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Song of a Humpback Whale

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Dipping into what seems like a deep blue silence, I am greeted by the erie song of a humpback whale in the vast south pacific ocean surrounding Tonga. If you are near a singing whale, the sound comes from within as it pulsates through your fluid watery body. The tones literally flows through you and you can feel it reverberating through your core. Some people describe a sensation in their chest or felt in their bones. Off the islands of Vava’u I felt it seeping through my body, pulsating and tingling. I dove deep into the blue abyss alone but not, listening and in awe.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Only the male humpback whales sing an elaborate song and primarily during the breeding and calving season. While much is still unknown, its thought that air is pumped through sacs attached to the larynx region and then reverberates out through their massive throat. It is truly one of the greatest concerts on earth which was shared among an intrepid crew with www.bluewaterventures.org! Thank you whales…..

 

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It was such an honor to share our humpback whale experience with Ash and Shona, our incredible guides with Tongan Expeditions. Ash is from the the village of Whangara on the east coast of New Zealand where the Whale Rider movie was filmed. His life has been spent observing whales from above and below. Ash is a full blooded Maori and Shona is 1/2 Maori, both so attune to whale energy. It was an incredible experience to watch them in the water respectfully interacting with a baby humpback whale. Though a little blurry, note that the young whale is guarded by both mama whale as well as an escort adult whale.

Humpback whale escorts are a true mystery of nature and so intriguing to observe from below. During our swims, we had several encounters with escorts. Several snorkelers received a clear message to keep a distance from baby whale when an escort posiitoned itself between mother/calf and humans. Though no physical touch or overt aggression, the escort would deliver a gentle reminder of their immense power as it established underwater boundaries. We are humbled and in awe…..www.bluewaterventures.org

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The Mola Mola Ocean Sunfish

Imagine an irregularly shaped disk with exaggerated fins, bulging eyes and a tiny mouth below a bulbous flat head flopping around at the surface of Monterey Bay and you have discovered the ocean sunfish, Mola mola!  As you approach this mystical creature, it suddenly dives out of sight undulating its dorsal and ventral fins as it disappear into the depths. The Mola mola is the heaviest   bony fish known to exist in the ocean realm.   It sustains itself on a diet of gelatinous creatures such as the egg yolk sea jelly among other planktonic jellies found in Monterey Bay. Beginning life as a tiny minuscule drifting egg, an ocean sunfish will begin to grow increasing its size by over 50 million times until it reaches the size of a minivan. To put this into perspective, imagine a fully-grown marine toad, Bufo marinus weighing over 120,000 pounds that began its journey though life as a tiny tadpole, weighing less than a gram. Mola mola are acknowledged in the Guinness Book of World Records as producing the largest number of eggs of any fish ever recorded. A single female ocean sunfish held 300 million eggs. The ocean sunfish thrives in temperate and tropical oceans including the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean, and the Mediterranean Sea and on rare occasions, the Bering Sea. While their preferred habitat is open ocean, they may sometimes wander into kelp forests and deep coral reefs.

Natural History Notes

Its is intriguing to note that adult ocean sunfish lack a swim bladder, the organ in fishes that gives them the ability to control their buoyancy.  Ichthyologist once assumed that ocean sunfish traveled at the whim of prevailing currents drifting along with other planktonic forms of life. However, studies have revealed that the Mola mola can reach speeds of over 3 kilometers per hour and cover over 25 kilometers per day. While often appearing lethargic and slow moving near the surface, they are quite capable of speed and swimming to depth.aaScreen Shot 2017-07-01 at 8.42.11 PM

 

However, since ocean sunfish are often drifting at a pelagic snail’s pace, they are subject to a high degree of parasitism. Seeking slow moving creatures such as sea turtles basking in the sun, whales in breeding lagoons and meandering ocean sunfishes, a variety of parasites will climb aboard for an easily obtained and predictable meal.

 

Another interesting story can be woven between Mola mola and Bufo marinus, the lethargic marine toads of Tropical America. Oozing from the paratoid glands of these impressively large toads is a milky substance which contains bufotoxin, a strong neurotoxin. The ocean sunfish is classified among the Tetraodontiformes, an order of marine fish which contain a powerful neurotoxin, tetrodotoxin. Unlike their cousin the pufferfish, ocean sunfish probably lack the deadly toxin.  However, the toxins derived from both the marine toad and the Mola’s cousin, a Caribbean pufferfish have been used in the Haitian traditional practice of zombism.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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We were simply spellbound watching a reef squid feeding at night on our recent BVI Multi Sport Sailing Adventure! The video captures the pulsating chromatophore color cells and the lighter feeding tentacles waiting to strike. It happened so quickly that we missed capturing it on the video, but we’ will all remember the rapid strike and entanglement of a tiny fry fish, possibly a silverside.

The next morning, several of us encountered a school of over 60 reef squid watching us as we watched them! So many great moments in the Caribbean! Join us at www.bluewaterventures.org.

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Wildlife viewing is outstanding right now in Elkhorn Slough! Mother sea otters are extremely attentive to their pups who may remain with her for 6 to 8 months and longer if needed. Clearly this mother gives her pup ample time to accomplish the task of crawling back onto the beach but eventually comes to its rescue.

As she raises up on her hind legs, she resembles the movement of her terrestrial relatives, weasels, minks and badgers, all members of the family Mustelidaes.

Our next kayaking tour will combine baby sea otter viewing with fine culinary cuisine, an Elkhorn Slough tour on May 7th at http://www.bluewaterventures.org.

Prehensile Manatees!

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So many incredible and memorable moments during our Springs and Manatee adventure. On our final day, our group was mesmerized watching the prehensile lips and fleshy region of a manatee known as the oral disc.

Slowing down the video, you can see the stiff thick bristles edging either side of the mouth that actually help grab vegetation moving it towards the mouth. To my knowledge, no other mammal uses stiff whiskers in a prehensile manner.

screen-shot-2017-01-28-at-2-31-20-pmHighly sensitive, these thick whiskers as well as the 3000 tactile hairs that cover their tough hide aid manatees as they explore a murky world.

 

 

Check out our upcoming adventures at http://www.bluewaterventures.org

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Blue Water Ventures offers naturalist-ledadventures world wide. We lead kayaking trips in Central California, The Sierras, Baja, Belize, British Virgin Islands and Tonga where we snorkel with humpback whales.

Working with all ages, we specialize in school field trips and private family groups. Our youngest audience are 5th gradersnd we take schools of all ages to the university level.

We also have a very demand for naturalist-led programming for our blue water women followers.

Join us!
Kim Powell, MRPA
Owner, Operator & Naturalist
Blue Water Ventures
phone & fax: (831) 459 8548
email: bluewaterventuressc@gmail.com
website: http://www.bluewaterventures.org
127 Mason St, Santa Cruz CA 95060

follow us on Facebook! or our Nature News Blog Site

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During our naturalist-led kayaking trips in Elkhorn Slough, we discuss what lives both above and below this rich ecological wetland area. The eelgrass beds are expanding due to an interplay among three Slough species.

A fascinating relationship has developed among the Taylor sea hare, their crab predator and the charismatic coastal marine mammal, the southern sea otter, Enhydra lutris nereis. During the early 1980’s, Elkhorn Slough and its associated eelgrass beds experienced a recruitment of the southern sea otter. As the otter’s range expanded into the slough, the population of Phyllaplisai taylori expanded correspondingly since otters started keeping a check on several crab species, which prey on the slug.

Not only did Phyllaplisai taylori expand in numbers but also they tended to live longer and grow larger with fewer pressures from crab predation.560220_871548582889436_8191899317797331968_n-1

As the slugs flourished in the Elkhorn Slough, the eelgrass beds became notably healthier. The slugs grazed upon many of the encrusting algae forms that would otherwise compete with eelgrass for sunlight. Acting as a nursery arena for a variety of marine fauna, healthy beds of Zostera marina is a highly desirable trend.

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During certain times of the year, we observe a high density of certain sea jellies such as the Red Eye Sea Jelly caught on video here.

Join our next naturalist-led adventure with
http://www.bluewaterventures.org
Kim Powell, MRPA
Owner, Operator & Naturalist
Blue Water Ventures
phone & fax: (831) 459 8548
email: bluewaterventuressc@gmail.com
website: http://www.bluewaterventures.org
127 Mason St, Santa Cruz CA 95060

follow us on Facebook! or our Nature News Blog Site

http://www.bluewaterventures.org

Elkhorn Slough is a fantastic location for a corporate team building event and our professional naturalists are ready to assist you! Our programs always include incredible wildlife viewing that helps to build a sense of unity among colleagues. Birding is fantastic and there are plenty of marine mammals to view.

We can do a variety of team building activities such as “walking the plank” problem solving and kayak races.

Some corporate groups choose to do an evening paddle with us. Night kayaking is magical and when conditions are favorable, we may witness the extraordinary light show produced by bioluminescent plankton. During the summer and early fall, bioluminescent algal blooms may light up the dark night water with every stoke of our paddle blade.

Leaving from Moss Landing, we’ll have a leisurely paddle through Elkhorn Slough before full darkness is upon us. Our trip will begin with a quiet observation of 20-30 sea otters that reside in Moss Landing Harbor. Beginners welcomed.

The Protected harbor of Pillar Point near Halp5070389f Moon Bay is another great destination to enjoy a team building event.

Hope you can join us!

 

 

 

 

Kim Powell, MRPA
Owner, Operator & Naturalist
Blue Water Ventures
phone & fax: (831) 459 8548
email: bluewaterventuressc@gmail.com
website: http://www.bluewaterventures.org
127 Mason St, Santa Cruz CA 95060

follow us on Facebook! or our Nature News Blog Site

http://www.bluewaterventures.org

Our school field trips to the protective water of Pillar Point harbor sometimes have some real surprises. During the fall of 2016, Humpback whales were consistently seen lunge feeding near shore where students could observe safety from the jetties. An amazing teaching opportunity!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Launching from Pillar Point Harbor, we’ll have a leisurely paddle through the protected and scenic harbor. Cormorants, pelicans, terns and harbor seals join us for our naturalist-led field trip. Across the harbor we can beachcomb, explore tidepools and have a shore lunch before paddling back.

A very popular activity with students is pulling a large seine net to examine our catch and continue our discussion of animal adaptations. Teachers, please feel free to call us to discuss curriculum ideas in greater detail.

The cost of your field trip is $48 per person with a complimentary trip for one teacher chaperone. $50 per person weekends.

Hope you can join us!
Kim Powell, MRPA
Owner, Operator & Naturalist
Blue Water Ventures
phone & fax: (831) 459 8548
email: bluewaterventuressc@gmail.com
website: http://www.bluewaterventures.org
127 Mason St, Santa Cruz CA 95060