Farallones Dispatches: "Getting To Know Your Ocean Neighbors"

Farallones Dispatches: "Getting To Know Your Ocean Neighbors"

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     MOONDANCE: In the pre-dawn dark the alarm buzzed annoyingly – an indecent hour for a Saturday. But today the moon was calling, its gravity tugging on the layer of water that blankets our planet. In an hour, sea level would have dropped well below average low levels, creating a minus tide that would expose vast swaths of intertidal rocky reef teeming with life. The couple mumbled morning greetings and headed for kitchen and shower respectively. Fortified with hot coffee, and armed with a tide table, field guides, and grip-soled boots they headed for the coast. At the margins of NOAA’s Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary there awaited a world filled with sea anemones, elegant sea slugs (aka nudibranchs), jewel-like snails, and glistening sea stars. Here, startled crabs, frilly-finned sculpins and tiny red octopuses sought concealment. A few curious creatures peered up at the couple. “Nothing to see here, folks; move on!” It was an ocean world that was easy to explore without even getting (very) wet; no risk of seasickness, either!

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     TO SEA, TO SEE! At a different home, a similar scenario played out; this time the destination was the broad Pacific. The birdwatcher was leaving behind her familiar hawks, flickers, and wrens, headed for Bodega Bay and beyond to Cordell Bank to learn about seabirds. Seabirds, dolphins, sea lions and whales often associate together at sea; they all know a good meal when they see one – and each other. A cloud of gulls hovering in the distance signaled near-surface fish below. Soon the whale watch boat was surrounded: by humpbacks lunge-feeding on anchovies; all sorts of gulls and cormorants, some aloft, some too full to fly. Sea lions “rafted” at the surface before disappearing to forage beneath the waves. An albatross swooped in to check out the boat. The birder swung her binoculars toward the horizon, and excitedly called out, "Super-tall blow at two o'clock; maybe a blue whale!" She’d done her homework, learned the distinguishing marks of whales.

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The naturalist and captain conferred, and announced they would head that way. Already, it was a great day at sea!

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GET INTO YOUR SANCTUARY! This summer the West Coast sanctuaries and partners invite you for a special Get Into Your Sanctuary (GIYS) weekend, August 2, 3 and 4, https://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/visit/giys.html.

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Greater Farallones’ GIYS offerings range from Virtual Reality dives at our Visitor Center in San Francisco’s Presidio, to a journey offshore. You can help restore native species on Kent Island in Bolinas Lagoon on Friday, August 2 (Free!): reserve through Kate, kbimrose@farallones.org. On Saturday, August 3, Greater Farallones Family Workshops feature Octo-Lab! Visit www.farallones.org for details. Also August 3, Cordell Bank and Greater Farallones national marine sanctuaries, with the International Ocean Film Festival, will sponsor a film festival at Point Arena. For information check http://cordellbank.noaa.gov around mid-July for the film lineup and details. On Sunday, August 4 join our Farallon Islands & Whale Watching Excursion; register with Sara at sheintzelman@farallones.org. Costs range from free, upward. Discounts are available for veterans for some programs. For year-round information, go to our Greater Farallones https://farallones.noaa.gov/visit/ story map guide to recreation. 

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THE WATERY WEB: If an actual visit to the sanctuary isn’t in the sea stars for you, enjoy the Office of National Marine Sanctuary’s Earth is Blue project and venture to and beyond our local sanctuaries through photos, videos and Virtual Reality: https://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/earthisblue/videos.html), via Twitter and Facebook at https://twitter.com/GFNMS, and https://www.facebook.com/GFNMS/

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FAMILIARITY BREEDS CONTENT: Explore, sample, and get to know your optimal ocean experience. The sea can soothe your soul, expand your knowledge, inspire and excite you. As e.e. cummings wrote, “For whatever we lose (like a you or a me), It’s always our self we find in the sea.”

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