Monday, March 23, 2015

For the Love Of...Whales with Kari Underhill

Good Monday everyone!

And welcome to another For the Love Today, my good friend Kari Underhill is here to share a love, a great big love if I may, with us. Kari is a Marine Biologist and has a love for whales. Whenever she can, she'll get up close and personal with her giant friends as well as many other kinds of marine life. As someone who prefers her marine life experiences narrated by someone with a lovely British accent (I have bit of a fear of things that live in the deep), I admire her immensely.

Without further rambling, please welcome Kari.


Kari with a Southern Right Whale

For the love ofWhales!

That's right, I said whales. Marine mammals that range from over 2m in length to over 30m and spend the majority of their life underwater in our vast oceans! Not exactly cute and cuddly, but intriguing nonetheless, for me anyways!

Why whales you ask? Ive always been an animal lover and biology was always my fave school subject so I guess it's not a HUGE surprise given that I also love water. I love observing animals in their natural environments and I grew up being outside and fishing. Whales though, that was a big (and perhaps random) jump. Fishing in a river is VERY different than being at sea. Oh and did I forget to mention I get sea sick?? But with persistence, and imported gravol at the start, I overcame that barrier too :) On paper I have my Master's Degree in Marine Mammal Science, but under all that scientific mumbo jumbo I am a real and true certifiable whale hugger! 

A Bryde's Whale
This whale persona began when I decided to study whales in Wales! I moved to the UK for a year to learn about everything whale. (PS- have I mentioned that at this point in my life, I had never actually seen a whale in the wild before?) Yes, let's just say when I decide to do something, I go big or go home! This led to me studying dolphins (whale cousins!) in the Mediterranean Sea for 3 months. Following more hours at a computer than I like to remember finishing my thesis, I came back to Canada to decide my next move. And only a few months later I was jetting off to South Africa (remember, go big or go home) to work on a whale watching boat. Working one whale season turned into 4.5 years living in South Africa and being privileged enough to see Southern right whales, humpback whales and Brydes whales regularly. And not to give all credit to the whales, while there I was fortunate enough to add multiple sightings of 6 species of the dolphin family, including 2 AMAZING sightings of Orcas (yes they are dolphins and not technically whales). The last 2 rendered me speechless, which if you know me, means A LOT.

Working on a whale watching boat is a pretty sweet office but as with any job has its perks and not-so-perks: tourists who have NO clue about boat safety/marine life, people who have ZERO appreciation for amazing wildlife (why arent they jumping like on TV?!), some pretty nasty sea conditions (hair raising in a few cases), not to mention watching people go green in the face, including me on my first day! Haha! That being said, I have never had a job which I was so excited to go to each day. Every day was a new day with new weather, clients, and of course the whales, none of our trips were EVER identical. 
An Orca

One of the biggest things you must learn when working with wildlife is that you take the amazing days with the not-AS-amazing days. We live in a high tech generation where people watch endless TV shows highlighting the best of the best of wildlife, and in the commercial breaks they never mention the weeks, days, months, and sometimes years involved with getting those breathtaking sightings. Each day was a privilege to get even the quickest glimpses into the behavior of these underwater giants!

I was often asked by tourists Do you ever get bored of your job and How do you still get so excited each time you see a whale, and honestly my response is How could I not!!!??.
If you have EVER witnessed a whale in the wild, it is a truly special moment. The way they move so gracefully through the water, those special moments when the whale is just as curious about the boat as we are about them, the Kodak moments when they breach out of the water, and the heartwarming moments between a mother and calf. Who can pick a favourite?!!? I am the crazy whale lady and proud of it! I am now back in Canada and although I currently have fewer opportunities to get out and see whales, I am always counting down the days until the season begins/my next chance at hearing and seeing my big babies. :) 

 A breaching Southern Right Whale

Thank-you very much to Kari for being my guest today. The closest encounter I've had, in the wild, with large marine life is the time my grandmother and I were surrounded by porpoises while we were trolling for salmon. There were 6 or 7 of them and if I could go back, I would uncover my eyes and enjoy the experience instead of crying in the boat because I thought they may be sharks. I don't think my grandmother ever forgave me for ruining that experience with my screams of terror. Perhaps one day Kari could take me on a whale tour and lesson my fear of our friends beneath the ocean.

Thanks for stopping by!

Be Happy,
Be Creative,
Be Yourself.


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