Sunday, 28 February 2010

Whale watching and surfing


After we got over the relief that we were all safe, I was disappointed that we did not get to take part in the whale count as planned. Although we couldn’t count whales “officially” , Sam spoke to some of the sanctuary staff and we went out to Lanai Lookout to try our hands (and paws and flippers) at whale watching with the help of the sanctuary staff (all of whom are camera shy so don’t appear in the photos).

With some patience and luck (from our 2010 Sanctuary Ocean Count t-shirts we were wearing) we did get to see some whale activity including several blows, a couple of tail slaps and even a breach! When a whale breaches it leaps clear of the water and then crashes down into the ocean with a huge splash. Wow, it was an amazing sight.

I asked the people from the sanctuary why the whales perform those behaviors. They told me that scientists have a variety of theories. The whales might be displaying dominance (showing off!) or maybe they are trying to remove barnacles. They grow on the whales skin and must itch terribly, only they can’t reach to scratch them with a flipper. I know what that’s like but us bears can rub our backs against a tree, it feels ohhhhh so good! May be the whales are just playing and having fun! The scientists aren’t exactly sure yet (and Henry’s not telling – he just said it was a whale thing).

After whale watching I wanted to do a bit of surfing. I had learned some new moves and I wanted to test out my new skills! Sam came with me, but decided to have a quiet afternoon of relaxing with his beach ball on the sand.
So I joined other, more veteran surfers and I think I did pretty well considering I am only a newcomer to surfing. Even Sam, being quite the body surfer himself, was impressed! “Not bad for a bear!” He exclaimed, clapping his flippers as I rode a wave into shore.
We sat on the beach for a while watching the surfers. Then my stomach started to rumble, I'm hungry lets get something to eat. Sam agreed, we took one last look at the surfers and headed up the beach.

Aloha everyone, Ed and Sam

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Tsunami Warning!

Hi all

Instead of being woken up by the alarm clock, Sam and I woke at 6:00am to warning sirens echoing throughout the islands! An 8.8 magnitude earthquake struck Chile and sent a tsunami wave heading straight towards Hawai‘i!

For the safety of all of the volunteer helpers, the Ocean Count was cancelled state-wide and all coastal areas were evacuated. Luckily, Sam and I were staying with a sanctuary intern whose apartment was located on the 12th floor, 2 miles from the coast so we were, literally, high and dry.
To be on the safe side, I ventured out with Sam several hours before the tsunami was scheduled to arrive to stock up on water, batteries, candles, flashlights and canned foods. For the rest of the day Sam and I listened to the radio, watched the news and kept an eye on the ocean through binoculars from their 12th story lookout.
There was lots of activity, both on land and water as people scrambled to prepare and boats hauled out from port to weather the incoming waves. The only action that we didn’t spot was whale activity—the whales too must have sensed thwe danger and kept diving down to keep themselves and their calves safe.

Anyway, the tsunami was scheduled to hit Oahu at about 11:30am. While tsunami waves did arrive they didn't get higher than a few feet and there was no damage or injuries and everything settled back to normal by the evening. The warning was lifted mid afternoon.

We were safe, but I heard on the news that hundreds of people had died in Chile where the earthquake originated. We all sat in silence for a while feeling sad and feeling lucky that we were safe.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Ed arrives at the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary

Hi all

Sam and I have arrived at the Oahu office of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, we were both feeling a bit stiff after our long journey. We were met by the office mascot, Henry the Humpback, who greeted us straight away and wisked us away for a tour of the office—the staff here barely had a chance to say hello! We had arrived here to take part in the annual ocean humpback whale count.

Henry seemed very excited to have company! Henry gave us each whale hats as a welcome present, which fitted perfectly. To help with the humpback whale count we would need to know more about the whales here and the sanctuary. As we toured the office we learned lots of interesting facts about the sanctuary: where its boundaries are and that it covers 1,370 sq. miles of ocean.

We also learned that the humpback whales are not found on the sanctuary all year round. Infact most of the humpback whales migrate thousands of miles to the Hawaiian Sanctuary from their rich feeding grounds around Alaska. There is lots of food for them in the summer, krill a type of shrimp that lives in vast shoals like fish. They catch this krill by filtering it from mouthfuls of water using baleen - this is what humpback whales have instead of teeth. We eevn got to touch a piece of real humpback whale baleen.

However, its not a good place to give birth to baby whales so they swim all the way to Hawaii where the waters are warm and calm.

I asked Henry if we had a good chance of spotting a whale. Henry told us that up to 12,000 whales come here annually between November and May. The breeding grounds here are also especially important since humpbacks are currently on the Endangered Species list though their numbers are recovering.

I was amazed to find out that the whales don’t eat while they’re here in Hawaii, which can be several months. My stomach started to rumble just at the thought of it. The adult humpback are beautiful blue/black colour with white tummies and flippers. But guess what, a baby humpback whale is completely white when its born.

Henry even showed us his very own picture in a book on Hawai‘i’s humpbacks of when he was a calf—Henry himself was born here in Hawai‘i!

Sam and I took over in the sanctuary for the sanctuary’s superintendent, Naomi McIntosh, for part of the morning and she was very impressed with how we were running things. The staff here thought we made a great team!

After a short meeting with two other very important representative members of Hawai‘i’s native wildlife—Harry Honu (a sea turtle) and Malia Monk Seal—in which we talked story and Sam and I impressed them with tales of our travels so far, we were all ready to call it a day! After all, the next day was the sanctuary’s most important volunteer project, the Sanctuary Ocean Count, in which volunteers from all around Kaua‘i, O‘ahu and Hawai‘i count whales and record their behaviors from shore. This information is then compiled with data from the other counts over the past 15 years and can give us important information about the numbers of whales that visit each year and how they are using Hawai‘i’s coastal waters. Me and Sam are here to volunteer as well, so we had better have an early night.

See you all tomorrow for the whale count, Ed and Sam.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

The science of surfing

The next stop on our trip was Kalaloch beach. The Winter storms in the Northwest can be so rough they actually lift large, dead, logs and deposit them on the beaches.

It must be pretty dangerous to be on the beach when that is happening. I'm glad its much calmer today.

Sam was dying to go for a swim. He said sea lions are happy to be out of the water for long periods of time, but his fur gets very itchy after a while a good swim would sort it out. Sam invited me to go surfing. Sam said he keeps a spare surf board and wetsuit in the back of the car when he is travelling, just incase he needs to lend it to anyone. Sam, of course doesn’t need one as he can surf the waves with his body.

Sam said I would need a wetsuit as the water is very cold. I asked Sam if he would feel the cold. He said, like many other marine mammals he had a thick layer of blubber, or fat, which keeps him warm. He said it works just like a wetsuit. In fact, the sea otter, that also lives along this shore, is the only marine mammal that does not have blubber. Instead, sea otters have a lot of hair: 170,000 to 1,000,000 hairs per square inch!

(c) Madralynn Haye Marine Photobank

That's a lot more than my fur. Sam said Sea otters have so much hair that their skin never gets wet! That is why sea otters do not need a wet suit and I do.

Surfing was great fun and I learned some science too. Waves are created when the wind blows over the sea. The friction between the wind and sea transfers some of the winds energy into the ocean. This makes a wave which travels across the ocean as a wave of energy. (Try blowing the surface of the water in washing up bowl. This will make a small wave).

As the wave gets nearer the coast, friction plays another role, this time at the bottom of the wave. Friction between the bottom of the wave and the seabed slows the wave down and makes it taller - now it looks more like a wave. As the wave moves nearer to the beach, the friction slows the bottom of the wave down so much that the top of the wave topples forwards and breaks with crash of spray and foam. But thats not all. If I stay still on my surf board I will just bob up and down as each wave goes past.

To surf, I must already be moving forward, but the trick is moving at the right time. Now the energy of the wave will push me forwards and all I have to do it keep upright and not fall off. Easier said than done, but thats why I am wearing the wet suit. Wipe out!

North of Kalaloch is La Push, home of the Quileute Tribe. For those of you who are Twilight movie buffs, Bella’s friend Jacob is Quileute and goes to school in La Push. My buddy Steve's daughter is a great twilight fan, the books and the movies, she will be so jealous.

The most northwestern point of this area of the US is Cape Flattery which is on the Makah Indian Reservation. Jacqueline said that this year the Makah Tribe is hosting tribal journeys. Tribal Journeys is a weeklong event that celebrates the canoe culture of the Northwest Coast Native Americans and First Nations. I wish I could stay around and take part.

I really enjoyed my visit to the Olympic coast. I hope I will get to return soon and maybe even go out on a boat to tour the Sanctuary and see some of the amazing marine life that lives in the ocean.

Back to the Hawaiian Islands for my next stop to help out with studying humpback whales. I might even get to try my underwater housing in the ocean for real.
Bye for now, Ed and Sam

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Rainforest and Hoh river watershed

On the drive back, we drove through Hoh reservation and the nearby rainforest. When most people think of rainforest they think of tropical rainforest in South America and Africa. Jacqueline told me that there is also small amounts of temperate rainforest in the world.
(c) Walter Sigmund

This is an important area of rainforest as it is quite rare. The rainforest provides a wonderful lush green canopy of trees and with mosses and ferns create a home for many animals. There is an almost ancient feel about rainforests as if any minute a dinosaur might poke its head out of the trees.

I enjoyed crossing the beautiful Hoh River which is fast running in the winter and flows more gently in the summer. The river is also full of salmon, my favourite fish. Fishing is important to the Hoh tribe as well.
(c) National Park Service

The Hoh River connects the glaciers in the mountains to tidal waters on the coast. Glaciersare large areas of ice that move slowly across land. All of the land area that has water that drains into one common source is called a watershed. The Hoh watershed includes the mountains, the river, and the ocean that the river drains into. The health of a watershed can affect the ocean. A healthy river can help maintain all of the complicated factors in an ocean ecosystem, while an unhealthy river can hurt the ocean’s ecosystems.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Plankton and Chitwins

Hi All

Sam and I headed for the coast with Jacqueline Laverdure, Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary Education and Outreach Specialist. The Olympic Coast is one of the last wilderness coastlines in the United States. There are four coastal tribes –the Quinault, Hoh, Quileute, and Makah who live on the coastal areas of the Olympic Coast, as they have for thousands of years.

Jacqueline along with her friend Karen Matsumoto, Marine Science Education Coordinator from Seattle Aquarium, visited Taholah in the Quinault Indian Nation, for their Ocean Science program. The word Quinault evolved from kwi'nail, the name of the tribe's largest settlement once situated at present-day Taholah, at the mouth of the Quinault River. Taholah is the heart of the Quinault Indian Nation.

In the Ocean Science program, fifth graders get to look at plankton through microscopes. You may remember from a previous report that plankton are very small plants and animals that form the base of the ocean food chains. Jacqueline and Karen set up a special microscope for me to take a look at some plankton. They are fascinating to watch as the swim around in jerky movements. They look like creatures from out of space.

Taholah’s mascot is the Chitwin, or black bear. Chitwins are revered throughout the Quinault Indian Nation’s history. They have a deep respect for the Black Bear and I was pleased to see that my black bear cousins had such a special place in theri hearts. I thought this was so special that I asked if  I could have my picture taken with a sculpture of a Chitwin.

In the background you can see a totem pole.

Bye for now, Ed and Sam

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Bella at the Brighton Science Festival UK.

Hi all

I’m still here in the US at the Olympic Coast but in the UK Bella and my buddy Steve took a display about my adventures to the Brighton Science Festival. I was invited, but I could not go because I knew I would still be travelling in the US. So Bella said she would go instead.

The display showed all the places I had been to so far with some examples of what I had seen and learned during my travels. The display included a map to show visitors where the different places are located in the world. You can see some of the pictures below

My buddy Steve also made a PowerPoint display of my travels and did two talks during the day showing people lots of the pictures of the wonderful places I have visited and what I have found out so far.

Steve also took along his life sized inflatable dolphin model which included information about dolphins and also about local dolphin sightings.

Steve also did two dolphin rescue demonstrations during the day with some help from kids from the audience.

Steve and Bella gave out some information about my adventures which included my weblog details so that more people could follow my adventures. This information also included the weblog address for Project Soar to encourage people to find out what my buddy Fred the Monkey has been up to. You may remember that I met Fred the Monkey and his buddy Ron Hirshi back in October last year when I stayed with them on Marrowstone Island and went with them to Kauai.

It sounds like Bella and Steve had a fun day.

Bye for now, Ed

Monday, 8 February 2010

Deepsea Corals and Acid Oceans

Hi all

You may remember that I looked around the discovery Centre yesterday and learned some amazing facts about deepsea habitats and deepsea corals. Well today, Sam and Hannah took me to meet another Ed! Ed Bowlby the research coordinator at Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary (OCNMS).

Ed. B is one of the lead researchers on the deep sea coral cruise.

Ed. B explained that deep sea corals are very sensitive animals. Yes- Animals! Corals look like plants, and they don’t move around like most animals, but they are animals. Individual coral animals are called polyps. Corals are at risk around the world from changes that are happening to the ocean.

Ed. B said that researchers have learned that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reacts with seawater and lowers the ocean’s pH, making the ocean more acidic. This phenomenon is called ocean acidification. You may remeber when I was at Spokane Community College last year with Methea, I learned a bit about pH and acidic oceans while helping Methea with maintenace of their 180 gallon marine invertebrate tank.

Ed. B explained that as the ocean becomes more acidic it may dissolve the outer skeletons of animals like corals faster than they can build a new skeleton. It can also weaken the shells of mussels, clams and oysters. He said that there are still so many things we do not know about ocean acidification and what it may do to animals that rely on the food chain (what they eat) that may be hurt.

I thought this all sounded really scary!.

Afterwards, Ed. B introduced me to some of the other OCNMS staff, too.

Find out more about my stay at OCNMS very soon.

Bye for now, Ed and Sam

Friday, 5 February 2010

Ed visits the Discovery Centre at the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary

Hi all

Well, we have both arrived safely at our next destination, the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary.

Sam showed me around the discovery centre which he said is the best place to start, because there is so much to see. The sanctuary includes a very big piece of coastline. In fact 135 miles of beautiful shoreline with very little human buildings and has more than 48 miles of wilderness beaches – un-spoilt and natural. This area is very different to my coastline back home which has many houses, a harbour and industrial development.
And guess what, the Olympic coast sanctuary also includes the ocean to about 35 miles from the shoreline. The coastline here is home to 29 species of marine mammals, hundreds of species of birds, and thousands of species of fishes. My buddy Steve will be so jealous. Sam also introduced me to Hannah, who told me that Native American peoples - the Hoh, Makah, Quileute and Quinault - have lived along this coast for thousands of years and continue to do so today. When I was with Ron I had the chance to meet some of the S’Klallam in Port Gamble. I hope I get the chance to meet these fascinating native people who lives are entwined with this amazing coastline.

I saw a huge 3-D map showing the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary boundaries. Sam told me that Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary has three underwater canyons – Nitinat, Juan de Fuca, and Quinault. These underwater canyons are steep-sided valleys on the seafloor. Sam told me that the lighter blue areas on the map showed the shallower continental shelf close to land and the dark blue, sunken-in areas were the deeper ocean areas.

Sam explained that deep water is very different to shallow water near the surface. This is because deep water is colder, has less light, less oxygen, and more pressure. The deeper you dive the more water is above you. The weight of this water pushing down is what we call pressure. Animals that live near the surface would be crushed by the pressure if they dived too deep. Some animals have adapted to live in deepwater with this pressure, but would die if they came to the surface. 10m below the surface and the pressure is 2 times greater than at the surface. At 1000m the pressure would be 100 times greater than at the surface. Humans would need a submersible (mini-submarine) to reach that depth and only a few whales can dive that far down. Sam said he was a very good swimmer but 1000m was far too deep for him to dive.

So the animals that live in the deep water habitats are quite different to those that love near the surface. In the deep water off the Olympic coasts live deep sea corals, usually at depths between 80m and 1000m. They are different than tropical reef corals found in shallower, warmer waters in the tropics, such as the corals I saw in the sea around Kauai.

Most tropical reef corals have algae called zooxanthellae that live in their cells. The algae take energy from the sun and convert it into food for the corals. Deep sea corals do not have these algae because there is no sunlight in the ocean depths. They have to rely on stinging tentacles to catch their food.

In the sanctuary the deep sea corals live in the Juan de Fuca Canyon. I learned that even though corals may look like plants, they are really animals related to jelly fish. Sam and I investigated the coral Lophelia under a large magnifying glass!

Next, Sam showed me the exhibit of Paragorgia. Although the coral has one hard skeleton, I can see many individuals coral animals (called polyps) that live in the skeleton. These white polyps live in a colony. While the whole colony can grow to one metre tall each individual polyp is usually less than a centimetre!
Primnoa was the last coral I saw in the Discovery Centre. This exhibit showed how corals provide habitat for many other animals. The display said that these rockfish live amongst the corals, but other animals like invertebrates (animals without backbones) are also found among corals.
Scientists use submersibles (crafts that go underwater) for deep sea research. While no one was looking me and Sam climbed up on top this submersible for a closer look.
This is called the Deep Sea worker and is a one-man submersible. The Deep Sea worker is great for taking photos or making observations, but a machine like the ROPOS (Remotely Operated Platform of Science) is better for deep sea coral research.

The ROPOS is not as dangerous as a manned submersible. Researchers do not need to be inside the ROPOS to operate it. Instead, the ROPOS is attached by a cable to computers on a ship above the water. This means the submersible can help with research, while the people are a safe distance away.

Wow, I have found out lots of stuff about the Olympic Coast. I hope I will be able to see some of these things for myself while I am here.

Bye for now, Ed and Sam

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Ed on the radio!

Hi all

Today I got to sit in as a very special guest on KWMR (, community radio for West Marin, the hometown of the offices of Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary. Jennifer hosts a monthly radio program all about the ocean.

I got to sit in the studio and listen in to an interview with the West Coat National Marine Sanctuaries Regional Director, Bill Douros. He talked about how coastal managers have to consider the land/sea connection when making management decisions about the ocean. Bill discussed how it is important to  consider how the coastal ecosystem is intertwined with many things such as habitats, and peoples work. It is also important to consider the various functions that the ecosystem serves.

My buddy Steve, back in England, is on the management group for the Shoreham Beach Local Nature Reserve, which is also my local beach. The management group has to consider not just the rare vegetated shingle habitat, but also the needs and possible impact of local residents and beach users. This also includes recreational use of the beach and the inshore waters, such as fishing and kite surfers. The management group must also consider impact from issues such as climate change and marine litter.

I also got to hear about the San Francisco Ocean Film Festival that is coming up. What fun, an entire film festival about the ocean! You can find out more by following the link below.

You can hear Bills interview by visiting this website

It may not be available straight away, if not try the link again in a few days.

You can also hear past shows from all sorts of ocean topics from deep water exploration, to a woman who has been rowing across the Pacific Ocean in a rowboat, Roz Savage (Roz is from the UK).

I learned that it would be better to come back to Cordell Banks in the fall months (We call it Autumn back in England). In the fall the weather typically calms down on the ocean and humpback and blue whales can be seen in the sanctuary waters. That would be great to see.

It was great here and its a shame I must leave already. I'm heading off for my next destination, the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary tommorow! I wonder why its called the Olympic Coast?

Bye for now, Ed