*Note: this summer, we are fortunate to share live updates on research being conducted by Vancouver Aquarium’s Cetacean Research Lab, whose team is traveling along the coast of British Columbia to gain additional insights that will support its groundbreaking cetacean research. This fourth installment was written by cetacean research assistant Meghan McKillop.
Wednesday June 27 – We hauled the anchor early this morning and traveled west into Queen Sound. The winds were forecasted to be a bit stronger than what we like to work in, but we wanted to see what the conditions were like for ourselves. As we sat and ate breakfast near the north end of Goose Island, the winds didn’t seem too bad but everything was quiet on the hydrophone. After breakfast, we continued to survey south down the east side of Queen Sound. We came across a raft of sea otters but they were very jumpy so we didn’t get close.
As we travelled south in Queen Sound, the swell continued to get worse so we carefully traveled through the Spider Islands and into the more protected waters of Kildidt Sound. Then we traveled through Nalau Pass and across Fitz Hugh Strait before stopping in the entrance to Burke Channel. We floated in Burke Channel for a while, listening to the hydrophone and making dinner. Then we anchored in Fougner Bay for the night.
Thursday June 28 –We woke up this morning with the forecast calling for high winds again so we decided it was a good day to head into town to top off our supplies. We left our anchorage and traveled north up Fisher Channel. We detoured briefly to check out another potential anchorage in Kisameet Bay that looked good on the charts – it was a pretty spot, although deeper than indicated on the charts, but looks like a great little anchorage.
We stopped near fog rocks in Fisher Channel to survey and listen to the hydrophone. Sure enough, we heard the distinct squeaks of Pacific white-sided dolphins. We found the dolphins just a little farther north of us in Dean Channel. The group consisted of about 150 dolphins with a mix of some larger, easily identifiable animals, and many young animals. When we first encountered the dolphins, they were very vocal and the larger dolphins were playful and bow-riding. Then rather suddenly, that all stopped and the dolphins became quiet and more stealthy in behaviour. We searched around, expecting to see some transient killer whales, but never did see what seemed to have spooked the dolphins. A little while later we saw a humpback whale, also surfacing very quietly as if was trying its hardest to be inconspicuous.
We left the dolphins and traveled west through Lama Pass and tied up at the dock in Shearwater for a couple hours. We met up with some local researchers from the local non-government organization Pacific Wild, based on Denny Island, to catch up on research projects and talk about collaboration.