Category: North Canada Coast


5/19

I had to take a client up to Northern Canada to see ribbon seals, so while I was there I decided to continue my study of Greenland sharks, which I’m publishing here under the title,

Some Observations on Greenland Sharks (Somniosus microcephalus) in the Waters of Northern Canada

In this field study, I observed three Greenland sharks roaming the north Canada coast. For recording purposes, I’ve named them Geerg, Grieg and Grimm. 

Geerg

Grieg

Grimm

Greenland sharks are the second most agressive species of shark in Endless Ocean, after great white sharks. However, unlike the white sharks of Ciceros Strait, Greenland sharks are highly territorial and keep a respectable distance from each other, never hunting in packs. Geerg can usually be found circling the area south of ice hole D1-2, where it feeds on injured sea otters and half-eaten capelin left behind by hunting narwhals.  Grieg patrols WNW of the same ice hole, and Grimm haunts the far northwest region all around ice hole A1.

Adapted from Phisheep, 2010.

Greenland sharks are wary predators, preferring to circle their prey at a safe distance for some moments before abruptly charging in to attack. For this reason, it is easy when straying into their territory to disregard the “Warning” sign and assume that they are not an aggressive species. This common and dangerous mistake can lead to many unpleasant suprises, as this observer can attest. For, once the Greenland shark senses blood in the water, it will rejoin its attack relentlessly. Then the circling behavior of the Greenlander becomes especially dangerous, as it is often hard to find in the turbid waters until it suddenly strikes from nowhere. An encounter with a single Greenland shark can sometimes be as terrifying as a pack of great whites.

Greenland sharks can be evaded with strong swimming, but they have been known to follow divers well out of their assumed range. Many is the time this observer has thought he had escaped a Greenlander, only, whilst fumbling for camera equipment, to be reminded of its presence with a smart thwack on the back of the head.

In the case of the Greenland shark, often the best defense is a strong offense. Approaching the shark with a pulsar gun ready, aggressively zapping it while it is still circling, will usually stun it enough to allow the diver to pass unmolested. A successful pulsing (usually 4 zaps in quick succession) is generally effective for about 3 minutes, after which the shark will shake it off and return for more. However, if you leave the range of the shark, the effects of the pulsing wear off immediately. It is best to do one’s business efficiently and quit the area for good.

In the real world, Greenland sharks are benthic swimmers, preferring to hug the seafloor as deep as 6,000 feet below the surface. Encounters with humans are extremely rare, except when the sharks inhabit shallow waters like parts of the St. Lawrence Estuary. The flesh of the Greenland shark has unusually high concentrations of urea, making it poisonous, not to mention unpalatable. Nevertheless, with laborious preparation, Greenland shark meat is served as an hors d’oeuvre called kæstur hákarl in the finest restaurants in Iceland, where people will eat literally anything.

For more information about the Greenland shark, visit the fabulously awesome Web site of the Greenland Shark and Elasmobranch Education and Research Group (GEERG) at http://www.geerg.ca/.

5/6

North Canada Coast—We fled to Canada to find Finley’s beluga* and stayed awhile.

We found our pod of belugas under Ice Hole B4. We were looking for one with a spot pattern in the shape of a flower—easier said than done, as there are a lot of belugas, they move around very quickly, and the markings we’re looking for don’t exactly leap out at you. It’s a bit like the quest for the red-tusked narwhal—it takes sharp eyes and a quick clicker-finger to catch the right one. Eventually, I latched on to him and, using the whistle, engaged in a duet. Considering his gift for song and, well, the fact that he’s a beluga, I can’t think of a better name for him than Raffi, after the kid’s folk singer whose hit  “Baby Beluga” was in very heavy rotation in our house when my son was a toddler.

Bay-bee be-loo-ga! Bay-bee be-loo-ga!

After bringing Raffi into the fold, Hayako and I continued to investigate the other ice holes. Looking at the Marine Encyclopedia the other day, I noted that a large number of the undiscovered species in the book were located in the Arctic, so I thought this would be a good time to get familiar with a region I don’t visit very often. We dive at sunset.

At Hole D1,2 we found our narwhals again, but the Greenland shark who usually harrasses us here was hanging back. Once we got north of the hole, he was up to his old tricks, charging us, running away and circling a few minutes before making another charge. There are more Greenlanders in the open range between holes along the northern border of the map, in C1, A1 and A2. Unlike the great whites, they’re solitary nomads. I guess I need to draw up another Know Thine Enemy for Greenland sharks.

Greenland sharks are solitary nomads

Topside at Hole D1,2 we find a suprise—sea otters diligently dining on their tummy-tables.

On the rim of Hole A1 we find  Atlantic spiny lumpsuckers, which I wasn’t able to find on one of my recent photo requests. Why anyone would want a photo of one of these things is beyond me—they look just like—well, look at them:

Atlantic spiny lumpsuckers

At Hole AB2 we found the legendary Ice Cupid—a kind of large sea angel, which loads an unsettling cut-scene where Jean-Eric tells me the Ice Cupid is a love charm and did I know that Oceana reallly looks up to me (wink-wink, nudge-nudge)? Uh, Jean-Eric—did YOU know that your granddaughter’s right there in the boat next to you and can hear every word you’re saying as you blatantly try to set us up? Maybe your imagination should get a room.

I had originally wanted to stay and do an around-the-clock survey of the life of the North Canada Coast, but we were out of film and hey—when was the last time I made any money? Before leaving we check out the topside around Hole CD3. The sky is clear, there are bearded seals lying around like drunks at the end of a party. The sun has disappeared behind the horizon, sending out a strange vertical ray that points like a beacon towards the darkening sky. I’ve heard of the green flash at sunset, but not this. I’d take a picture of it, but I haven’t any film left.

*By the way: Why do they call it “beluga” caviar, anyway? Belugas are mammals and don’t lay eggs. Caviar comes from sturgeon—and they look nothing like belugas. What’s up with that?

4/24

Zahhab Region—I’ve decided to take seriously Jean-Eric’s requests for magazine photos. I’d been avoiding them after my “E” grade, but once I saw Waltmck’s YouTube video of  A&B winning shots (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nf8RPtXoeu8), I was emboldened to give it another try. The request with the most pressing deadline is for a barreleye, which, my marine encyclopedia shows, can be found in the depths of the Zahhab Region. I take Hayako with me, but despite her useful fish maps, I can’t find a single one.

Next I took Kaneko, who came to Nineball Island in open defiance of her overbearing architect father, to Zahhab to see some green sea turtles. It was almost too easy, so while we’re near the Twin Crevasses, I persuade her to follow me down to the depths. Of course, it’s highly irresponsible to take an inexperienced diver below 50 fathoms; I should have my PADI license revoked, but I gotta find that barreleye. Again I didn’t find one, but down in the narrow canyons I saw something emerging out of the gloom. Large but too misshapen to be a shark, it turned out to be a Risso’s dolphin. It was a welcome sight to find a fellow mammal down this deep. On our way back to the surface we found a few more new things: a common fangtooth, one of those all-mouth deepsea monsters that would be horrifying if it weren’t a little pipsqueak; and an oarfish—decidedly not a pipsqueak, but a long silver ribbonlike thing with a rooster’s comb that trails behind it for what seems like fifty feet.  We also met the giant squid rising vertically up the canyon wall, so we followed it up to 270 feet, where it turned around and returned to the depths. Emerging from the crevasse, we took the requisite gray whale ride, then headed west to the Coral Garden, where another new creature turned up at a fish feeding—the blue and yellow banded butterflyfish. Back at Nineball, Kaneko paid me 3610 P for the trip.

Hey you! I'm talkin' to you!

Next I went to northern Canada to photograph a harp seal. I threw out my worries and simply tried to fill the viewfinder with the animal and made sure it smiled pretty for the camera. The photo earned me a “C” and the magazine paid out 2000 P, twice their initial price. I’ll take that.

My first passing grade

Finally, I couldn’t resist taking one more trip to the Zahhab depths, this time with Bob, an olympic medalist using thrill therapy to deal with the aftermath of a terrifying ski jump accident. He wants to see a sea pig. These little Pokemon nightmares litter the sea floor around the Chimney Forest. We also take in the vampire squids, the popeye grenadiers, the splendid alphonsos. Bob was cured of his PTSD and paid me 3610 on the docks. And hey, I finally found my barreleyes—they were hiding in a closeup zone because they’re so small. I got as close as I could and took many pictures—all prizewinners.

Sea pig (file photo)

The only problem is that once I got home, I exited the game without developing the pictures and lost everything!

Blame it on rapture of the deep.

Special Thanks to Waltmck!

4/6 (70th hour)

Nineball Island, daybreak—Over the past few days, I’ve been filling out the schedule with a bit of dolphin training. This isn’t the most exciting work in the world, but I did discover a couple of tricks to make it less mind-numbing. First, if you press “2” on your Wii remote, it will change the angle of view from the standard facing-the-rubber-boat, affording some interesting views of you and the gang on the docks reacting to dolphin antics. When the thrill of that wears off (after about 3 minutes), I set things to free training (the little icon in the bottom right of the screen), and iron my clothes, make a sandwich, or see what else is on TV. Do this for about 1 hour and your dolphin should have learned all its tricks and is breaking its own records. Then run through the routine with your star, make sure Oceana exclaims it can’t do any better, work on the tricks that aren’t there yet and you’re ready the next time Hayako offers to test them. I’ve trained up Lilly and Frodo this way. It’s cheating, I suppose, and not exactly fair to the other characters, but hey, I’m the only one with a life outside the game.

After I gave three dolphin shows, one with each cetacean, our talent scout Finley made another appearance to tell us there was a narwhal that looked like it just might be the next Paoulian Idol. A performing narwhal? This I’ve got to see!

Weddell Sea, later that day—On our way to the narwhal polo grounds, we run bang into a new legendary creature, the Ancient Mother. I guess this is the thing Jean-Eric said we might find at the north or south poles. I’m kind of disappointed because a.) it’s just an albino blue whale, and b.) we found it without even looking for it. Ah well. Never seen such large, kind eyes, etc., as the game enthuses. 

Ancient Mother---such large, kind eyes.

At the narwhal breathing hole,  I show the greenland shark who’s boss by pulsing it and go in search of our next star. A series of cut-scenes tells us we’re looking for a narwhal with a red tusk. This turns out to require some patience and quick reflexes. We have to go to the surface and wait for a red tusk to breach the water. Okay, but it’s whiteout conditions topside, and I can barely see any tusk, let alone a red one. When I think I see it I have to quickly find my equipment and dive. It takes about three or four tries to get the right one, a  piebald beauty with a long spiraling tooth that looks like it’s been painted with pink nail polish. I name her Pinky Tuscadero, after Fonzie’s girlfriend on “Happy Days.”  That time Pinky almost bit it in the demolition derby, and the Fonz got down on the track to declare his undying love and Pinky gave him her scarf to remember her by, that is true love, man. You say Romeo & Juliet, I say Fonzie & Pinky.

Anyway, we take Pinky back to Nineball Island and immediately put her in training, just so I can watch a narwhal do flips.

Pinky Tuscadero

Tusk!

3/22 (47th hour)

Ciceros Strait, midnight—I’m searching with GG for the Spartan Treasure. They turn the whirlpools off at night, so we’re free to roam through Ciceros Undines (that’s Undines not undies, okay?) looking for a cave. Well, it’s a long way and a lot of staring at rock walls before we find it near the Wreck of the Blood Rose. We go in and find…nuh-thing…nada…nix. A cutscene tells us we’ll have to go back to Nineball and try again.

So, is FF having us on? Or is there something more sinister at work? Is he getting his revenge on GG for messing up his brother? I’m turning this over in my head when who should pull up on his jet ski but FF himself. Uh-oh, I think, this is going to be awkward. And it is, a little. “Oh dudes, didn’t my brother tell you? You’ve got to look on the night of a full moon. Weird, he told me that, but not you. Oh that’s right—he can’t, because he’s in the hospital! Sorry, brah!” As a final twist of the knife, he tells GG to stop paying his brother’s doctor bills for him. This forces GG to break down and admit that he’s been sending his treasure booty home for his former partner’s recovery. That’s why he’s such an awesome treasure hunter—because he’s a wuss with a guilty conscience, not because he loves money or fancy clothes or anything. Then he walks away, shaken.

Phew! That’s enough drama for today. Fortunately, a look at the night sky tells me the moon is waxing (or waning, I can never remember). We’ll be back soon.

Next, I’m off to northern Canada to search for the two long tusks my tiki demands. Boy, it’s cold up here! The wind is blowing 70 mph and I can barely see past the boat. Maybe I should’ve put a shirt on before I left. Aside from chinook salmon, I’m not seeing too many fish here and—OMG! NARWHALS!! Not just one narwhal, either, but a whole pod, all chasing around and crossing tusks like the three musketeers! Unfortunately, I’m not allowed much time to marvel before a Greenland shark turns up to kill my buzz. He can be zapped of course, but he’s persistent. After awhile I get annoyed and move on. Around the narwhal ice breathing hole I find the first tusk. One more to go. Now, what else lives in the arctic and has tusks? I drop in on the other breathing holes. Polar bear—nope. Ribbon seals—nope. Ah, here it is: walrus! I have to wander around in the blizzard a bit before I find the second tusk, then finish filling out the map and back to the boat. The crew is waiting  for me impatiently, all huddled over in the cold. When I get in, somebody says, “The weather’s not so bad here.” Yeah, right!

OMG! NARWHALS!!

Back at Nineball, I lay the tusks at my tiki’s feet. “I am…satisfied…” it grunts. “On sandy beach…soon…my thanks…”

So, how soon is “soon”, exactly?