Ocean Currents » killer whale http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Fri, 27 May 2016 15:06:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 GYRE Expedition Provides Opportunity for Marine Debris Research, Wildlife Sightings http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/06/11/gyre-expedition-provides-opportunity-for-marine-debris-research-wildlife-sightings/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/06/11/gyre-expedition-provides-opportunity-for-marine-debris-research-wildlife-sightings/#comments Tue, 11 Jun 2013 15:09:10 +0000 Nick Mallos http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=6023
Nick Mallos and Norseman

Getting ready to board the Norseman

Most people visit the small town of Seward, Alaska, to take a half-day glacier and wildlife cruise through Kenai Fjords National Park. I arrived in Seward to board the R/V Norseman to depart for Expedition GYRE.

Organized by the Alaska Sea Life Center and the Anchorage Museum, our 14-member team comprised of scientists, artists and filmmakers has a shared vision: We want to establish a new dialogue on marine debris from the nexus of science, art and education and devise strategies for disseminating information to broad audiences, globally.

The scale and magnitude of Alaska’s marine debris problem is unlike any other I’ve experienced. The state’s 45,000-mile coastline has myriad coves and pocket beaches that capture massive quantities of debris, underscoring the fact that even the most isolated areas of our planet are not immune to the problems of ocean trash.

This expedition affords me the opportunity to obtain quantitative and qualitative data on the most persistent forms of debris plaguing the Alaskan wilderness and compare it to data I’ve collected at other beaches around the world.

From Port Seward, we motored for almost 12 hours out of Resurrection Bay and along the Kenai Peninsula, which gave us exquisite views of the Bear and Aialik glaciers. Calm waters allowed us to conduct prime wildlife spotting from the bow of the Norseman.

My first Alaskan marine mammal sighting was a small group of Dall’s porpoise (Phocoenoides dalli). Their sleek black and white torpedo-shaped bodies swiftly darted from the starboard side of the Norseman and kept pace riding our bow for almost 20 minutes.

Although I’ve witnessed this phenomenon countless times, watching these majestic animals glide effortlessly along the water’s surface just inches from the boat is resplendent. As quickly as they appeared, they were gone—and for good reason: The porpoise were replaced by another black-and-white predator, the killer whale (Orcinus orca). The male’s iconic, 6-foot-tall dorsal fin cut through the waves alongside a female as they charged Norseman’s bow. Unfortunately the majestic pair peeled off and out of sight, but the brief encounter had me yearning for more.

Our wildlife encounters continued along the entire Kenai Peninsula and included sea otters, bald eagles, black-legged kittiwakes, guillemots and my first ever spotting of a horned puffin. The day’s sightings concluded with a pair of humpbacks (Megaptera noveangliae) that leisurely crossed our wake just outside Morning Cove.

The Norseman motored into Tonsina Bay just after Alaska’s midnight-setting sun. Darkness here is relative, and a twilight remains throughout the few hours of nighttime, essentially creating 24 hours of daylight. At 1 a.m., I finally called it a day and settled into my bunk. The sun, along with the team, will rise early to deploy for Gore Point.

Expedition GYRE is off to a magnificent start.

Sea otter Early light at Morning Cove, Alaska. Northern fulmar seconds before splash-down off Afognak Island. Horned Puffin Humpback flukes Humpback mother and calf spouting in Shelikof Strait. Sunset Nick sampling water Nick Mallos Seward point of departure Sunset Moose Pass Whale Skull Nick Mallos and Norseman ]]>
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A Tribute to Mothers: A Look at the Ocean’s Great Moms http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/05/10/a-tribute-to-mothers-a-look-at-the-oceans-great-moms/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/05/10/a-tribute-to-mothers-a-look-at-the-oceans-great-moms/#comments Fri, 10 May 2013 21:25:27 +0000 Jim Wintering http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=5767


Every year around Mother’s Day I’m reminded of how lucky I am to have both a mother and grandmother who have been there to guide me during the challenging times in life. Recently, this got me thinking that there are probably tons of examples of great mothers in the ocean who are similarly there for their children over the years. So whether you’re a mother yourself or you completely forgot it was that time of year and you need to rush to the store today, take a minute to celebrate Mother’s Day with us and read on to find out more about some awesome ocean mothers:

Manatee mothers show a tremendous dedication to their offspring that starts with nursing within a few hours of giving birth. Their calves are usually weaned within a year, but these mothers typically stick around for up to two years, and are often found right alongside their calves. Mother manatees actively block predators by swimming in between the calf and any potential threat. Furthermore, manatee mothers not only provide their children with nutrition, but also teach them about feeding areas and preferred travel routes.


Some parents are incredibly protective of their children, and a perfect example of that would be walrus mothers. These moms defend and protect their calves intently, and are known to shelter their young from danger under their chest. They also will carry their calves on their backs as they swim through the water. There is even some evidence that walrus mothers may care for orphan calves, showcasing their awesome care-taking abilities.

In the case of of orcas, or killer whales, mothers not only provide for their children in youth, but are there for them well into adulthood. Studies have shown that when a killer whale’s mother is around, it significantly increases the young’s chances of survival. Killer whales can live into their 90s, but females stop reproducing in their 30s or 40s, which similar studies point to as indicating that having an older female around improves the chance of survival for all of her descendants.

Polar bear mothers typically give birth to twin cubs who stay by their mother’s side for more than two years as these mothers protect their children from the fierce elements of the Arctic, while also teaching them valuable survival skills, including how to hunt for food. These great mothers of the North raise the cubs on their own, and are known for aggressively defending their young until they have matured enough to take care of themselves.

If you’re looking for an ocean mother who makes huge sacrifices for her young, an octopus might be your best bet. Octopus mothers lay 50,000-200,000 eggs and take time to group them in the best manner possible. The mother then spends this incubation period doing everything that she can to protect the eggs from predators. She’ll do so at the expense of her own health, being so devoted as to stop hunting for her own food, which often leaves her too weak to even survive after the eggs hatch.


The ocean is full of great mothers capable of reminding us of all of the sacrifices that moms around the world make for their children. With that in mind, we at Ocean Conservancy would like to express our gratitude to all mothers out there, and wish them a Happy Mother’s Day, whether they live in the ocean or back at home in places throughout America and around the globe.

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This Week’s Top Tweets: January 4-12 http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/01/12/this-weeks-top-tweets-jan-4-jan-12/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/01/12/this-weeks-top-tweets-jan-4-jan-12/#comments Sat, 12 Jan 2013 11:38:01 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=4174 It’s been a busy year so far, and we’re only finishing the first full week of 2013. To start off the new year, here are the top five tweets that attracted the most attention in the Twittersphere over the last week:

1. Trapped killer whales freed by shifting ice

A group of killer whales surrounded by ice off the coast of Canada were deemed to have a grim future, but an unexpected shift in wind current moved the ice in a way that allowed them to escape. This surprise happy ending garnered the most attention of our ocean followers this week. This tweet also took away the most favorites.

2. What will your Rippl effect be in 2013?

This tweet gave us all a reminder that keeping up with your ocean-friendly New Year’s resolution can be as simple as downloading our mobile app, Rippl, which suggests weekly tips to help reduce your environmental impact in 2013.

3. Chile making strides in fishing reforms

Whether our followers just wanted to know what a seamount is, what Chile’s new ocean legislation entails or both, this tweet gained a lot of traction–and for good reasons, too! Chile’s government made a groundbreaking decision that other countries can look to model in the future.

4. What big eyes you have!

I don’t know about you, but here at Ocean Conservancy, we’ve read the headline “Release the Kraken” too many times to count this week! This story about the first film of a giant squid in its natural habitat is truly, as one commenter put it, “‘fishtory’ in the making.”

5.Getting up close and personal with a polar bear

This video details the BBC’ Gordon Buchanan’s close encounter with a hungry polar bear. With grown males weighing anywhere from 775-1,200 pounds, this was definitely an intense moment to watch, much less experience!

Make sure you check out our Twitter handle, @OurOcean, to keep up with more stories like these right when they get posted. Have any feedback on our top tweets of the week? Be sure to leave a comment below!

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