What a year! We don’t know if it would have been possible to pick a better year to launch our library. What we’ve seen this year and what we’ve heard from you has been overwhelming in all of the best possible ways. Your support and encouragement has been so much more than we could have hoped for as we were just starting out and we can’t wait to share with you what we have planned for 2016! Before looking ahead though, we wanted to invite you to take a look back with us and remember some of the most exciting, touching, and inspiring moments of our first year.
If you haven’t visited the library lately you may be surprised to find that we collected almost 100 stories in our first 12 months and they star a very eclectic cast of characters. There are stories featuring harbour porpoises, pacific white-sided dolphins, a bottlenose dolphin, killer whales, Minke whales, Gray whales, humpback whales, and even a sperm whale and a Northern right whale (though not at the same time!). J2 (Granny), the matriarchal southern resident killer whale, has proven to be our most popular character and we love each of the seven stories you’ve recorded about her. We are especially grateful to our four featured storytellers, Gary Sutton, Tasli Shaw, Ashley Keegan, and Jackie Hildering who have been so gracious with not only their stories but also their pictures.
The whales themselves were the true stars this year and they definitely gave us a LOT to write about. It’s always exciting when wildlife shows up in unexpected places, as those who saw beluga whales in New England in June this year can definitely attest to! Vancouver, BC also experienced an increase of encounters right in their backyard with Bigg’s killer whales swimming past the port in the Burrard Inlet in March and in the harbour a few times over the summer. A Gray whale also joined the party in Vancouver harbour again in August. A few well-known cetacean sightings also raised heads this year most especially when “Old Timer” the humpback whale was spotted in Alaska for the first time since 1978!
And of course, there are the babies… There was have been SEVEN North Pacific Southern resident killer whales born in the past twelve months at the time of writing this (J50, J51, L121, J52, L122, J53, and now L123) and at least that many Bigg’s (ie: Transient) killer whale calves in the same amount of time. We are experiencing the largest baby boom this population has seen since 1977 and the stories we hear of new calves learning to swim, eat, and play never fail to bring giant grins to our faces and hope to our hearts.
Unfortunately, nature both gives and takes away and this year was no exception. The Southern resident killer whale J32 (Rhapsody)’s death in early December, 2014 was even harder to accept given that she was carrying an almost full-term calf when she was found on the beach. A necropsy found that she had been starving, likely for a long time, before she passed away. The Southern resident community also lost another member, L27 (Ophelia), in September. The cause of death for the Fin Whale who was brought into Vancouver Harbour on the bow of a cruise ship in May is still unknown but the toxic “blob” of demoic acid in the North Pacific Ocean likely killed over 30 whales all along our coast. Their deaths, coupled with the fearfully high number of entanglements reported this year, continue to serve as an important reminder that our actions have the largest impacts on our oceans and everything that lives there. By working together to decrease our energy consumption, waste generation, and dependency on unsustainable seafood we can make a big difference in the lives of the cetaceans we love.
After officially opening our library and launching our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram platforms at the UBC Marine Mammal Symposium on November 22, 2014 we were struck by how excited the Vancouver cetacean community seemed about our idea. Our first ever Season Kick-Off social on March 18th of this year was a great opportunity for whale enthusiasts to get together and swap stories at the bar. Our August 15th Storytelling SeaTalk, in partnership with the Saturna Island Marine Research and Education Society, brought an entire island of storytellers together with Dr. Andrew Trites for a campfire feel, without the campfire. Although it hasn’t always been easy and we’ve stuck to the tried and true “slow and steady” mentality we are very proud to have been able to offer you daily news from the marine biology world, a comprehensive page dedicated to recognizing and helping animals in distress, stunning pictures of your favourite whales, and of course, great cetacean stories.
WhaleTales started as a simple idea: a place where naturalists, researchers, and whale enthusiasts could all connect and share their whale encounter stories, creating a permanent library of cetacean stories. We strive to provide a free, searchable, user friendly database of cetacean stories that can be used to create meaningful connections and promote conservation and after only one year we have 463 Instagram follower, 304 Facebook followers, and 133 Twitter followers – all who have the opportunity to share their whale tales!
We are so thankful to each and every one of our storytellers and readers because we really couldn’t do this without you. We already have a lot to look forward to in 2016 including a winter networking event, following up on the exciting things we learned at this year’s UBC Marine Mammal Symposium, and of course, many more whale tales. Thank-you for a great first year, we look forward to a great many more!