Sunday, August 26, 2007

Gull Island, Witless Bay

Today we headed out of Witless Bay beach to Gull Island looking for whales. We had heard a number of whales had come into Witless Bay on the hunt for the last of the capelin. It seemed a worthwhile venture heading out to see if we could get a couple of photos. Launching from the beach and exiting out from under the bridge was a bit tricky as the swell resulted in quite a breaking surf, squeezed into a fairly narrow entry way.

There were no whales today but the bird show made up for the absence of the whales.

The paddle out to Gull Island is fairly quick - we enjoyed a well spaced but hefty swell. Amongst the rolling waves were scattered groups of puffins who seem to take turns heading back to guard their nests from predatory gulls. At one point their postures almost reminded me of mini penguins. Another photo at a low point on the cliff appeared to capture a Northern Fulmar.

We got close to the island but didn't attempt to land as that might be too disturbing for the birds and is not permitted as the island is a bird sanctuary.

Puffins were constantly taking off from the water often appearing too full from feeding, to take off very far off the surface.

On the return, the long cumulative waves provided a bit of an opportunity to practice for bracing skills.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Trinity Bay

At this time of year Trinity draws lots of folks to the community to see all the talented atrists and actors/actresses. A number of us attended a great pageant presentation this year and stayed at the Peace Cove Inn in Trinity East.

The other great local experience is the Skurwink Hiking Trail. Just a short walk from the Inn and a beautiful coastal trail - eagles are often seen perched in the tall trees. The beaches viewed from the trail can be accessed by kayaking around the headland.

If the winds are up, stick to the inside of Trinity Bay and explore the rock outcroppings and putter among the sea stacks. Trinity East is an easy paddle from Trinity and just around the corner is a large mussel farm located in God's Cove - where else would you farm for mussels?

Darren and Jill run Trinity Sea Kayaking.They launch their excursions from the public beach near the Dock Marina, just a stone's throw from the laundry scene in the pageant. If you want to join in a professional safe tour - give them a call. On Thursday I joined them for their morning run and everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves - what better way to prepare for a business meeting the next day, than run out to Trinity and paddle the bay? On the return to the beach we ran into a swarm of moon jellyfish - a rather incredible, almost unnerving site to paddle through thousands of these creatures.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Conception Bay Workout

The other night we attempted to launch from Outer Cove and Middle Cove - the fog was so dense we couldn't see beyond twenty feet from of shore. The likelihood that the fog would lift here was limited so we changed plans and drove to St.Philips where a large bank of fog was slowly receding.
The water was oddly flat calm and we moved on quickly to Topsail Beach noticing an osprey as it scanned the water looking for small ocean perch or other dinner items.
The oil rig in the distance was in the process of being serviced by supply ships otherwise we could have easily made a run over.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Night paddle

On Saturday evening 20 of us gathered at the public wharf in Avondale for a night paddle under the leadership of Alex. Aside from all the usual gear,kayakers packed or wore a headlamp or waterproof flashlight and used glow stick on the stern. We only used the headlamps when boaters came close. As a result everyone's night vision quickly heightened. The big draw at this time of year was the phenomenom commonly seen in ocean waters at night called bioluminescence. We weren't disappointed. How Alex got all these sea creatures to cooperate we never found out. But at various times along the coast when we dipped our paddles deep we stirred up quite a brilliant display. Occasionally what appeared to be solid fistfuls were caught up in the wake of the paddle stroke from the kayak ahead.

Apparently bioluminescence is the result of a chemical reaction between a protein (luciferin) and an enzyme (luciferase) in the presence of oxygen. Most lightsources radiate heat, but not in sea creatures. One reference describes this phenomenom as 'cold fire'.The production occurs in photogenic cells called photophores.

As we paddled around we discussed what creatures had this ability - it turns out there are a number of sea animals capable of this feat ranging from one celled animals like planktons, dinoflgellates to jellyfish, squid and bacteria < 1 mm in length.

There may be a number of reasons for this occurrence, including environmental.Some species utilize bioluminescence to facilitate finding potential mates.It seems many creatures increase the frequency and intensity of bioluminescent displays during their mating period.

We spent a good bit of time investigating one of the whaling shipwrecks in Conception Hr, one protrudes well beyond the surface the other can be seen below the surface of the water with a strong waterproof flashlight.

On the return trip back we took a break and made a great landing in a small cove and beach - no small feat with only glow sticks and a couple of headlamps.