liance.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Johnny-rick-sandy-and-cathy-300×229.gif” alt=”" width=”300″ height=”229″ />Another gorgeous day though the sea was a bit choppier. Everyone settled into their routine and I think today was the first day they felt the beginning of the grind. The morning had a bit of excitement as Johnny spotted some marine mammals in the distance. It took a while to identify them as they did not surface much. In the end, we decided they were most likely Risso’s dolphins.
Then the routine really kicked in as there was not much to see and few sounds coming over the array. By afternoon, the adrenaline from being at sea had worn off and the grind of the work set in as there were bodies napping everywhere you looked. In the salon, in the galley, in the cabins on the aft deck benches. Anywhere there was a reasonably comfortable spot, a body was napping. The whole team is clear now–if they weren’t before–work at sea is hard.
About 5:45 pm the boat stopped. I went up figuring they were preparing for the 6 pm water sampling only to discover Ian had a tension on his fishing line. I teased him that it was only Sargasso weed. It was. I sat on the aft bench, thinking about the day and the leg ahead. You see, the plan is look for sperm whales here and then head in to look for the Bryde’s whales. Rick was on whale watch till 6 pm so the water sampling could not start for a few minutes.
I took a couple of photos figuring the water sampling would be the highlight of the day, when Cyndi yelled she had seen a whale blow. Sure enough, Cathy saw it next and I scrambled the team into position. It was a lone sperm whale and he was not far off. Johnny went out on the whale boom with one crossbow and Rick went into the bowsprit with the other one. Sandy and Cathy took positions in the bow to take a photo ID picture and record data, respectively (picture attached – Sandy is further out in the blue shirt near Rick). Shanelle went onto the midlevel platform to take video and general photos and Alyssa joined her to spot whales. Cyndi remained on top of the pilot house and did a truly excellent job of spotting whales throughout. Nora readied the net and buoys. Ian manned the helm. We let Bob sleep as Ian had the helm under control and there was only one whale, so Cyndi would be on the pilot house until the sample was collected.
We got close. But never close enough. The whale made a deep dive. That meant 45 minutes until he surfaced again. Only this proved to be a remarkable whale and he stayed down for an hour and ten minutes! Sperm whales click when they are underwater and then are usually silent at the surface. We were listening anxiously for the clicks to end meaning the whale had surfaced, particularly when 45 minutes passed. But that whale developed a pattern of 20 seconds of silence followed by more clicking. Each time it stopped, we though this is it! But he’d start clicking again. It reached a point where it was so regular Ian became convinced it was a recording. Finally, after 70 minutes, the whale surfaced about a mile up ahead.
Keeping our eye on the whale, we sped along trying to catch up. We did. Just in time to see him fluke and dive deeply again. There was not 45 minutes of sunlight left so there would not be another attempt. As the whale dove, we heard the strangest sound over the array. I kid you not it sounded like “heh, heh, heh”. As if the whale was laughing at us! I thought I was hearing things, but I asked Ian (the only other person in the pilothouse) if her heard it and indeed he heard it too.
We were disappointed at the lack of a sample. But everyone is trained now and ready for the next chance. We also got our water samples. So the day ends with another tasty meal and a beautiful sunset.
(Blog by: John Wise, Science Director)
ontent/uploads/2011/06/Johnny-with-fresh-caught-mahi-231x300.gif" alt="" width="231" height="300" />Our first full day at sea. It was a beautiful day. The seas were again calm giving us a gentle rolling motion. Brilliant golden sunlight illuminated the cobalt blue water and the pure white wake created by the boat. A gentle breeze blew across the deck. Just wonderful.
The students started their first whale watches. Nora has the first two hour watch and so her first hour is alone so that watches are staggered. Johnny then joined during his second hour followed by Cathy, Shanelle, Rick and then Cyndi. Watches rotate until 6 pm when other sample collection begins.
We did not see any whales today. Not a big surprise as the water was not deep enough for sperm whales until about 2 pm. But, we did pass a group of dolphins in a feeding frenzy- too busy feeding to pay us much mind and we did pick up a bunch of trash. Rather, today was a successful day because of the environmental samples we collected.
Johnny and Ian put out fishing lines to catch lunch. Late morning as lunch was approaching, Johnny's fishing line had a bite. He jumped to the line and reeled in a small mahi (picture attached). Then about 20 minutes later another bite and another fish, this one a bonita tuna. This catch meant two things- 1) we had a tasty and fresh lunch, 2) we could use the parts we didn't eat as samples of fish to test and samples of fish to try and grow fish cell lines.
It was also a fun moment for Johnny as he spent some time with my brother in-law Karl learning about offshore fishing. Karl had worked on fishing boats in his single days and has a real passion for fishing. He filled Johnny in on all the do's and don'ts and gave Johnny some of his best lures to try. They worked first time out. As soon as Johnny landed that first fish his first comment to me was "email that picture to Karl and let him know it was the yellow squid lure". Nice moment. I did of course send the picture.
After lunch, I realized to my dismay that I had grown accustomed to too much brewed sweet tea on our travels and waiting to go to sea and since I had had no caffeine all day, caffeine withdrawl had set in. Not sure if you have ever had caffeine withdrawal but it’s a lot like a migraine headache and it takes a day or two to get over. A truly miserable feeling. So I retreated to my bunk for the day and alas haveno iphone pictures to send you of the day's sunset or other activities.
But, Johnny kept me informed as they day progressed. We had our first Sargasso weed collection and gathered krill, small fish, shrimp, crabs and Sargasso weed. Then he came in at 9 pm and told me our first attempt at collecting deep water samples was successful (it was about then the headache began to subside). Our goal for this year is collecting water samples at relatively shallow (40 meters or 121 feet) and relatively deep (3000 meters or 1000 feet). It requires a special contraption to collect and it worked! Rick and Nora are our water samplers and they collected water at the shallow depth and at 2,400 meters. Excellent news!
At 9 pm he said they were finally breaking for dinner and then squid fishing. Remarkable day for him as he started with helm watch at 4am and had no naps. All in all a good day.
Our array is in the water and tomorrow we hope for some whales! I also expect to be better in the morning.
(Blog by: John Wise, Science Director)