Sometimes a vacation becomes more than just kicking back and relaxing. Sometimes it takes on a purpose which entails some effort, but in the long run, it also relaxes and refreshes, which are the two hallmarks Theresa and I have always tried to achieve when ‘getting away.’
In early May, we had an opportunity to travel on a whale watching expedition along the West Coast of the United States, from San Diego to Vancouver, Canada. In addition to the expedition staff on the ship, which could carry a maximum of 144 passengers, two women from ORCA, a whale watching and preservation organization based in the United Kingdom (www.Orcaweb.org.uk) were along for the ride positioned on the aft viewing platform at 6 a.m. every morning until dusk (if the ship was cruising) spotting, identifying, and noting location of marine mammals. Lucy Babey, ORCA’s Head of Science and Conservation and Anna Bunney, ORCA’s Education Coordinator, were collecting and analyzing data as well as teaching novices how to do the same. Theresa and I often joined them on deck and went to several of their auditorium presentations in order to be certified as ‘Citizen Scientists’. Our main goal was looking for cetaceans, which include whales, dolphins and porpoises. By the end of the trip, the entire group of us had spotted 15 different sea mammals, several unidentified mammals, and a total of 565 cetaceans! Not bad!
Among the highlights were watching a humpback whale breaching (jumping out of the water) under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco Bay, and being playfully bow ridden by a quartet of Pacific White Sided Dolphins off the coast of Washington State. Theresa was then credited with spotting a school of mixed Dolphins, included the Pacific White Sided Dolphin and the Northern Right Whale Dolphin (distinguishable by its lack of a dorsal fin) cruising for the ship at high speed to bring the total dolphin count closer to 70.
On our non-cruising days we got to explore some great nature onshore including an up close view of Mt St Helens, a still active volcano with almost daily earthquakes, which erupted dramatically in 1980 killing 57 people, 56 of whom were in the ‘safe zone’. Hiking at Point Lobos State Park near Monterrey gave us a spectacular view of a harbor seal birthing site and several sea otters which were not included in the ORCA mammal count. Each day had a unique active expedition, and we were by no means the youngest people on board.
Our goal was to walk at least 10,000 steps a day. We maxed out at over 19,000 walking with brother Bob in San Diego and over 18,000 in one of our treks along the Dungeness Spit near Port Angeles, Washington (8.5 miles). Marvin Zigman, an 85 year old gentleman from LaJolla, was with us on many of our trips and joined us in the gym for some treadmill action while cruising (although Theresa and I preferred walking the deck and looking for whales). I hope to have his health and vitality at age 85, and will continue to follow his regimen of healthy walking, even when relaxing with the whales!
So if Whale watching is your ideaof a good time, you don’t have to charter a boat. Check out ORCA which teaches folks how to be a citizen scientist and is counting and identifying whales from cruise ships and ferries throughout Europe and now America. It truly is relaxing to watch God’s magnificent creation do its thing, weather it is animals or erupting mountains!