2014 Florida Volunteer Updates

As the North Atlantic right whales migrate to the South Georgia/Northern Florida coast each winter volunteers help watch for and capture critical details related to this endangered species. This information helps scientists track the fate of the species and acts as a first alert system to pilots in the shipping lanes to avoid accidental killings. This blog shares the findings, photos and other pertinent information gathered from the Palm Coast Sector Volunteer Team while helping to connect and communicate the many ways we can protect the right whales and sustain our wonderful ocean life.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Once In A Blue Moon Kind of Weekend

The weekend started on Friday when, as the "Blue Moon" was rising before dark over the ocean here in Florida, I witnessed a spectacular display of dolphins that will stay with me the rest of my life. After seeing what at first seemed like a small whale breech the surface I grabbed my binox and noted a large school of large fish were near the surface as dolphins were jumping up and over each other. I was simply mesmerized. It was as if they, too, were celebrating the moon's second appearance of the month as well as feeding on such a fine meal. And I thought of my mother who recently passed and how it was I came to love the sea.

On Nauset Beach, in East Orleans on Cape Cod another kind of meal was actually being avoided. Nauset is a beautiful strip of land that meets the Atlantic Ocean with a salty on-shore breeze, loud rolling surf, strong tides, moderate sized dunes topped with tall beach grass bending in the breezes and a deep, white sandy beach. This is the same beach where I first met the ocean and enjoyed then being beaten up by her waves for hours upon hours, never minding that the water temperature hovered between 65 and 70 degrees. Not so today as it makes my ankles turn blue if not actually purple just to stand in it for a few minutes. And on this Labor Day weekend, typically the busiest of the summer,  Nauset Beach goers are only allowed to go in up to their ankles "due to the presence of marine life in the water." Yep. Sharks. But not just any sharks. Great Whites. Thursday the spotters in the air and on the water located the first one and then on Friday several were seen multiple times "lingering" off of Nauset. No one is complaining of course. Except maybe the owners of the snack shack. As Great Whites have amazingly sharp sense of smell and will travel miles following their favorite food. Which in this case are the seals that are now protected and living on Monomoy Island, just a few miles south of Nauset. And while sharks don't "typically" consider humans a food source, the Great Whites do not discriminate. 

Then on Saturday, the sun rose over the beach in Fort Pierce, FL, a beach soon packed with people struggling with their inability to save 22 beached pilot whales who were discovered floundering there. We don't typically see pilot whales off shore as they swim in much deeper waters and only come close to shore when they are sick or to die. And the sad part is that when one whale is sick and leaves the pod the rest of the pod typically follows because, as social creatures, it is their instinct never to leave a whale behind. A very sad situation as most of the whales died or had to be euthanized Saturday, but 5 of the whales were able to be rescued and taken to the Florida Atlantic University's Harbor Branch Institute in Fort Pierce. So far they are hanging in there. Exhausted, but slowly recovering. And one of the whales is under the age of 2 and still nursing, however her mother did not survive so the experts at Harbor Branch are now substitution moms and bottle feeding the whale. In a few days, when the five are up to the two hour trip North, they will be transported to their new home at SeaWorld in Orlando, FL where they will be looked after until they are strong enough to be released back into the ocean.  

What an abundant sea life we have around us and seeing how our paths often cross I am assured one is always looking out for the other. Let's hope for a more relaxing Labor Day both in and out of the water and please remember to thank the many people that work hard to protect our oceans and our friends in them. 

P.S. Yes, that is me as a young girl in the photo above on vacation at Nauset Beach as two of my three older brothers wait to catch the next wave. 

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