Sperm Whale Watching

Oops, we slept a little late yesterday morning.  Must be the nice, quiet cell with two foot thick concrete walls.  After quick showers and breakfast we checked out, but left our large backpacks at the hostel.  We had time to kill until our bus to Kaikoura this afternoon.  We walked to the Botanic Gardens, but a light rain shower chased us inside the nearby Canterbury Museum.  We wandered around enjoying the quality exhibits before walking back to collect our bags and meet our bus.

Christchurch botanic gardens

Christchurch botanic gardens

Christchurch botanic gardens

Christchurch botanic gardens

Views from bus to Kaikoura

Views from bus to Kaikoura

I confess I didn’t pay much attention to the scenery while the bus drove us to Kaikoura.  You see, the bus had wi-fi and I took advantage of it to upload some of our photos to Flickr.  I couldn’t believe that the bus wi-fi actually worked as well, if not better, than the wi-fi at most campgrounds we’ve stayed in.  After the bus dropped us in downtown Kaikoura we had to walk less than a kilometer to our campground.  It wasn’t far to walk, but with all our belongings on our backs, I kept wishing we had booked a room in the hostel next to the bus stop.

At this point you may be wondering why we went to the trouble of coming up to Kaikoura in the first place.  Well, it’s one of the few places in the world where you have a good chance of spotting sperm whales close to land.  Just offshore there is a 2km deep underwater canyon which provides abundant feeding grounds for sperm whales.  They feed in deep water for about an hour at a time before surfacing to replenish the oxygen in their bloodstream.  We woke early this morning to make sure we didn’t miss our whale watching trip to see these whales.  As we boarded we learned that the trip before ours didn’t see a whale and would be getting a partial refund.  Hopefully we didn’t have the same outcome.

Thankfully we had barely reached the deep water feeding grounds when another whale watching boat spotted a whale surfacing to breathe.  He stayed around for maybe ten minutes purging his body of CO2 and taking in oxygen.  We didn’t see much beyond his back until he raised his tail above the water to dive down for a deep water hunting session.  One interesting thing about our whale watching trip is how the boat’s captain used an underwater microphone to listen for the sonar clicks of the whales.  Eventually this same whale resurfaced and we got to see him again for several minutes before he dove again and we headed back to shore.  It was an expensive whale watching tour (over twice what a similar trip cost in Maine), but it was pretty cool to see a sperm whale.

Sperm whale off Kaikoura

Sperm whale off Kaikoura

Sperm whale diving to feed

Sperm whale diving to feed

Captain using microphone to listen for whales

Captain using microphone to listen for whales

Sperm whale blowhole closeup

Sperm whale blowhole closeup

Sperm whale and boat

Sperm whale and boat

Sperm whale preparing to dive

Sperm whale preparing to dive

Sperm whale tail as it dives to feed

Sperm whale tail as it dives to feed

After that busy day we caught a bus back to Christchurch where we’re staying at the YMCA for the night.  Walking from the bus to the YMCA (again with all our crap on our backs, ugh) we saw signs of the 2011 Christchurch earthquake.  Some historic buildings have shipping containers stacked up in front of their facades to keep them from falling down.  The Christchurch Cathedral in particular has some bad damage.  Hopefully they’ll be able to repair it someday.  Other buildings have already been torn down and the downtown area has lots of empty lots waiting to be build upon.  The YMCA we’re staying at is one example of a new building that replaced an older building torn down due to earthquake damage.  I can’t imagine the impact the earthquake had on this city, but it does seem to be rebounding pretty well.

Christchurch cathedral earthquake damage

Christchurch cathedral earthquake damage

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