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Killer Whale jumping in the middle of a group of sea kayaks, stunning video clip! Watch this big dolphin splashing this poor guy
Killer whale vs kayak
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Surrounded By Seals - Eight Stout Students Savor Sea Kayaking Adventure In Alaska
Stout Adventures students Kyle Klink and James Jaderberg (left) and Brian Shoals and Evan Koon navigate icy Alaskan waters in tandem kayaks. Eight students made the 10-day sea kayaking trip. Submitted Photo/For Dunn County News
By Tim Mertz, Coordinator, Stout Adventures
This summer, eight University of Wisconsin-Stout students experienced one of the most beautiful places left on Earth when they registered for a 10-day sea kayak trip to Alaska through Stout Adventures.
Instructor Ivan Bartha and I were joined by students Melissa Gerads, Lindsay Lindner, Brandon Von Uhl, Evan Koon, James Jaderberg, Brian Shoals, Kyle Klink and Stacy Streich.
In June, the eager adventurers flew 4,000 miles to America’s 49th state in preparation for a sea kayak expedition through the icy waters of Prince William Sound, located about 70 miles south of Anchorage.
After spending a day in Alaska’s largest city and experiencing the Anchorage International Hostel, we were ready to head south to the tiny port city of Whittier. The only way into the city is by driving through a two-mile long tunnel that was blasted through a mountain. Not surprisingly, it is the longest tunnel in North America.
Once we arrived in Whittier, we were greeted by representatives of Epic Charters, the outfitter that was going to set us up with kayaks and paddling equipment. With Harriman Fjord as our destination, we hired a water taxi that would take us, along with our kayaks and gear, about 40 miles out into Prince William Sound.
After an incredible boat ride over flat, calm waters and crystal, blue skies, Brooke, the captain, dropped us off on a black sand beach and said good-bye. We were left on our own to pack our kayaks, establish our own campsites, and explore the fjord by kayak.
For the next five days, we paddled next to seals, touched icebergs, camped above high-tide, and ate the mussels left behind at low tide. Eagles soared overhead while mountain goats balanced on the steep shale shorelines in front of us.
Each day, we felt our spirits being recharged by the 23 hours of sunlight that shines down this far north. Alaska is commonly referred to as the Land of the Midnight Sun, and we quickly learned why.
Fortunately, the weather cooperated perfectly. Alaska is considered the northernmost temperate rainforest. With that in mind, we brought lots of raingear, but only needed it occasionally. Daytime temperatures were in the upper 60s, falling to the low 40s at night. A campfire was built each night, and the day’s highlights were recapped with lots of laughter.
After five full days of paddling through Harriman Fjord, we were scheduled to rendezvous with Brooke at our pick-up beach by Friday afternoon. We broke camp early Friday morning in the rain and wind. Temperatures dropped overnight and the protected waters of the fjord kicked up some chop as the wind blew down on us off nearby Barry Glacier.
Despite the rough conditions, all eight Stout students — who once had never been in a sea kayak — handled the conditions with ease. The week of paddling had sharpened their skills and built their confidence to a point that for several of the students, it was more fun battling the waves than paddling flat waters.
After paddling a few miles we spotted our pick-up beach in the distance. There is a mix of emotions that a kayaker feels when a trip is about to end. It is hard pulling ashore on the last day, knowing that the beauty you experienced all week is coming to an end. There is also a feeling of excitement as you picture a hot shower, real food and the soft bed awaiting you in several hours.
Our water taxi arrived ahead of schedule and took us the 40 miles back to Whittier, where we returned the gear and checked into a condo for a sound night’s sleep.
The next day, we left Whittier and spent some time exploring the mountain town of Girdwood. On Saturday night, we arrived back in Anchorage and some of us checked out the Oceans Festival downtown. Others went souvenir shopping and some spent their last bit of money on a fresh salmon dinner.
The entire trip was a huge success. These eight students were brave enough to register for a trip to Alaska — a land still evolving and very unpredictable — choosing to sea kayak through 38-degree water and filling up their water bottles in glacier streams.
They learned how to cook in the backcountry and how to practice good environmental stewardship. Seals swam all around them, moose stopped traffic along the Seward Highway, and a black bear footprint was left in the sand of our first campsite.
This was a group that decided to make the most of their summer and to expand their perception of the world. Once you visit Alaska, your views change ,and so do your expectations. And the snowcapped mountains, vertical seashore, ocean waters, wildlife, and people of Alaska are never forgotten.
Stout Adventures offers trips and clinics to the students and the community year round. For more information or to learn about the upcoming trips scheduled for the fall, call (715) 232-5625 or check out the program’s Web site at www.stoutadventures.uwstout.edu.
Scientists tag killer whales in Antarctica in hopes of learning their secrets
By KATE CHENEY DAVIDSON
Anchorage Daily News
Published: July 16, 2006
With heart pounding and sweat pouring into his heavy survival suit, marine biologist Russ Andrews dropped to his knees and took aim. His target: the fast-moving dorsal fin of a killer whale as it swam up an icy lead. He pulled the trigger of his modified air gun and held his breath. Success! The barbed tag landed securely on the black triangle and broke free of its weighted line.
For Andrews, a scientist at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward and a researcher for the University of Alaska Fairbanks, an opportunity to visit Antarctica to tag killer whales was a dream come true. In January, Andrews got his chance when he joined a team of researchers from the National Marine Fisheries Service for a monthlong study of killer whales (also known as orcas), one of the most recognizable of marine mammals and one of the least understood.
"It's such a special place," Andrews says of their research area near McMurdo Station on the southern Ross Sea. "To be a foot away from a killer whale ... I could have patted it on the head like it was Sea World."
To get close enough to tag whales, Andrews and his colleagues used a helicopter to locate them swimming in narrow, open leads in the pack ice. Once a sighting was made, the helicopter pilot would fly ahead of the swimming mammals and land so the scientists could set up (see a video of Andrews in action at www.adn.com/life).
Researchers doubt that the whales feel much since the dorsal fin has few nerve endings, but the technology is still new. Andrews has quickly become an expert from his work tagging marine mammals in Alaska waters.
Together, the team tagged 10 whales with electronic tracking devices that, thanks to an array of weather satellites operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, will help scientists understand more about these mysterious animals. To date, relatively little is known about the feeding habits and migration patterns of orcas, especially those in remote areas like the Aleutians and Antarctica.
The advantage of studying killer whales in Antarctica, Andrews says, is the unparalleled access to them provided by long leads of open water in the pack ice. Around McMurdo, researchers found plenty of killer whales taking advantage of the wide leads opened by icebreakers so supply ships could reach the station.
Normally, killer whales must carefully weave through pack ice, poking their heads above the water in search of breathing holes, a practice called "spyhopping." By comparison, Andrews says, tagging killer whales in Alaska is trickier.
"In Alaska we struggle to get close enough to the killer whales. You need to be about 13 to 15 feet away in order to tag them," Andrews says.
The researchers, led by Bob Pitman, a NOAA fisheries scientist, hope to quell a controversy that's been brewing in marine biology circles for decades: whether there are more than one species of killer whale in Antarctica. In the 1980s, two reports by Russian researchers gave compelling evidence that there are at least two species of killer whales off Antarctica -- one that lives in the pack ice and feeds mainly on fish, and a larger type that eats marine mammals and stays mostly in open water -- but their research was deemed scientifically inconclusive without physical specimens.
Pitman was intrigued by the Russians' findings and began conducting his own research in Antarctica six years ago. To his surprise, he identified what looks to be a third type of killer whale around the Antarctic Peninsula. These orcas also patrol the ice pack, but unlike those found deep in the ice around McMurdo, they appear to feed mainly on seals and have different markings. Pitman says more research is needed before the different types can be declared separate species, but the evidence is slowly piling up.
Recent advances in technology are helping. Satellite tagging, tissue sampling and computer modeling are helping to close the knowledge gap about killer whales all over the world, researchers say.
John Durban, a marine biologist with the National Marine Mammal Laboratory, says tagging is especially useful for determining where these mysterious animals go and when.
"Tagging gives us increased resolution on what the animals are doing, especially in winter and at night. It can tell us how they are eating and where they are eating."
Knowing this information is key, say Durban and Andrews, because killer whales have a large impact on whatever ecosystem they're in, and whereas a lot of information is known about certain groups of orcas living in near coastal waters, the groups farther offshore remain a mystery.
"Killer whales are long-lived animals," Durban says, "so the 30 years we've been studying them is really only a generation. We still don't know how these populations change over time."
Andrews and his colleagues are trying to change that one tag at a time. After the Antarctica tagging expedition, one tag stayed on a whale 65 days and provided the researchers with invaluable data. One of the biggest obstacles in getting the tags to stick, Andrews says, is the whales' slippery skin and the aggressive way the animals play and hunt.
Pitman and his team hope to return to Antarctica in 2008 to tag more orcas and get even better results. The batteries can theoretically last a year, but scientists would be happy with six months, which is one migratory cycle.
In some ways, Pitman says, killer whales stand as a reminder of how much we have yet to learn about the ocean's denizens.
"I think it's very telling that killer whales are some of the most recognizable and researched animals we have, yet we don't even know how many species there are."
Daily News reporter Kate Cheney Davidson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Whale drama unfolds in Aleutians
Cruising off Unimak Island in the Aleutians last May, marine biologists Russ Andrews and John Durban witnessed a breathtaking event.
The scientists were looking for killer whales to tag when suddenly they came upon three killer whales attacking a juvenile gray whale. Although the area is a known hunting ground for killer whales looking to intercept migrating gray whales, to actually witness and document a hunt is rare.
According to Andrews, the gray whale was 10 to 15 feet longer than the killer whales, but that seemed to make little difference as the predators worked together to force the gray into deeper water.
"We think killer whales prefer the deep so they can get beneath their prey," Durban said.
But the gray whale was having none of it and, despite a prolonged struggle, finally managed to escape by swimming close to the beach.
The encounter left scientists shaking their heads.
"Mainly we see them take gray whale calves, which are smaller and not as strong," Durban said. "This was unusual to see them try to take an older yearling."
-- Kate Cheney Davidson
Sticker shock for scientists
For his Antarctica trip, biologist Russ Andrews tried five configurations of the tracking device.
"We try to be as minimally invasive as we can, so the barbs on the darts are pretty small," Andrews said.
Each tag is immersed in an epoxy that is waterproof and pressure-proof, and the barbs are made of medical-grade titanium. The price tag for each? $3,000.
Fortunately, Andrews says, he often recovers misses with an attached line.
Cool off for fun or fitness with the kayak of your choice
July 2, 2006
By JAMES TASSE
It's summer, it's hot and it's time to get out on the water. And with fuel prices spiking, this might be the right year to discover the joys of human-powered boating in a kayak.
Kayaks combine the pleasures of physical activity with the joys of freedom and movement on the water. There's a kayak for every kind of person, from the careful mom to the reckless thrill seeker, and for a few hundred bucks, you can call yourself captain of your own boat.
All modern kayaks are descendents of small watercraft developed by native people of Arctic coastal regions. Originally made of wood, bone and animal hides, most of today's kayaks are made of polyethylene, fiberglass or composite materials combining Kevlar, carbon fiber or other materials.
Kayaks today are made for a variety of specific water environments, including ocean surf, whitewater rapids and fresh and salt flat-water.
The majority of kayakers enjoy the activity in relatively placid, flat waters. For many boaters, flat-water kayaking offers a casual, relaxing experience of the natural world and some easy, low impact activity. For the more fitness-minded, kayaking can also offer a great upper body and core workout.
The casual recreational boater is best served with a boat about 9 to 12-feet long, with a large cockpit and a wide, flat-bottomed hull for stability.
The Old Town "Otter," Perception "Arcadia" and Dagger "Zydeco" are good examples of this type. Rugged and stable, these boats are user-friendly, easy to paddle and last for years. They are suitable for day trips on flat water. Anglers and hunters can find models designed for fishing or (believe it or not) duck hunting.
Expect to pay $400 to $600.
For the more committed boater or for more fitness-minded persons, a more responsive, performance-oriented boat may be in order. For this type of paddler, a boat in the 11 to 15-foot range with a narrower, more streamlined hull is a good choice.
These intermediate-level boats will go faster and further with less effort than one of the casual recreational boats. They are suitable for choppier water and even short touring. These kayaks often come with a hatch and some tie-downs on the deck. Some have pedal-operated rudders.
Examples of this type of boat include the Old Town "Dirigo," the Necky "Manitou" and Dagger "Pungo." Expect to pay $600 and up.
The next step up is the full-bore, touring sea kayak, which runs more than 15-feet long, has a rudder and internal compartments and approaches or exceeds $1,000 in price.
Other kayaking essentials include a Type III PFD life vest ($40-$150) and a paddle ($50-$500). Decent paddles begin at about $100. Inexpensive ones are often too flexible and don't separate or "feather" (meaning the paddle blades can be set at an angle to one another).
As with buying a bike, you'll get much better advice and service from a dedicated shop than from a big box department store.
A final — or perhaps, initial — consideration when it comes to selecting a kayak concerns how you plan to move your new boat. It's not easy to put a 15-foot boat on a VW Beetle. Here again, the dedicated kayak shop can help by guiding you to a rack system for your vehicle.
Overall, you can get yourself a pretty nice kayaking setup for around $800 — about the price of a good mid-grade hard-tail mountain bike.
The good news is that once you buy, you're set. There's no gas to buy and virtually no maintenance to do.
Kayaks are great fun whether you're out for a casual nature paddle or an intense torso workout. They are essential pieces of equipment for the physically-powered lifestyle.
Jim Tasse is executive director of the Rutland Area Physical Activity Coalition and is an avid kayaker. Thanks are extended to Rutland's Mountain Travelers and Great Outdoors kayak shops for information for this column. Tasse and Becka Roolf write columns on alternating weeks.