Today was a really nice day in Sydney; our first call without a cold wind blowing and with the sun shining for most of the day. Our past calls were not that bad either but then it still felt more like a chilly spring than real cruising weather. But now it seems that summer is arriving in Sydney as well. Certainly for the locals. The entertainers Sydney provides on the dock side in the afternoon for our guests were without coats so for them it must be summer.
I do not know much about whales, just enough to ensure that we on the ships can avoid them when we sail through what is really their habitat and not ours, but it seems that we see more and more whales in this area. I came to Alaska for the first time in 1982 and compared with then we see much more wildlife there now. Preservation is starting to pay off. I have been coming to the St Lawrence since 1991 and then we did not see any wildlife at all; now it is also becoming much more frequent. The real challenge for us in this area is that are many more species swimming around than on the Pacific side. Makes it much harder to keep them apart. In the Gulf of Alaska and coastal waters you see Humpbacks and Orca’s or killer whales. There are other species but they are not very prevalent.
Now here in the St Lawrence estuary and the related waters we have at least 13 species which are all drawn in by the immense richness of fish in the river and the plankton in the coastal waters. According to the local website what should be out there are: The Atlantic white side Dolphin (*), the Beluga (*) (all year around), the Blue Whale, the Fin Whale (*), the harbor porpoise (*), the humpback whale (*) (I would be amazed if he wasn’t ), the Killer whale (*), the Long finned Pilot whale, the Minke Whale (*), the North Atlantic Right Whale, the Northern Bottle nose whale (easily confused with the Beluga), the Sperm whale (*) and the White Beaked Dolphin.
Those with an (*) I have seen for sure. As a matter of fact we saw harbor porpoises this morning before we entered Sydney Harbor. For the rest you have to be more of an expert. Take the Beluga for example, they are sort of whitish but if the sun is under the wrong angle then they look similar to the Northern Bottle Nose Whale and the only difference you can then see is the dorsal fin on the back. The Northern Bottle Nose has a much bigger one than the Beluga.
The Beluga Whale we see very often near Saguenay fjord just up the St. Lawrence River. And when I see them, then I am confident enough to make an announcement to the guests, as most of the time they stay with the ship for a while. Nothing is more frustrating than to make an announcement and by the time the guests have made it to the deck, the wild life is gone. Similar to Humpback Whales, the Beluga’s “don’t run away that fast”. It seems that they are very curious so they tend to hang around a bit to find out what that big blue thing is that is swimming through their pond.
The fact that we see more and more of them does not mean that they are not endangered animals anymore. Far from that but it seems to me that they are starting to re-cuperate slowly but steadily. But we have still a long road to go until we reach the numbers before the large scale whaling started in the 18th. Century. Then we have a new challenge out there caused by ourselves, the big Plastic Garbage patch. One in the mid-Atlantic and one in the mid Pacific. I am still waiting for an inventor out there who comes up with an industrial sized vacuum cleaner and just sucks all that stuff out of the Ocean. Question is then, were do we put something like a 100 million ton of plastic particles?
I am just happy that our guests can see more and more of the wildlife out there. And if we can bring them closer with a ship then that is very gratifying. We on the ships just have to ensure that we respect their habitat and cause as little interruption as possible. After all, they were there a long time before us.
For those of you who are interested: http://baleinesendirect.org/en/whales-of-the-st-lawrence/
The three small drawings also came from this website.
Tomorrow we are in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island and it is supposed to another sunny day, with little wind. Temperatures in the mid 50’s or around 13oC.