Out of the Fog

I returned to Race Rocks today after attending the Trans-Atlantic workshop on Ocean Literacy and the European Marine Science Educator’s conference last week, in Gothenburg, Sweden. I am refreshed and inspired to finish off my shift at Race Rocks.
It was warm and sunny when Courtney and I left Pearson College in Pedder Bay this morning but as we drove southeast towards Race Rocks, we were soon enveloped in the cool, damp fog. As the sunny peaks of the Olympic Mountains slid out of view, obscured by fog, the dark shape of North Islet emerged and behind it came Great Race and the light-tower, out of the fog. It is great to be back and was just as great for Jeff, who was filling in, to leave.
It was foggy on and off all day with a few periods of sunshine with visibility of over a nautical mile. Throughout the day, the foghorn blew and I could hear ships signaling as they navigated the Strait of Juan de Fuca in the fog. There was no wind for most of the day but it has been consistently blowing about ten knots out of the west for the past several hours and the fog is thickening.
The fog did not deter the whale watching boats as there were Humpback Whales feeding in the area today and the last cruise ship of the season in port. One smaller Humpback was diving and presumably feeding right in the Ecological Reserve diving against the flooding tide. I wonder if they can use the flow to their advantage in feeding more efficiently with less effort? Natural history speculation aside, the count of observed whale watching boats from 11:00 to 19:00 (dusk) was thirteen with some vessels visiting more than once.
The Chum Salmon run started in earnest while I was away and there appears to be fewer sea lions hauled out than there were before. There are many in the water however. Sea lions of both species are very busy eating Chum Salmon with most of the kills I observed, happening right in or at the edge of the tidal flows. They thrash the fish and rip it apart at the surface and swallow large chunks tail last at the surface as well. This source of scraps, of course attracts gulls. Several species of gull were seen in these sea lion driven feeding flocks today; Glaucous-winged, Hermann’s, Thayer’s and Ring-billed Gulls. There were three or four fairly hefty Elephant Seals hanging around the marine railway today. They have such huge eyes and such clean looking pink mouths. Many of the Sea Lions have serious tooth decay and oral disease.

While I was away there were several a visits to the island. The Victoria Natural History Society made it part of their birding trip on September 27, sixteen friends of the Royal BC Museum made a visit October 4th and a family visit was made by by Mike and Carol Slater, one of their daughters and several grand-children. Mike and Carol were the last light-keepers at Race Rocks and the first Eco-Guardians. They survived some epic storms and I am sure they have some great stories to tell. If you are interested in the “contemporary” history of Race Rocks, there is a lot of information on this web-site, including ancient videos, images and even historic weather events.

My main tasks today were to get moved back into the house, to do the seawater sampling, fix the pier fence and run the generator for a few hours in order to top up the batteries. There is new clean oil in the Lister gen-set and new filters etc. thanks to Jeff. The old Lister seems to run better than ever tonight a I finish my last task, posting this blog..