Pink Moon

April 06, 2012

“A Pink Moon is the full moon of April, named for the herb, “moss pink”, or wild ground phlox, which is one of the earliest widespread flowers of the spring. Other names for this month’s celestial body include the Full Sprouting Grass Moon, the Egg Moon, and among coastal tribes the Full Fish Moon, because this was the time that the shad swam upstream to spawn. “– Farmers Almanac

Pink moon in British Columbia, Canada



During last April’s pink moon, we were miles and miles up a glacier-rimmed fjord, searching for dolphins.  If you look up Pacific white-sided dolphins in any guidebook, it will tell you that they are found in the open ocean, but something lures these dolphins into inshore waters of British Columbia.  We see these dolphins navigating through the beautifully complex Broughton Archipelago in search of food, mates and a safe place to have their calves.  The attraction must be compelling, because these waters are also home to mammal-eating killer whales.  What drives them to live in a landscape of fear?


Pacific white-sided dolphin with killer whale rake marks.

This year, when a big part of me feels like I should be braving the cold in our little, open boat, I’m at the computer going through the tens of thousands of photographs we collected from last year’s trip up Knight Inlet.  We are looking for identifiable dolphins to add to our photo-identification catalogue, so we can learn more about the dolphin population.  While looking for marks in dorsal fins, I was surprised to see the unmistakable signs of killer whale teeth rake marks on one of the dolphins we study.  It’s an exciting piece of information — this dolphin’s story includes the fact that he or she is a survivor of a killer whale attack.  It stayed in Knight Inlet, even after a life-threatening attack.  Our neighbor back home tells me he saw another dolphin become “prey” yesterday in Johnstone Strait.


I guess the lesson here is that nothing worthwhile is ever easy.  Knight Inlet is terrific dolphin habitat, but it comes with the risk that killer whales might eat you.  Having a PhD in biology for the University of St Andrews will help me to become a better advocate for dolphin conservation, but it requires me to spend so many months at the computer that all the dolphins start to blur into one big monster fin.  And tonight, as I look at the pink moon over St Andrews, my heart is in Knight Inlet, wondering what I’m missing.

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