I have thoroughly enjoyed and learned so much from all of my classes thus far. From Sustainable Community Development to Environmental Literature to God and Nature, I have gained so much insight on what it means to be a good steward of Creation Care. Being a biology major and animal-lover, though, Marine Ecology was right up my alley. I’m going to be a science nerd for a moment and tell you just why Kaikoura is such a unique place for marine life! Just a few hundred meters off the coast of Kaikoura is a very deep underwater canyon (Kaikoura Canyon). Here, the warm tropic waters collide with the cold Antarctic waters, causing the up-welling of this nutrient rich water and causes the beginning of the food chain that supports a vast number of different marine organisms. Pretty cool, right?
The focus of the week was studying marine conservation by studying the marine life in Kaikoura. On Monday, we studied Kaikoura’s invertebrates by spending the morning tide pooling. We saw sea anenomes, various barnacles and limpets, ghost shrimp, and a sea star!
Tuesday, K.O.R.I (Kaikoura Ocean Research Institute) took us to visit the little blue penguin colony, the smallest penguins in the world! We got a sneak peak into their burrows and to watch the male return at night to his mate and little baby egg. I actually also just began volunteering with K.O.R.I, recording the weights and measurements of eggs, chicks, and adults so we can better understand how to conserve the little blue penguin population! Check out their Facebook page, it’s a pretty great organization!
Wednesday we visited the Ohau stream to watch seal pups play under the waterfall and then visited the nearby fur seal breeding colony! A male elephant seal, about 5-7 years old parked himself on a rock in the middle of the colony which was a pretty amazing sight! He is one of the only recorded elephant seals in Kaikoura in recent years so maybe he brings hope of a colony of elephant seals establishing themselves one day!
Thursday was probably my favorite. We got up early to go swimming with dusky dolphins! Kaikoura offers a pretty unique experience in that you swim with the dolphins in the wild! We took about a 15-minute boat ride to a pod of dusky dolphins where we slipped into the ice cold water (thank goodness for wet suits) and snorkeled while about 50 dolphins in total swam just feet from us! They loved when swimmers would dive down and would swim circles around us in numbers of five to ten! While most of the boat was seasick, I retreated to the top deck to observe the dolphins jumping and flipping and petrels and albatross flying by. We even saw Hutton’s Shearwaters on the way back. Fun fact: Kaikoura is the Hutton’s Shearwaters only breeding ground on the entire planet! Some really awesome conservation efforts are in place to save the population.
Friday we visited the Fyffe House, an old whaling house back in the day with a foundation made from whale bones! Kaikoura’s bays use to be roaring with southern right whales, so much so that residents would actually complain because their trumpeting kept them up at night! What a cool thing to imagine! Today, because of whaling, no SRWs remain in Kaikoura and their sighting is pretty rare here. Kaikoura is a large bachelor pad for sperm whales, though!
I have so much more I could share from the week about marine conservation, but that is a blog for another day. Every day I am reminded of just how special this place is! It’s hard to believe my time is coming to a close, but I’m sure I’ll still have many adventures to share!
Until next time,