A Morning with Beluga Whales
Post by Jake Levenson, IFAW Global Whale Program Officer, Headquarters Office
This morning we awoke at 4:30 to be out on the observation platform at 5:00am. The observation tower is connected to the island by a small spit of land that's only exposed at low tide. Basically it means that if you stay on the observation tower too long you're stuck there until the next low tide.
When I was a kid my family took a trip to the Bay of Fundy, home to some of the most extreme tidal variations on earth. My brothers and I would wander on the mudflats. The further you walked, the more you would sink into the mud. Once, my little brother's foot was just engulfed by the mud, and his shoe was lost, never to be seen again. That's how the 1.5 mile walk out to the observation tower feels -- wet, sucking, sinking, sticky mud. And wet.
In a desperate attempt to stay dry, I pulled on my dry suit bottoms, which would keep my legs and feet protected from the water. Unfortunately, dry suits are not the best gear for long walks and hikes. Every step was a struggle, as I tried to walk while holding up my dry suit. The picture to the left shows me pulling on my dry suit. Luckily for me, there are no pictures of me "walking" in it!
You have to walk right next to what's a small island at high tide full of nesting terns. The parents are very protective of their chicks and dive-bomb anyone who comes near. Beautiful animals but all the calling and diving birds made me like I was starring in the Hitchcock movie. I did my best to pass quickly and quietly, so as not to disturb the nesting birds and suffer their wrath.
The trek was worth it. We we got to the observation site, we saw a bunch of beluga whales almost immediately. I'd expected them to be much further offshore, but they were really just a few yards from the rock I was standing on. A couple calves were mixed in along with the adults. You can ID the calves b/c they're gray and not white. The calves would play and splash while the moms stuck together in their own group. Very cool stuff. The picture below shows a playful gray calf splashing in the foreground, and its white mother diving in the background.
So that's the morning's adventures....we're back at the site waiting for the next low tide, which will come around 6:00pm....
Before signing off, here's a picture of our "office." In this photo, Antonio (standing) and I are working together to finish up a blog post. Every post requires a satellite phone for a connection, a battery for power, and a bit of luck as well. It's all worth it, though, to be able to share our adventures and findings as they happen.