A Day in the Life of a Lighthouse Keeper.
I have spent most of the last two years at the Race Rocks Lighthouse and Ecological Reserve. I take a few months off in the summer but between September and May that is where you will find me. Living alone on the rock is an amazing experience being surrounded by the wildlife that is coming and going throughout the year.
My day starts with the weather report, every morning I call into the Pedder Bay Marina and tell them the visibility, wind strength and direction along with sea conditions. After this is usually when I’ll put on some coffee and start up the fireplace. Depending on what time of year it is there is usually something going on around the rock that I can observe. In October its humpback whales, everywhere, I can see them out every window, along with sea lions. In December its elephant seals, they’ve come back to the rock to have their pups in January then for the next few months it’s watching the elephant seals pups grow up.
Depending on what day of the week it is, I will do a census, counting the animals that come go through the seasons. In the fall there is a huge influx of sea lions, both Stellers and Californias completely take over the island, last October I counted up to 1400 all together. The Stellers tend to stay on the outer rocks but the Californias come right up onto the island and crowd the walkways and surround the buildings. That’s when the fence goes up to try and keep the sea lions at a safe distance from the resident and generator buildings.
That time of year it is so loud on the island, the Californias have this very loud bark that continues throughout the day and night, it never stops. Part of my job at the lighthouse is to monitor the wildlife, that is to make sure no one is injured or sick. If I find a sea lion with fishing line wrapped around its body then its my job to contact marine mammal rescue. The Vancouver aquarium will send out a team to help out the animal, that involves tranquilizing, taking the garbage off, putting ointment on the wound and tagging the animal to keep an eye on it.
Other aspects of my job include maintenance, on Race Rocks I run mostly on solar power, the solar panels need to be kept clean so they can absorb as much sunlight as possible. My water comes through a desalinator, there is a large underground cistern that collects rain water throughout the year and that water goes through the desalinator and is made into fresh, potable water. Keeping the machinery running and the buildings maintained is a big aspect of my job. Along with monitoring wildlife and a weekly census, I take a daily seawater temperature, salinity sample, and run the blog.
I never get tired of watching the animals interacting with each other, and I’ve become very fond of the elephant seals. I have named every single one of them, usually the theme is Finding Nemo or The Little Mermaid. They don’t seem to mind me walking around the island going about my day and I give them plenty of space.
Everyday is something different, working around wild animals makes for some very interesting encounters. From watching the huge male elephant seals fight over territory, baby elephant seals being born, watching sea lions get into surprising places and seeing killer whales hunting a harbour seal.
Working the winter months out at Race Rocks is like being in another world. I cozy up next to my fire place, watch the winter storms go by, and can go for weeks without seeing another human. It’s just me, seals and sea lions.
Also to fill some time I am doing distance courses from UBC, currently pursuing my degree in Environment Sustainability. The lighthouse is the perfect place to study, not many distractions and plenty of time to dedicate to my studies.
That is my daily life, watching these animals go about their lives just outside my kitchen window, keeping the place running and keeping myself busy. It is both peaceful and exciting!
Blog written by our Naturalist Laas.