Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Queen of the North Oil Spill: "An Orca Runs Through It"

Hermann Meuter and Janie Wray, reserchers at Cetacealab on Gil Island, near the site of the Queen of the North ferry wreck, report on the journal portion of their web site what is believed to be the first sighting of a killer whale swimming through the diesel sheen from the leaking ferry. According to the Cetacealab account, yesterday evening at around 6 PM A32, a 22 year old male, was seen surfacing "right in the middle of a 25 feet wide sheen of diesel!!" This event apparently occurred in Wright Sound, south of the entrance to Grenville Channel.

This observation would seem to add a whole new dimension to the response operation, since until now the authorities have argued that the impact of the diesel on wildlife has been minimal. Granted, no one knows what the impact of swimming through a thin sheen of diesel fuel will be, or indeed whether the other members of the same matriline also waded through oil. However, Hermann has also indicated in an email to me tonight that earlier today he and Janie spotted the entire A5 pod of northern residents in the area; this pod consists of approximately a dozen individuals. Thus, we could well be about to witness a live and unfortunate experiment on the impact of oil on a group of whales. Let's hope it does not happen.

In terms of later arrivals of northern residents, Hermann reports that several of the A-Clan pods, such as A12, A30, A4, B and C, are likely to arrive in May and June. He also says there are occcasional visits from G-Clan pods, and last year almost all of the R's showed up as well.

Humpbacks have already started arriving in the area, according to Hermann: three individuals are said to have been spotted in Caamano Sound last Saturday. Hermann also informs me that contrary to popular belief, humpbacks do not just pass through on their way to Alaska. Instead, a group of between forty and fifty resident humpbacks tends to reside in the area during the summer months. Apparently the bulk of them tend to arrive in July.

Stay tuned to the Cetacealab journal, as well as this blog, for an update from Hermann and Janie as to what they witnessed today, Tuesday, out on the water from the unique vantage point of their boat.


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