Sunday, June 27, 2010

Killer Whales In The Wild: A Sound-and-Slide Show From Haro Strait

[Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.]

And now for something completely different ...

This is not exactly your usual "what I did on vacation" video. Of course, I wasn't exactly on vacation: I was working on my next book, whose subject is going to be orcinus orca, the killer whale. That the work happened to entail spending two weeks kayaking on the western side of San Juan Island, sometimes with my daughter, was just incidental. Hey, it's tough work, but somebody's gotta do it.

As you can see, the art of catching good sharp images in a kayak is a work in progress; some of the pics are interesting from a behavioral sense but are unfortunately not as sharp as I'd like. Others, well ... see for yourself.

The sound sample is an edited mix. Many of the sounds were collected around noisome boat traffic, which is just about a constant for the orcas this time of year. At times it seemed as though they were shouting at each other over the din, it got so bad. Fortunately, near the end of my stay I was lucky enough to catch some samples in boat-free conditions, and you can hear the difference; those samples comprise the sound from about 3:35 onward.

I've uploaded a hi-def version to YouTube here.

You can get a lot of the same kinds of images live at the Center for Whale Research's OrcaCam site, which includes some archived footage and sound samples (click on the Audio tab) as well.

Or you can listen to it live from the Lime Kiln Lighthouse, where I wound up spending much of my time the past couple of weeks. They too have an audio archive that's just lovely. The live link can be fun if you're lucky enough to get whales going by live; otherwise you may just enjoy the sound of gurgling currents and passing boats.

For more information, always check out our friends at the Orca Network too.

What am I writing about? Well, it's still a work in progress, of course. But generally speaking, the subject I'm keen on tackling is the following proposition: Orcas pose a direct challenge to the human conceit that they are the planet's only intelligent species.

What do you all think? I'm interested in hearing all kinds of perspectives on this.

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