The Whale Hunter And The Fur Traders (As Told In 1750 In The Aleutian Islands)

The Unangan had lived on the wild and remote Aleutian Islands of Alaska for thousands of years after their epic journey across the ancient land bridge from Asia. They lived by the sea and were successful. This was all about to change for these people known as Aleut today.

It was early morning and the damp cold breeze from the Bering Sea was blowing in my face. I, along with other hunters, stood by our kayaks with harpoons ready to begin the big chase. Whales had been seen on the north tip of the island near the big rock. To hunt the whale was dangerous and not everyone returns even though the Shaman had given us his blessing. The whale is big and powerful and our boats are small; yet, we hunt as a pack and succeed many times in bringing this huge animal to shore. But I knew I would be safe because I had a sacred amulet around my neck that would protect me from harmful spirits.

I was about to place my kayak in the water when I saw entering the bay a large ship with many sails coming straight for my village. Not a word was spoken as we stood in awe and wonderment. The big boat came to a stop not far from shore and lowered its sails. Within moments we saw a flash of white smoke from the boat, than a loud deafening boom, followed by one of our dwellings blown apart.

A small boat was then lowered over the side full of men and our people scattered in terror as they approached the beach. One of our hunters ran down the beach to the small boat to try and stop the men from coming ashore, when one of them aimed at him with his long stick. A loud blast and the hunter lay dead. We had no such weapons to protect ourselves and we knew that to refuse meant death. Everything was in chaos as the men from the boat rounded up all the people in our village and separated the men from the women and children.

We were in a state of shock as we men were put in the small boat and taken to the big ship along with our kayaks. It was then we learned that to protect our families from harm we had to hunt the otter for its fur. To refuse meant the destruction of our families. Every morning we set out in our kayaks and every evening we returned to the ship with otters we had taken that day. All was hopeless for us and we did not know what to do since there was no one we could summon for help. My amulet handed down throughout history always kept me safe while hunting the whale but was not able to over-come the spirit of the big ship. I never saw my family again and knew my life was at an end.

Such was the fate of the people of the Aleutian Islands in the 1750’s when Russian traders descended on a land rich in otter and seal fur. People through out the world were waiting for these furs and how they were obtained made little difference. The greed for fur closed everyone’s eyes except for the lonely whale hunter.

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The Largest Fish In The Ocean – The Whale Shark

When you mention the word “Shark”, it puts the fear of God in people’s mind instantaneously. Is it really fair to give “Jaws” bad reputation to all shark species? Well, the answer is: “No!” In fact, the Whale shark is a good example of a shark specie that is totally undeserving of such a bad reputation.

Of the 350 to 375 shark species that swim in our oceans, seas and even in some of our rivers, the Whale shark is amongst the 80% of sharks that do not represent any danger to humans.

Despite the fact that the Whale shark is of considerable size with its length reaching up to 60 feet, it is also known as a gentle giant as it is mainly feeding on krill, shrimps, fish eggs, plankton and small fish.

As you can see, humans are not amongst its feeding habits. The only recorded shark attack done by a whale shark was provoked and not fatal. Injuries related to this shark specie happened while swimming too close to the tail or fins and were accidental. Any experienced diver would stay at least ten feet away from this powerful creature. From a safe distance, these giants of the sea are known as docile and inoffensive.

The Whale shark is known to live in nine areas of the world and Gladden spit is one of them. It is located in the Caribbean, near Belize City. Besides the fact that this area is also home to the largest coral reef in the Western Hemisphere, Whale sharks have been known to live in this area.

One of the main factors responsible for attracting this shark specie is the spawning of 10,000 groupers following the full moon. The eggs surfacing represent the tasty caviar enjoyed by Whale sharks.

The Whale shark’s powerful presence does not only attract divers and scientists but also an impressive number of tourists. In Thailand, ecotourism based on observing and watching Whale sharks in their natural habitat is an important and lucrative part of the tourism industry.

Watching Whale sharks has also encouraged several conservationist groups to promote laws to protect this endangered specie.

The Whale shark may be amongst the less known shark species but scientists are working hard on learning more about these gentle creatures and sharing their knowledge with the rest of the world.

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Witsand Is The Whale Nursery Of Southern Africa

Witsand is the whale nursery of Southern Africa

“Seeing a whale for the first time, waving its massive tail at us, is a stunning experience. And witnessing one of the 15m creatures hurl itself clear of the water in a breach is amazing.”
Bertil van Vugt, Tonight

It was the Southern Right Whales that put Witsand on the map, especially in the 90’s, because San Sebastian Bay is considered the “Whale Nursery of South Africa”. Investigating from a helicopter in October 1999, Dr. Best, a whale expert, confirmed a count of 233 whales in the Bay. On a good day, a whale watcher may observe up to 70 capering whales. At the beach restaurant there is a telescope on the roof, whalewatching platform that magnifies the whales up to 10 times. The platform is a perfect place from which to view the gentle giants of the sea and can accommodate about 90 people and there is plenty of parking. Whale-watching season starts in June and lasts until November each year.

Each year these majestic mammals come to our shores between June and late November to mate and calf. Witsand enjoys the lion’s share of this visit due to the bay being the prime nursery for cow/calf pairs.

Southern Right Whales are the least understood of all the world’s great whales. Weighing up to 58 tons, and with the largest and most highly-evolved mammalian brains on earth, Southern Right Whales have inhabited the great southern oceans for about 60 million years.

Migrating between their Antarctic summer feeding grounds and their mating and calving grounds off the coasts Africa, of Australia and South America, the Southern Rights are making a remarkable recovery from genocidal whaling last century and well into this century.

They are now becoming the focus of intense scientific and tourist interest, and are set to play a major role in the global, multi-billion dollar whale-watching industry.

In spring calving Southern Right whales cruise up and down the coastline, close to shore. St Sebastian Bay has the largest concentration of Southern Rights on the South African Coast. The official helicopter count done in October 2000 revealed 34 cow-calf pairs in the Bay, and 74 off de Hoop. On a good day you can see up to 50 Southern Right Whales. (Between May and December, boats should be wary of colliding with whales.)

Witsand is truly the home of the Southern Right Whale in Southern Africa. This peaceful coastal town is surrounded by two natural phenomena, the Breede River estuary and the Indian Ocean. The St Sebastian Bay houses the single largest winter migration population of Southern Right Whales. These gentle giants may either be viewed from the coast line at very close proximity.

Witsand/Port Beaufort, situated at the mouth of the mighty Breede River, is a holiday destination with a difference. It is situated 300km from Cape Town at the mouth of the Breede River along the Garden Route.

About Witsand in South Africa:

The central feature of the Malgas / Witsand area is the magnificent Breede River. It is one of the largest, most navigable rivers in South Africa and is rich in diverse species of fish and bird life. The Breede River is recognised as one of the best fishing estuaries in the country with tidal action that reaches 60 km upstream. The river is also ideally suited to a range of water sports

Our claim to fame is that we have the largest concentration of Southern Right Whales on the South African coast, growing at an annual rate of 7%. The officila whale count done from a helicopter in October 2002 revealed 117 adults and 49 calves in St Sebastian Bay. On a good day up to 50 are visible from the shore.

Witsand’s situation lends itself as a base to spend 3 or 4 days and explore the surrounding 200 km full of exciting venues. Places of interest include: Arniston/Waenhuiskrans and Agulhas, which is the most southern point of Africa; the Wine Route of Bonnievale, Ashton, Robertson, Montaqu and Barrydale as well as the hot water springs at Montaqu, Barrydale and Calitzdorp.

Beautiful mountain trails at Swellendam, Groot Vadersbosch and Riversdale is a fantastic one-day outing and the almost unknown Hamlet of Puntjie at the mouth of the Duivenhoks River, is only a 30 minute drive from Witsand.

Witsand offers a 4km long unspoilt beach, leading to the well-known Moodie’s Well. It has a clean, white beach (hence Whitesands) with safe swimming spots for days in the sun. Parents with smaller children also prefer the calm swimming spots along the river.

An experience definitely not to be missed, is the last hand operated pontoon (pont) in Southern Africa at Malagas.

If you need to experience a friendly village that offers food for your soul and a place to relax and unwind, we would love to share our peace with you.

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Cape For All Seasons – What to Do Along the Whale Coast

Conferencing venues in the Western Cape, South Africa, have much to offer that other conference venues do not. Apart from enjoying a wonderful climate, the The Whale Coast in South Africa is a stretch of coastline from approximately Gordon’s Bay outside Cape Town, encompassing Walker Bay and Cape Agulhas and stretching to the De Hoop Nature Reserve and Witsands at its eastern extremity. This area is famous for the marine life which finds its home in the cool oceans here.

The Whale Coast is one of the Cape’s busiest tourist routes due to the experiences and sights available here which are like no other in the world. Shark cage diving and seasonal whale watching are firm favourites, and there are a host of other activities to enjoy at different times of the year.


Summer in this part of the Cape is hot and dry, with weeks of sunshine following each other.

Summer begins in December and a festive atmosphere of holidays and fun is very much a part of the ambiance. Cultural activities are an important part of the Whale Coast and the summer bears no exception. Musical entertainment such as summer concerts and the Up The Creek music festival in the Breede River area are just a short distance from the coast and are well-attended.

There are many smaller, regular events such as local craft markets, flower shows, festivals and sports events ranging from mountain bike races to an endurance race for rubber ducks!


Crayfish (West Coast Rock Lobster) season is from mid November to mid April in the Western Cape and is a popular time for fishing and catching these delicious crustaceans.

The town of Gansbaai in Walker Bay hosts a Kreef (Crayfish) Derby in April, just before the season closes. Attendees get to feast on a wide variety of fresh seafood such as crayfish, perlemoen (abalone), snoek, calamari and others.

Gansbaai also hosts a Strandveld Ghost Tour in April. Locals and visitors alike have established a keen interest in folklore, myths and legends. The world-famous ship “The Flying Dutchman” was an ill fated vessel, destined to sail the stormy waters of the Cape until doomsday. The ship has been sighted along the coast here and was greatly feared by sailors and fishermen for hundreds of years, and there have been sightings reported until the present day.

In May, the town of Hermanus is host to the Urban Assault Mountain Bike Challenge, a 40km marathon for mountain bike fans.

Just outside Hermanus at the Onrus Caravan Park, also in May, visitors can enjoy the Onrus Vis (fish) Bash. The Vis Bash is a great opportunity for seafood lovers to sample different seafood dishes and a range of delicious local fish.


Winter along the Whale Coast is generally chilly and wet, but festivals and events are still a regular occurrence.

The Fees van die Ganse (Festival of the Geese) takes place in Gansbaai in July and is a celebration of the origin of the town’s name. The name emanates from when geese used to flock to the freshwater spring in the centre of the town. This festival includes a winter fynbos show. Fynbos is a shrub unique to the Western Cape area and makes up most of the Cape Floral Kingdom, one of six floral kingdoms in the world. Fynbos has many different species which flower during different times of the year which means that there are always flowers visible in the area throughout the year.


Spring is the beginning of the tourist season along the Whale Coast and for good reason! During spring, the Southern Right Whales leave Antarctica and travel to the Whale Coast to mate and calve.

Hermanus, Gansbaai and other spots along this stretch of coast have some of the best land-based whale watching sites in the world. The whales put on quite a performance as they play in the waters. The Hermanus Whale Festival is usually held in late September and is one of the most popular festivals in the area.

Food and wine are a big part of life along the Whale Coast. Inland from the Whale Coast in the Overberg and Boland regions, some of the best wines in the world are produced and these are readily available along the coast. Cuisine is also world-class, especially dishes including fresh seafood!

The Hermanus Food and Wine Festival is hosted in early August, showcasing the top local wines and cuisine, and is an extremely popular event.

All Year Round

There are many activities along the Whale Coast which are available to visitors and locals all year round.

Shark cage diving is a thrilling experience where one can see the ocean’s greatest predator from up close while remaining safe. Shark cage diving is usually a day excursion, starting early in the morning when sharks feed. A charter boat takes divers out to sea. The diving operations attract sharks to the boat with chum – a mixture of fish and other proteins. Once a shark has been spotted, divers are lowered into a cage attached to the side of the boat and can view the beautiful creatures from a safe place.

The Whale Coast is an area which is fun to explore on foot or on horseback. Many hiking and horse trails wind their way through the scenery and are incredibly educational if partaken with a guide. The trails offer incredible views of the coastline and the stretching oceans.

The Whale Coast is truly bustling with activities and events all year round, making the area a real “Cape of all seasons”.

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Why Save The Environment? Just Buy Another One

An amusing look at eco-posers. They can be spotted swigging from a 32 oz ‘Smart Water’ bottle, while walking a dog bred in a cage in Kansas by a guy who dumps animal crap in the stream behind his shed. They fervently support alternative energy but don’t want that wind turbine obscuring the view from their ocean-front estate.

They just had solar panels installed on the ‘weekend’ house but leave the engine running on the Range Rover when they ‘pop’ into Starbucks for that latte. They fly thousands of miles to Hawaii and Bali for global warming conferences on their private jet and cruise around paradise in a limo. They wear organic cotton “save the whales” t-shirt under a Prada jacket, and accessorize with a stunning pair of ‘blood’ diamond earrings. They’re on both the mailing list for Greenpeace and the Victoria’s Secret catalog.

They purchase carbon offsets, drive a Bentley, eat only the finest steaks, burn 50,000 kilowatts a day in their 5 homes, support solar power but think the panels look ‘icky’ on the Spanish villa they bought from that poor farmer in Mexico.

As a presidential candidate, they make 12 speeches in support of alternative energy subsidies while flying to 7 states in 24 hours on 6 different private jets, accompanied by a 63-person entourage that caravans from speech to speech in a fleet of 15 overstuffed Escalades.

They write an eco friendly column, but refuse to fix that dripping faucet in their bathroom.

To learn more about Green cleaning or the Natra-Dry range of products do not hesitate to contact Brian directly.

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How to Save the Whales One Leaky Faucet at a Time

How to Conserve Energy and Water through Your Plumbing

Whether you’re looking to lower your utility bills or preserve our earth’s natural resources, maintaining an energy and water efficient home is a top priority for many families. There are a number of different ways you can reduce your home consumption, including improving your plumbing or modifying your water use. Check out these strategies that you can use to make your plumbing more efficient.

Avoid Letting Water Run

Do you leave your tap or shower running as you wait for the temperature of the water to change? If so, then you’re definitely wasting both water and energy in the process. If it takes too long for your tap to produce cold water, consider storing in your refrigerator in a pitcher or filter. If it takes too long for your shower to get hot, try turning up your water heater’s thermostat a few degrees or calling your plumber.

Upgrade Your Appliances

As appliances age, they become naturally less energy efficient, which means they demand more electricity, natural gas, or propane to perform the same tasks. Older appliances can also become less water efficient since factors like sedimentation and corrosion can impact water consumption. Upgrading your dishwasher, washing machine, and water heater to more energy- and water-efficient models will lower your costs and reduce the need for future plumbing repair services.

Have Plumbing Leaks Repaired

Leaky plumbing is a huge source of energy and water waste. Even small leaks, such as a dripping faucet or showerhead, can result in the loss of thousands of gallons of water every year. Leaks in hot water lines also waste energy by losing water that has already been heated. Hiring a plumbing repair service to inspect and repair your plumbing can help to reduce water and energy consumption, as well as avoid water damage and mold growth.

Insulate Your Plumbing

Insulating your hot water pipes (especially plumbing near outside walls) can help to reduce fluctuations in water temperatures, which means your water heater won’t have to work as hard to supply your needs. During winter months, plumbing insulation can also reduce the risk of pipes freezing, which means less plumbing maintenance in the spring.

The best way to conserve water and energy is by having your plumbing and appliances inspected and maintained by a professional plumber on a regular basis. Plumbers can help to identify potential sources of energy and water waste, and can perform the plumbing repairs and services you need to save money and resources.

For more information on how to prevent plumbing disasters, check out our information page or look at some FAQ’s

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Save the Whale by Using Jojoba Oil

Jojoba oil is more commonly known as a hair care ingredient, but it is primarily a natural skin care product that also provides benefits to the health of your hair.

Although natural products are generally more beneficial than their synthetic equivalents, it is important to understand that this is not always the case, and that the benefits of the natural substance have to be evaluated in terms of what they, themselves, contain, and how these ingredients benefit your skin.

It is not enough to simply descry the synthetic ingredients of most commercial skin care products, and state blandly that ‘natural is best’. This is not always the case, and you must either prove the statement or not make it. To do that you should investigate the substances that the natural products contain and the make the case for them.

In the case of jojoba oil, we first have to qualify the term ‘oil’. In fact, it is not an oil but a wax. Technically it is a liquid wax in structure, and once it has been hydrogenated it very closely resembles the solid wax obtained from the sperm whale, spermaceti. In fact, this is where it finds its most important applications and the case for it being used as a skin care product.

At one time, the wax and oil of choice by the aristocracy and the glitterati of the day was spermaceti and sperm oil. However, since the sperm whale has been declared an endangered species, jojoba has taken its place, and because of its relatively low price relative to that of sperm what extracts, it is available to the masses.

It contains the long-chain alcohols and esters and the unsaturated fatty acids that characterized sperm oil and spermaceti, and that are so good for your skin. The same type of materials characterizes coconut oil and other natural products that are beneficial to your skin. There are many synthetic cosmetic preparations that contain the same alcohols and acids, but they are also likely to contain emulsifiers, mineral, oils and surfactants which can be damaging, and at worse leave routes open into your skin for bacteria, viruses and carcinogens.

Jojoba oil is closer in nature to natural skin oil, or sebum, than any synthetic oil developed, and if you had a choice to make between the synthetic alternative and the natural substance, which would you opt for? The closest natural substance you can find to your own skin oil, or a synthetic equivalent that could contain substances that rupture your skin cells?

The choice is yours, but before making it just think again on the sperm whale and on yourself. Its own oil never did it any harm, and your own skin oil never did you any harm, so why choose an unnatural mixture of oils (some may be natural) and synthetic chemicals over the real thing?

Using jojoba oil will not save the whale, but it might help, and it will certainly save your skin.

Laura’s website Castle Baths Spa Products offers information on a several different natural skin care products, and for more information on using dead sea brine for skin care, check out Castle Baths Jojoba Oil

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Welcome to the world of whales and dolphins

How many species of whale and dolphin are there? Where have they come from? How do they socialise and behave? Find out the answers to these questions and more.


‘Cetaceans’ is the collective name for all whales, dolphins and porpoises who between them form a single group, known as an order. It’s a huge group, though, comprising around 90 species, so let’s break it down.

To begin with, cetaceans can be divided into two categories; baleen whales, and toothed whales. Baleen plates, or whalebone, are comb-like bristles that hang from the upper jaw of most large whales and allow them to filter-feed. When whales open their mouths, water and prey, such as krill or small fish upon which they feed, pour in. The water floods back out but the baleen filters out the prey for the whale to then swallow. Blue, humpback, gray and right whales are all included in this group.

The vast majority of whales and dolphins, however, belong in the toothed category, and they feed on prey in a similar manner to most carnivores. These include the beaked whales, the dolphins and the porpoises. The sperm whale also sits here (the only large whale in this category) as do the beluga and narwhal.

The dolphins form the largest group, and (rather confusingly) include the orca, or killer whale, as well as the pilot whales. Marine dolphins can be found all around the world, varying in size and colouration, but rarely coming closer inland than bays or estuaries. There are a few species of freshwater dolphins, however, which are found in some of the largest of the world’s rivers. Sadly, one of them, the Yangtze River dolphin, was declared functionally extinct in 2007.

Beaked whales are the least known of all cetaceans, as they principally lead their lives in deep waters. There are at least 20 different species in all.

The porpoises are distinguished from dolphins by their stubbier beaks and flatter teeth.

With such a wide range of skills, feeding habits, behavioural patterns and more, there’s a whale, dolphin or porpoise to suit virtually every aquatic environment on the planet.

To give the well-known phrase a twist, no whale or dolphin is an island. These marine mammals are in fact highly social, sometimes forming superpods of 1,000 individuals or more.

These wide-ranging communities, or societies, are not just for company either. They are built upon complex structures and levels of interdependence that can only be forged from the strongest of social bonds. In some dolphin societies, for example, groups will stay with injured or sick individuals, even physically supporting them to the surface if necessary so that they can breathe.

Roles are very important in whale and dolphin societies. Older individuals often act as surrogate parents or as guardians of crèches, so that responsibilities can be shared around a group. Feeding systems, migratory patterns, group play and much more are all based on these strong social systems.

Communication is vital in all these circumstances, and whales and dolphins have developed some of the richest languages known. Clicks, grunts, whistles, calls, songs and more of extraordinary variety provide them with extensive vocabularies that cover all situations. Scientists are still trying to unravel the complexities of these languages, and it will be a long time before we are even close to understanding the full range.

One thing is certain: it is only within the heart of their communities that whales and dolphins can lead their lives to the full.
Back to the water

There are many mammals that spend time in the water. Seals, sea lions, walruses, water voles, the platypus and many more are capable of prolonged periods swimming above or below the surface, but all of them come onto the land. What makes whales, dolphins and porpoises different to all of these is that they live entirely in the water.
Unsurprisingly, therefore, scientists were rather baffled for centuries. Why on earth would a mammal, which needs to breathe air, and which has a bone structure, including vestigial limbs, that would suggest land-based movement, have evolved in an entirely aquatic environment? ‘Why on earth’ was the question that eventually became its own answer.

Originally, it was thought they were related to an extinct group of carnivorous hoofed mammals, which had teeth similar to those of whales. In recent decades, however, a remarkable animal called the Pakicetus has been discovered, which had similarly positioned and shaped ear bones to modern whales, as well as similarly arranged teeth. Many of the 40-50 million year old fossils of Pakicetus have been found near water bodies, and it is now thought that they were aquatic mammals, forerunners to the whales and dolphins themselves. The fact that the modern descendants are carnivorous suggests that they found an unchallenged niche in the water, and stayed there, steadily evolving until they no longer needed their land-based abilities.

In fact, it’s believed by many that the closest living relative to whales and dolphins is another mammal that spends much of its time in the water – the hippopotamus.

If you’ve ever watched whales or dolphins out at sea, or even just seen photographs of them, you’ll know that there’s often much more to look at than just a fin poking out of the water. Heads, tails, sometimes entire bodies are thrust above the surface, in a glorious mixture of behaviours, each of which signifies something special.

Perhaps you’ve seen dolphins swimming along the pressure wave caused by a boat: this is known as bow-riding, which must be great fun for them. At quieter times they might be seen ‘logging’, the term given to floating on the water’s surface, a great energy saving position.

Then there’s lobtailing, sometimes known as tail-slapping, which is just what it describes: a hard smack of the water by a whale’s fluke, or tail. One of the reasons this might be done is in order to cause a loud sound to stun or confuse prey. When the other end of the body appears – i.e. the head – for a good look around, then this is known as spyhopping.
The most exciting sight to see above the waves, however, and the one that most people love to catch on camera if possible, is breaching. Humpback whales are particularly fond of leaping clear of the water in this way, and there are a number of theories as to why they do it. It could be to dislodge parasites, it could be to create a similar effect to lobtailing, it could be an element of communication within social groups… or it could, quite simply, be the sheer pleasure of exuberant play.
Did you know?

The narwhal’s tusk is in fact a canine tooth that can grow up to 3m in length. It is thought to be a symbol of sexual power within males, rather like a lion’s mane, helping to establish rank within hierarchies.
Sperm whales can reach depths of around 3km beneath the ocean’s surface, staying submerged for up to two hours. What are they doing down there? One of their favourite foods is giant squid, which lives in the depths of the ocean. Occasionally sperm whales are seen with scars obtained from their deep sea battles.
There’s a species of toothed whale called the Perrin’s beaked whale, and rather remarkably, no-one has ever knowingly seen a live one. In the 1970s, a few dead individuals were discovered on the Californian coastline, and were identified as other species. Later DNA testing of them revealed that they were in fact a completely new species to science, and they were given the name Perrin’s beaked whale. No-one has positively identified one since.
All toothed whales, including dolphins and porpoises, have a melon. This sounds rather an odd statement, until you realise that ‘melon’ is the term given to a fatty organ in their forehead which is thought to be used to aid echolocation. In some species, such as the beluga, the melon can cause a pronounced cranial bulge.
Belugas, the all-white toothed whales of the Arctic, are often known as sea canaries because of their high-pitched twitter.
The large whales known as rorquals all have pronounced grooves that run from their mouths and along the underside of their bodies. These grooves, which are actually folds of skin, enable the mouth to widen in huge gapes when feeding. The word ‘rorqual’ itself actually comes from the Norwegian for ‘furrow whale’.

Save the Whales

A few countries—namely Japan, Norway and Iceland—continue to ignore a 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling. Every year, these three countries kill thousands of whales, selling their meat on an illegal black market.

For more than 40 years we’ve has been at the forefront of this evolving fight to end this needless slaughter of one the most magnificent creatures on the planet.
How We Can Save the Whales

The environmental community must continue to fight on all levels to end the slaughter. Here’s what we’re doing:

Ensuring that the Obama administration uses its diplomatic leverage to close the loopholes and end all commercial whaling.
Persuading many of the countries currently voting with Japan to overturn the commercial whaling moratorium to reconsider their approach and instead vote to protect whales.
Continue exposing Japan’s black-market whale meat trade—which is both unpopular and uneconomical—to create a public discussion in the Japanese media about the future of whaling.

Be a whale defender. Take action today.
Background on Whaling

In 1986, a moratorium was put in place to halt commercial whaling—completely separate from subsistence whaling or cultural traditions—and help dwindling whale populations recover.

But, 25 years later, the fight to end commercial whaling once and for all is not over. Japan, Iceland and Norway all continue to hunt whales while the authorities turn a blind eye to the slaughter.

Whaling was rampant for so long that many species of whales may never recover. In the United States, the North Atlantic right whale has a lonely population of about 350.

The blue whales of the Antarctic are at less than 1 percent of their original abundance. West Pacific grey whale populations are the most endangered of the world’s great whales, hovering on the edge of extinction with just over 100 remaining.

Endangered whales have many obstacles to face in these modern times—global warming, pollution, ocean acidification, noise and ship strikes. Overfishing threatens their food supply and hundreds of whales are entangled in fishing gear every year.
Calling All Whale Defenders

We’re not backing down in our efforts to protect whales until this shameful and unnecessary slaughter has been stopped and whales can once again roam the seas in freedom.

Help us end commercial whaling once and for all.



Along the coast of British Columbia, there are three different types of orcas (killer whales). While they are all considered the same species, each group behaves differently. Best known are the northern resident orcas who are fairly predictable and therefore the most thoroughly researched. Residents have been photo documented, identified and researched extensively over the past 25 years. During the summer, they are regularly seen throughout the small islands off Vancouver Island. The second group is named transients because you never know when or where these orcas might turn up. Because I work in the winter when transients are often here, I have studied this elusive population. Offshore orcas were just recently discovered and so the least is known about them. As their name implies, they live in the open waters of the Pacific Ocean which makes them difficult to locate and follow.

I have never seen an “offshore” orca, but I have worked with the northern resident and transient orcas for l4 years in and around Johnstone Strait on the northeastern edge of Vancouver Island. Out of a total population of 450 orcas ranging from Washington state to southeast Alaska, the majority are residents.

I have observed that resident and transient orcas exhibit many traits that are nearly opposite in nature.

Residents Transients
– Eat fish
– Hunt warm-blooded prey
– Very vocal
– Generally silent
– Swim from 1 point to
– Swim close to shore, the next; never entering entering many small bays in area.

Interestingly, the orcas recognize their differences and do not seek out each other’s company. Orcas are very social creatures and seem to enjoy the company of friends and relatives. Orca families stay together for life and consist of mothers, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and siblings. However, on occasions when I have seen residents and transients meet,they go out of their way to avoid each other. Generally, the residents don’t seem to know that transients are near them, because the transients are quiet. In cases where transients are close to residents, transients sometimes choose to turn around and depart or “sneak” silently by. On one occasion 30 resident orcas swimming together detected 3 transients approaching them in a narrow channel. The residents entered a bay, lined up abreast and made a deep grunting call I’ve never heard before (or since) until the transients had passed. It seemed odd to me that so many resident orcas moved aside to allow the small group of transients to pass. Were the residents afraid and if so why? Have they been attacked by transients or do they simply avoid “strangers?” Would the transients have entered a bay with residents if there had been one on their side of the channel?

Both kinds of orcas engage in boisterous play behavior when they are in large mixed pod (family) groups, apparently enjoying themselves. So, why don’t these two groups mingle? Genetically, it would seem in their best interest to interbreed. However, because they look slightly different, we believe they are maintaining themselves as two separate populations.

Individual orcas are identified by the two parts of their bodies that are most prominent when they surface to breathe: the dorsal fin and the grey marking just behind called the saddle patch. The dorsal fins of transients are generally more pointed than those of residents, although there are exceptions. None of the transients have what is called an open saddle. A saddle is the grey patch behind their dorsal fin. An open saddle has a black swirl entering from the top. In addition, transient saddles tend to extend further forward, past the midpoint of the base of the dorsal fin. These physical differences tell us that transients and residents have probably not bred in a long time. The existence of residents and transients is one of the many killer whale mysteries. One thing I know for certain is that nothing I have learned from them is written in stone. They have moods, and each one has a distinct personality and a slightly different history. For these reasons, they are never fully predictable, as is the case with most large-brained creatures.