Today was the marine naturalist's gear-down hosted by The Whale Museum here in Friday Harbor. Twice a year (the gear-up for the season in the spring, and the gear-down after the season in the fall) they offer a full day of lectures on a variety of informative topics. We also have a Salish Sea Association of Marine Naturalists (SSAMN) meeting at the end of the day. I gave my half hour introduction on listening to Southern Resident killer whales and figuring out which pod you're hearing, but there were lots of other great talks too. Here are a few of the cool facts I learned today:
- Being a border region with a complex geography, lots of smuggling has and does occur around the San Juan Islands. In addition to the expected smuggled items like drugs and (during the prohibition) alcohol, some other surprising things have been smuggled locally - like wool. In the 19th century British Columbia was not yet a part of Canada and had to pay a 22 cent/lb tax when they sold wool outside of their territory. Some would smuggle wool to avoid this tax.
- In 1920, a smuggler could buy a case of whiskey in Canada for $15 and sell it in the US for $175.
- Antarctic killer whales shift the frequency of their vocalizations to avoid overlapping with leopard seal vocalizations.
- One of the most common visual cues that a predation event has occurred among Southern Residents is one whale stopping at the surface and waiting for another whale (the one that is catching or has just caught a fish).
- The SeaDoc Society is conducting a study about the movements of rehabilitated harbor seals compared to those of pups that were weaning in the wild. This study is ongoing right now, but one of the first things that seems apparent when you look at the maps is that pups that were rehabbed and re-released are traveling further than wild weaned pups.
- Fecal samples from transient killer whales include hair balls (makes sense - they do eat seals and sea lions!).
- Bowhead whales are the only baleen whale to spends the entire year in Arctic and sub-Arctic waters. They can live to be over 200 years old, and have been seen playing with logs near the Mackenzie River estuary.