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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Surprise Transients

I was over at my friend Jeanne's house yesterday afternoon, and while we had heard there were transients inbound from Race Rocks in the morning, we pretty much thought there would be no chance to see whales from shore that afternoon. As we were sitting there talking, however, Jeanne kept looking out the window. All of a sudden in the middle of our conversation she yelled "We have whales!!"

"No way. You've got to be kidding me. No way," I kept saying in response. We both jumped up and looked out the window, and then over the choppy waters a huge spout shot up into the air right off the point at the south end of Andrew's Bay (just north of Lime Kiln). The plume went so high and stayed in the air so long despite the windy conditions that at first we almost thought it might be a humpback whale! But soon we saw two, then three, blows and through binoculars could see the distinct dorsal fins of orcas. From outside Jeanne's house, we watched as three transients, including the tagged male T19B, made their way through Andrew's Bay and up north. Not only was it exciting because it was unexpected, but because of the rough water conditions we got to see whales from land while most of the whale-watch boats stayed in more protected waters and didn't go out searching for the transients.

You can follow the very interesting progress of T19B, female transient T30, and now also the minke whale we saw in San Juan Channel on the Cascadia Research tagging site, where every morning they post updated maps of the whales' movements. While I'm as excited as anyone else to check back and see where the whales are moving (for instance, the T30s have been traveling along the continental shelf - is this a pattern more widespread among transients? Also, where do the minkes go when they leave the inland waters - no one knows!), there are many potential consequences of giving this information out to the public on a regular basis. It allows the commercial whale-watch companies to know where to look for the whales before anyone is actually out on the water first thing in the morning. There are many issues to ponder surrounding this, and I will probably blog more about it later, but for now I'm fascinated to follow the progress of these tagged whales.

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