Day 19, Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Dear Family and Friends,
It started out a quiet day. Captain Bob and I discussed the plan last night and given how tired and worn out everyone was from the pounding we had all taken for a few days – it was an east one- drift. The weather was calm so we chose to drift at night. The advantage to a drift is that the boat stays calm and then it is like sleeping on a waterbed. The team needed a good night sleep. I slept like a stone. So too did Johnny.
In the morning when I got up and looked things over, all was well. The sky was filled with golden sunshine. The team was busy with their work. The boat was cruising along. The only thing missing was whales on the array. I showered, dressed and started my work as well. All stayed quiet.
It was disappointing. I began to wonder if we were too early and the whales had simply not arrived yet. We did a Sargasso weed collection. We waited for whales.
Some clicks started in the afternoon. Audible, but not too loud, meaning the whales were a ways away. We looked and looked, but still no whales. The click stayed about the same. It seemed we just couldn’t quite find them.
Then at 3:30 pm, the madness started. The whales were loud and sounded like popcorn popping. Lots and lots of whales! Music to my ears! I called out “whales! and hurry cause they are close”. The team assembled and began what would prove to be the most grueling and wonderful work day of the trip.
By 4:30 pm, we had biopsied 5 whales! That’s an average of 1 biopsy every 12 minutes. The team working like a finely tuned machine. Ike would spot them. Captain Bob would sail us up to them. Johnny and Matt would sample them. Carolyne would record the data. Sandy would capture the photos and Tania would culture them. I did what needed to be done. Over and over and over and over and over.
The work continued. Matt took his first biopsy (congratulations Matt!) At 7:30 pm, I called a halt to the effort and Captain Bob moved the boat to idle speed. We had biopsied 9 whales and spent 4 hours with whales. The team on deck was worn out from the constant beating sun and the regular adrenaline rush that comes with working with each whale. Captain Bob had been at the helm for the entire 4 hours plus a couple more before we started.
Of course that did not mean the worked stopped at 7:30. No there was water to sample and dinner to cook and a deck to clean up and other boat work. Tania was in the lab culturing cells until 9 pm and then again after dinner. She was not worn out by the sun, but tells me the 79 degree cabin was “freezing”. It was a long day and the team is sore and tired, but happy from a job well done. One whale even treated us to 2 full breeches!
Dinner was at 9 pm again under a beautiful starry sky with Odyssey stories of yore and friendly banter as the team started to relax and discover aches they didn’t know one could have.
I was on Twitter during this event and tweeted updates and photos as we went. If you’re curious- sign up and follow us! I am told that our tweeter feed automatically updates our Wise Lab Facebook page – or perhaps soon will- so friend us on Facebook and see that too. That page is called WiseLaboratory – friend us there too!
I have attached pictures of the team processing the Sargasso weed; Bob at the helm taken from outside so you have to peer in the window to see him; some of the team on deck at the end of the day (you can see Matt in the bowsprit, Johnny on the whale boom sitting in the sun, Sandy in the bow, Ike next to the mast and Carolyne near Ike); a couple of whales (note that sperm whales have a distinctive blowhole that located is off-center on the left side of their heads – you can see that really well in the photo); and of course our sunset which was behind a big storm on land (that’s a mass of clouds it is sinking behind)!
I also attached 2 photos for fun. One is showing our teamwork. We work as a team. Sometimes, at night, we catch squid. Tania could not see the squid so Johnny and Ike give her a hand up (so to speak) to see them. Ike is in the blue shirt. Johnny is in the bright blue shorts.
The other image is the first of our track lines (made by our trusty IT guy Chris- thanks Chris!) and shows our leg 1 track in a simple view. You can see what I mean now about going down the middle! Soon we will have more detailed views.
If you want to see our location on Google Maps we are at:
If you want to read the previous days of these messages- they are
posted at www.usm.maine.edu/toxicology/gulf and click on “read logs
John Pierce Wise, Sr., Ph.D., Science Director