compassion,” she says to the camera. “It’s a tragically small tank.”

Given a chance to speak with the Seaquarium’s owner, Visser adds, “I’d say, ‘What where you thinking? You wouldn’t treat your children that way. You wouldn’t treat your dog that way.”

As the film notes, the federal Animal Welfare Act mandates that orca tanks must be at least 48 feet in each direction. Lolita’s tank is just 35 feet wide. Her story was also told in the 2003 feature documentary, “Lolita: Slave to Entertainment.”

Lolita’s tragic circumstances have inspired a worldwide movement to return her to her native waters. For years, the Orca Network has promoted a plan to retire the whale to a bay on San Juan Island and, perhaps, eventually reunite her with her family. 
Last year, the Orca Network, Animal Legal Defense Fund, PETA and others petitioned the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to include Lolita with her Southern Resident Killer Whale community on the Endangered Species List, meaning she could not be kept in captivity. In January NMFS agreed, opening a 60-day public comment period, after which it has up to 18 months to make a decision.

“The time has come for us to evolve and realize it is no longer ethical to keep these sentient creatures in what basically amounts to a sea circus,” Azarian said. “Hopefully, we are in for a change, but it is still a long road ahead.”

Visser, in the film, makes the point in a more poignant fashion. “The only way Lolita is going to retire otherwise,” Visser says, “is if she dies.”

The story above was written by David Kirby ~ It was featured on The Dodo Facebook ~ October 31, 2014

https://www.thedodo.com/lolita-the-lonely-orca-is-stil-792299619.html

David Kirby, a regular contributor to the Huffington Post since 2005 and TakePart since 2012, has been a professional journalist for nearly 30 years, and was a contracted writer for The New York Times for four years. He is the author of “Animal Factory,” a highly acclaimed investigation into the environmental impact of factory farms, and “Death at SeaWorld.” Kirby was nominated for four LA Press Club/Southern California Journalism Awards, and won for Best Environmental Reporting of 2013. 

Other links:

http://o.canada.com/entertainment/movies/blackfish-director-undaunted-by-seaworlds-toothy-attack

ORCA NET WORK http://www.orcanetwork.org/Main/

THE CORKY PROJECT     http://orca-live.co
LOLITA   http://www.slavetoentertainment.com

 

 

Two Humpback Whales ~ a beautiful tour

After several days of NW gales blowing, today’s light wind conditions and sunshine made for a gorgeous day out on the water. After viewing harbour seals and stellar sea lions hauled out with some also swimming in the water, we sighted the blow of a humpback whale far down in Blackfish Sound near the Parson’s Island light and as we came closer we realized that there were two humpback whales swimming side by side. At one point we observed them working their way slowly, feeding close along the Hanson Island shoreline. We identified one of the whales as being KC who was born in 2002 and feeds often in our local waters, from now through fall and we are waiting confirmation on the other whale. We had thought it to be ‘Nick’ (called after the nick in the dorsal fin) but ‘KC’ has been reported as having a substantial nick in its dorsal fin as well now. On the way home we had a brief viewing of a small group of Dall’s Porpoises feeding.

* Thanks to Christie for the update, the second whale that we saw was likely Arial.

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Three Humpback Whales and a Minke whale

What a beautiful day we shared with the sighting of a Minke Whale soon after leaving the dock in Alder Bay. The  whale was foraging in the flooding current and after viewing three surfacing’s we did not see it again. It was very exciting seeing the blow of a humpback whale heading west towards us in Blackfish Sound and soon found ourselves swirling in the current in Weynton Passage along with three humpback whales. Having enjoyed the presence of one, we discovered a second one followed by a third that we identified as Guardian when it surfaced nearby.  Unfortunately our camera was left behind today by mistake and so we do not have any photo’s to post. There were numerous bird species including pigeon guillemots, rhinoceros auklets, harlequin ducks and bald eagles. Stellar sealions and dalls porpoises were also seen. It was a beautiful sunny day that we all so enjoyed!

Still glowing in the aftermath of yesterday’s majestic Humpback Whales ~

Humpback calf: Stitch IMG_1857 IMG_1859 IMG_1959Early this morning a full rainbow arched across the bay directly out in front, it was a beautiful message and gift at the start of this new day. The aftermath of yesterday’s tour with all of its extraordinary sights and sounds still glows fresh in my mind, likewise, that of so many amazing tours this season. It has been a fabulous summer shared with like-minded people who came from all corners of the world (and mingling with a fascinating mix of Cultures and dialects) to see the whales and dolphins who inhabit our local waters in the summertime. The Humpback Whale “Slash” shown in photo’s yesterday, shows the traumatic injury to her dorsal fin where she no longer has a fin, her body also has slashes across the top of her body, both injuries caused by a boat propellor some years ago. Meanwhile, her young calf “Stitch” is growing fast and we can only hope that it will return each summer for many years to come. Learning its way now from its Mother, it is a truly wondrous and courageous feat for one so vulnerable and young! These photo’s posted today were taken on yesterday’s tour.

Humpback Whales feeding on bait balls – a phenomenal sight!

IMG_1623 IMG_1636 IMG_1662 IMG_1694 IMG_1738 IMG_1751 IMG_1783 IMG_1784 IMG_1803 IMG_1806 IMG_1894 IMG_1899 IMG_1910 IMG_1923 IMG_1927 IMG_1935Today has to be one of the most precious days of our season whale watching, possibly because it was our last tour of the season, but more likely because of the utmost remarkable feeding behaviour of numerous Humpback Whales in the area, especially that of “Slash” and her calf “Stitch”. What a fabulous day we all shared, all of us intent on seeing whales in the wild and on seeing the natural beauty that abounds in the waterways of Blackfish Sound and the Plumper Islands. When departing on our tour this morning the wind had lessened greatly from last nights storm, the rain had ceased and it looked to be a beautiful day with even a promise of sunshine. Making our way into Weynton Passage it was not long before we caught our first glimpse of a Humpback Whale blow and then soon more, there were three we sighted down in Blackfish Sound, one behind us with two more out towards Donegal Head.  A rainbow appeared in the vicinity of Donegal Head, perfect in its timing for us to see when the lighting suddenly changed and became just right for the rainbow to form, it was a brilliant start to our tour! We carried on towards Bold Head where yet another Humpback Whale was sighted and then two more that we identified as being “Slash” and her calf “Stitch”. With the current still ebbing we observed the whales moving around in circles, some whales were near while others were a distance away and we so enjoyed it all. The sun appeared, lighting our way in its brilliant fashion and Gulls, Common Murres and Rhinoceros Auklets began assembling in large numbers and the sound effect of their chorus callings, especially that of the Gulls, were quite remarkable. Suddenly, within moments, change arrived in the waterways, the tide had slackened and the flood began and almost simultaneously, began the frenzied behaviour of birds and whales together feeding. It was phenomenal, exciting and breathtaking to see the energy of the whales and birds, all of them focussed upon the most basic of their needs, to eat! With the appearance of “Slash” and “Stitch” our attention turned to them and rightfully so as the pair of them commenced feeding, both of them together, lunging through the centre of a herring ball, it was spectacular and immensely moving. We all watched spellbound and in awe as they moved about the area, with Slash a distance away from her calf, feeding through a bait ball where birds had gathered, while Stitch worked back and forth through the waters where a previous ball had been. It was enlightening and inspiring our learning and gaining knowledge from this pair: a mother and her calf, both of them feeding, the mother teaching, the calf learning, both of them side by side for now, it was profoundly wonderful for us all to witness this precious moment of learning in our lifetime. A spontaneous full breach nearby us, by either Slash or another whale feeding nearby, the image of which remains fully imprinted in all of our minds was simply amazing to see and contributed greatly to our enjoyment and wonder today. Also seen today: Stellar Sea Lions, Harbour Seals, Pacific White-sided Dolphins, Red-necked Phalaropes, Pelagic Cormorants, Sooty Shearwaters, Belted Kingfishers, Great Blue Herons, Bald Eagles, Mew, Bonapartes, Herring and Glaucous-winged Gulls.

In the company of gentle giants ~ it was extraordinary!

IMG_1479 IMG_1480 IMG_1514 IMG_1528 IMG_1501 IMG_1531 IMG_1539 IMG_1559 IMG_1563 IMG_1566 IMG_1568 IMG_1577 IMG_1588 IMG_1592 IMG_1603 IMG_1605 IMG_1615 We enjoyed another fabulous day of viewing Humpback Whales and while fog was present in the early part of our tour, we watched mesmerized as it cleared in waves, drifting back in momentarily, it would clear again  enabling us to view numerous whales moving about Upper Blackfish Sound and our viewing became mystical and calculating while listening for their blows when not seeing them in the fog. We also listened to the penguin-like calls and cries of Common Murres, and the frenzied activity of gulls feeding on the herring being driven up to the surface by the ever-present diving birds, Murres and Rhinoceros Auklets, enabling the gulls to also take advantage to feed whilst the herring shimmered on the surface of the water. As the ebbing current slackened, the humpback whale feeding intensified as bait balls began forming again and again with increasing bird activity.  It was exciting and phenomenal to watch, all of us with focussed anticipation, waiting for a whale to surface, all the while observing how their exceedingly large sleek bodies could move with rapid acceleration and momentum when lunging up through the herring (and gathered birds) seemingly out of nowhere! As well as lunge feeding and their constant cruising through areas where diving birds had gathered, we observed one whale coming up through a herring ball and hang suspended at the surface, opening and closing its mouth wide as its food source entered at the same time pirouetting its head around, we all watched fully immersed and intrigued by this extraordinary feeding behaviour. Including seeing Slash and her calf Stitch, we were very fortunate in seeing 8+ Humpback Whales today. Also seen: Stellar Sea Lions, Harbour Seals, Dall’s Porpoises with one bow riding briefly alongside on our way back into Alert Bay at the end of the tour, Sooty Shearwaters ++++, Pacific Loons, Red-necked Phalaropes, Ancient Murrelets, Great Blue Herons, Belted Kingfishers, Glaucous-winged, Herring, Mew and Bonaparte Gulls.