Courtney Kneipp

Hendrix College
Conway, Arkansas

Logbook index

On land:

At sea:

Logbook entries

08.25.2005: quotes

"We can inspire change in our biological environment by demanding it in our cultural environment" -- me (thought for the day)

"Cultural evolution is much faster than biological evolution." -- Fred Felleman

"Wildlife management has nothing to do with managing wildlife, but everything to do with managing people." -- Fred Felleman

08.27.2005: First week's adventure

So... wow!! This place is truly paradise. Despite all my nervousness I feel unbelievably comfortable and at home here. I have found my niche among both nature and people. My first experience was on the ferry over here... crazy how they load up cars and hop from island to island. I didn't watch most of the ride because I was sleeping. It was really really late and even later central time. The next morning I met my roomies and other classmates. All of us so different and yet connected through our common interest... I have found that it is one of the best ways to make fast and deep friendships.

The first day we went out to Lime Kiln on the west side of the island near the lighthouse and we got to see the beautiful Orca whales!!!! Equally exciting we were able admire some Harbor Seals playing on the rocks and in the sun.... what a first day right?

Then, classes start and then I realize I am truly in heaven. We hear amazing speakers such as Fred Felleman and Rich Osborne, both renowned scientist and activist in this community. We learn new and interesting things every single minute... quite a cognitive challenge! The most surprising was going out to Val Veirs' house on the west side of the island and learning to locate our exact location on a map... without the help of GPS; rather using rulers, straight edges and compasses... with the help of a few landmarks of course. Whew.... it was such a challenge because it was something I had never done before. (really getting a taste of what it will be like to sail).

If that isn't enough, I can walk maybe 50 yards down to the shoreline to view the sparkling Salish Sea, with Friday Harbor (the town) in clear sight. As a friendly reminder that I'm really here, I hear the ferry horn blowing ever so often throughout the day. It makes me smile every time I hear it.

Then, the day of reckoning. THE SWIM TEST. Yes, thats right, swim test. Did I mention it is really cold here, especially for a southerner and the water even colder. However, Beam Reach board members said we had to swim in the water to be able to row. So reluctantly, we all had to jump in.. Nicole and I were the first. Tightly holding hands and listening to the cheers of our peers and teacher, we make the decision to go in... but wait.... no no no.. we back up, giggling fearfully as we endlessly try to convince ourselves to jump in... in our swimsuits no less!! Finally!!! After lots of contemplation we plunge in. Screeching and then splash.. several really deep breaths then an exasperating "oh shit" as the coldness of the water really settles in. As a few long seconds of being totally brain dead and overwhelmed by the instinct to panic, we realize we can swim and oh do we. We swam to the boat and then back to the barge. It was terrible... honestly, terrible. But we conquered the most evasive experience thus far and probably for the whole ten weeks. Our other two female peers swam all the way to shore... INCREDIBLE!!! Then our two boy peers reluctantly jumped into the water, swam to the boat and back. By this point we are all cheering each other on.

So all of that... just to be able to row. Well, row we did. Unfortunately, rowing against the current is no fun at all and hardly worth jumping in to the freezing cold water. (did I mention you get hypothermia within 15 minutes and lose some cognitive functioning and mobility as in little as five minutes!!) So yea, really cold water. Anyways, it took Nicole, Freddy and I FOREVER to get into town. We all had to take turns and the current was terrible. We had to have someone help drag us into the harbor. After mingling in town and being harassed by some drunk guy we decided to head back... this time in the dark. So Celia and Laura met us up there because they wanted to walk and pick an abundant amount of blackberries on the way. So Freddy and Celia traded out and Celia, thankfully, rowed Nicole and I home, with some help from Nicole too! The wind was down so there was hardly and current, but our arms were tired and Celia seemed to have enjoyed the experience. The next morning we headed into town, via car, to check out the Whale Museum. It was informative and so much fun. I even bought a sweatshirt and baseball hat! After the museum and grocery shopping (for days when the caf is closed) we headed back to town.

You would have thought we had learned, but again Nicole and I decided to brave the row boat... later that afternoon! This time all by ourselves. The wind was up, the tide was up and the current strong. It took us an hour to get into town with blistered hands and windblown hair. Shortly after arriving, Celia, Laura and Freddy called wanting to go to Lime Kiln to watch for whales. So they picked us up in town to head the lighthouse. We got quite lost and what turned into an hour long trip was only supposed to take about 15. But the windows were down, the music up and the scenery majestic. Upon arriving, within 45 minutes we saw the whales again!!! We must be blessed by the island gods, because the whales seem to appear every time we are around. Truly blessed.

Check out the photo archive for some great pics!

So we head back into town and Nicole and I hop into the row boat to head back to the labs. We made it within fifteen minutes! The ocean was a little more kind and it was right at sunset... you can imagine the experience... Right as we head to the barge to load up our boat and oars (and life jackets of course) I hear the horn of the ferry and think .... what a wonderful place and how much grace I have been given to be a part of it.

My first week has been nothing less than magical, exciting and adventurous. I expect only more amazing experiences ahead, both in the classroom and among nature.

Love to all my friends and family who may be taking a part of my life by reading my journal entries.


08.28.2005, Sunday: Shout out

Just wanted to give a shout out to my little sis ashlyn!!!!? I love you and miss you. Hang in there through your last year... and remember to have fun!!! xoxo - cory

09.01.2005: Academic Encounters

Wow! I can't believe that a second week has already past. My brain is screaming for a break and my eyes for sleep, but i'm still living in paradise and enjoying every minute of my island experience. On Monday, we observed a porpoise necropsy... yuck! By far the most bloody educational experience i've ever had! The one thing I remember is how extremely large the testicles were! Go ahead, look at the pictures yourself and then tell me what you think.... :P They are the largest body to testicle ratio among all mammals! Honestly, it must have been the size of my lung. It proved to be a crucial part of the whole experience, because there were suspicions that the porpoise was a hybrid between a Dall's and Harbor porpoise. Because the male Harbor porpoise's are so highly sexed (for the reason mentioned above) they propagate with just about anything. The rest of the day was spent working with logarithms and the physics of acoustics... how about that for a cranial challenge?

Tuesday was also spent working with the physics of acoustics and the propagation of sound in addition to learning the geology and physical oceanography of the Salish Sea, which includes: Puget Sound, Georgia Basin and the Strait of Juan De Fuca.

Wednesday was spent working on the barge out on the water with acoustic instrumentation. Working with hydrophones and Orca calls to make measurements about sound transmission loss and to practice in field all the physics we were learning. It was a lot of fun and a great application tool... really! Then we got great news about Wolf Hollow, a wildlife rehabilitation center, releasing 8 of its abandoned harbor seal pups. I got the whole experience on film!! It was right off of National Geographic or Animal Planet. The pups were really reluctant to going out into the water and tried repetitively to go back into their plastic crates!!! The little guy had to be dumped...literally out of his cage and then continued to orient toward shore for at least an hour if not more. The rest of the pups wandered off, but after about an hour returned to shore, gathering in a little huddle. I could just hear them saying "Well... now what?" Poor babies. I know the experience is meant to be as gentle as possible, but the look on their faces showed that they were terrified! After that, the rest of day was lots of lecture and class time spent catching up on acoustic data analysis.. wheewwww.

Thursday was also a lot of fun because we discussed some really controversial essays about the disappearance of the tribal people on Easter Island in the morning and then got to hear Lynne Barre speak from NOAA/NMFS. NOAA stands for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NMFS stands for the National Marine Fisheries Service. She talked mostly about the new Conservation Plan for the Orca Whales and the legislative processes of NMFS concerning the MMPA, marine mammal protection act and the ESA, endangered species act. Right down my alley. I loved it. Additionally we were able to have lunch with her after having most of the morning with her. She has been one of the many awesome speakers we have had. Law school looks more and more interesting, especially concerning environmental policy. I hope that she remains a contact for me and an outlet for information in the future.

So overall it has been another fabulous week. However, I have been struggling concerning the disaster back home. With my broken heart, I have found it hard to concentrate and enjoy this experience while knowing so many are suffering. I just have to remember how hard I worked to get here and how so many of my family members sacrificed for me to be here... the disaster has helped me to stay grateful. I have shed more tears this week than in the past 6 months, but the beautiful water and supportive friends I have made here have helped. So when you read this and think of me, think of Louisiana too and think about all those (both human and animal) and keep us (them) in your thoughts. Louisiana is my past, my memories. Louisiana is my comfort, my family. Louisiana is and always will be, my home. I truly feel the depth of this tragedy. Love to all my family and friends. I miss you all dearly and will be thinking about you all a lot over the next two months as you deal with the disaster relief.

On a happier note, this weekend is labor day... yeah!!!! A much needed long weekend. Every student is leaving town except me and Nicole. Don't worry... we are going to have a blast. It is already in our plans to rent mopeds and ride to the west side of the island to Lime Kiln to watch the whales, carve in our newly gathered rock collection, watch girly movies and row into town. (Not to mention working on our research proposal). We'll probably do some hiking in our island forest too! My brain is looking forward to the break! No matter what happens this weekend, i'm sure it will be an adventure. Nicole and I can always find ways to get into some mischief!

Updates on weekend fun later -

09.07.2005: Where does the time go?

I can't believe we are already in our THIRD week!!! Well Labor Day weekend ended up being fabulous... mostly because Nicole and I did absolutely nothing. Thats right, we were in paradise and did nothing. What can I say, we really needed the break, physically and mentally. However, on Saturday we spent all day in the town of Friday Harbor, tinkering in stores, eating pizza and enjoying ice cream. It was tons of fun. We interacted with lots of people in the community, making conversation with all the small business owners and sometimes walking away with friends. *smile* We even caught a ride back to the labs with one of the store owners, because it was too late and she didn't want us walking. People around here are so friendly and open. The northwest is definitely a breath of fresh air, both literally and figuratively.

Then the rest of the weekend we worked on our research proposals. I am currently looking into studying cultural transmission through vocalizations. I hope to take advantage of the many new calves among our Southern Residents and spend some time studying and comparing the younger vocalizations with those of the adults. It is still a work in process... lots more reading to do, but i'll keep you all posted!

Then Monday night came... and at last!! our room-mates returned!!! They even came bearing gifts. A hand towel for the bathroom, yummy Argentinian cookies, flavored candy canes and smell good stuff (I think we stank). Its amazing what you get excited about out here. I have learned even more so, to truly appreciate everything. Living with strangers truly inspires community and part of that is constantly being grateful for one another. So needless to say, we caught up on the long weekend and dozed off.

Oh yea... Nicole and I FINALLY showered Monday before the room-mates showed up. Don't ask me, because I have no idea how long it had been... really.. it was that long...!

Tuesday morning we had someone from the Natural Resources Economics department of NOAA, Mr. Haynie, come and speak to us. Yet another incredible speaker. He really brought to light some interesting issues dealing with conservation that I had never really considered before. Such as, what are the cost/benefits of a MPA (Marine Protected Area). How much is it benefiting the ecosystem, versus how much it may be costing the fishing industry. Sometimes small areas, probably offering a little protection, cost the industry MILLIONS of dollars. Incredible!!! However, sometimes the benefit of having the protected area is priceless compared to that of actually monetary loss. I realized that it was as equally important to protect our economy as it is to protect our ecosystems. After all, a poor economy cannot offer the necessary resources that a MPA requires, so it is crucial to consider both the individual and the industry while seeking options to protect marine habitat. A really great opportunity and an eye-opening experience!

Wednesday morning we rowed into town to sit in on the Marine Reserve Committee meeting. It was so interesting to see the actual review process for grant proposals and the type of dialog that takes place at a relatively political level. The grant proposals were discussing research efforts and habitat plans that could benefit the endangered salmon population here (bad both for fishermen and the Orcas). It was a pretty long meeting, but absolutely worth while. I anticipate going back and sitting in on another meeting in the next two weeks, mostly to witness the progress they have made in many of their decisions.

Then we went to the grocery store to do our weekly shopping (talk about an adventure). It is somewhat challenging to make 7 people happy, but extremely important. We all work well together, so it ends up being a relatively painless process. So we hauled our groceries to our row boats and rowed back to the labs. After unloading the groceries we enjoyed a long lunch break and some down time to joke around and relax. It was so wonderful outside that we all ended up going down to the docks (even the advisor meetings) to enjoy the warm weather... and contemplate jumping in!!! Laura was the fearless leader in this situation and we all stupidly followed her.... for about 3 minutes... then decided to sit and be happy on the dock.. in the sun.. not the water!

Class then resumed. We spent some time talking about the food chain, relative to Resident Orcas, and made our way down to phytoplankton. So Scott led us down to the docks once again, with some microscopically tiny-holed nets to catch the very bottom of the food (phytoplankton). (actually the nets were made more for zooplankton, but still microscopically tiny) After collecting two full jars of zooplankton and a lonely shrimp we headed back to get ready for dinner... except... wait! Brett dared me to take a drink of this zooplankton delight AND pay me $5 dollars if I did so. So....what did I do... of course I did it!!! Just a little sea water. I lead the way, taking the ballsy dare, passed it down to Scott... then to Freddy. Thats right.. three of us were crazy enough to drink this stuff. It was very salty (way more so than the gulf), with a fishy after taste... yes it was the same container the shrimp was swimming around in. We didn't get paid, but I can say that i've drank the Salish Sea!!!

Lastly, Freddy cooked us some incredible Puerto Rican dinner and Celia some fruit crapes for dessert. Talk about good eatin!

So we are nearly completing our third week on this incredible journey and the time is flying by. One of these tomorrows I will be going home.. I'm thankful its not the next one.

yours truly-

ps... Nicole and I now have a pet Anemone... The same phylum as the jellyfish, but much much much smaller. It sticks to the bottom of the ocean floor near the shore, wading around in the low tides. When you touch them, they close up...soo cool! His name is Andy... We keep him in a jar and add fresh sea water regularly. *sigh* I'm no longer a charming nerd, i've definitely moved up to total geek!

09.12.2005: Einstein and Beckham

"A human being is part of a whole, called by us the "Universe," a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thought and feelings, as something separated from the rest - a king of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a king of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole nature in its beauty." -- Albert Einstein

"Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary.? Impossible is nothing." -- David Beckham

09.26.2005: Monday, 16:42

Well it is Monday afternoon, our second official day out on the water and we just finished an encounter with our cetacean friends (the whales of course!) It was incredible!! I never cease to be in awe when in their presence. Their movements both majestic and terrifying. We actually came upon them accidentally. We were heading north toward our anchoring spot, potentially Mitchell Bay (tip of San Juan Island) and started paying close attention to the whale watching station, channel 80. We heard all the chatter. They were listing behaviors, whales and specifically zones. They were in zones 6-7 and moving north. We caught up with them north of Kellett Bluff and south of Turn Point off of Stuart Island. While positioning ourselves, we decided to cut the engines and drop the hydrophones. The sounds were beautiful. So that is our whale experience thus far.... Lucky eh?

Our first day out on the water was soooo exciting. Our births (beds/rooms) are small but comfortable. Nicole and I are sharing a double birth port side (left), while Laura and Celia are sharing another double birth aft of the port side (left back). Our two boys are sleeping in the small single births toward the front of the boat and our instructors and captain (Todd) are taking up the two double births on the Starboard side (right). The weather has been very nice. Slight winds, so we were able to sail earlier this afternoon but are now motoring to our anchor spot.

Today we also had our first sailing class. Todd showed us around explaining all the ropes(sheets) and sails. We all got a little practice with maneuvering the boat both by helming and manning the sheets! I have to say that the only down side so far is that the captain informed us, that due to our water supply, that we would only be allowed to shower once a week!!!!! It basically boils down to having two gallons per person per day. Sounds like a lot, but we're talking brushing your teeth, washing your face, flushing the toilet, drinking water... oh yea... not a lot of water. This whole experience is going to be a major adjustment... ;p I think the largest adjustment so far (besides the whole living on water thing) has been pumping the toilet (8-10 times) to flush!!! LOL! I will be taking lots of video so you guys can get an idea. It's a big boat, 42 feet and offers plenty of space...well... ya know. :)

Nicole and I are going to revert back to freshmen year and use sticky tack to post pictures all over out little cabin space above our births. We've talked about other creative ways to decorate our living space!! (c'mon, 5 weeks people... its justified!)

*Girls... I brought a handful of pictures dating back all the way to freshmen year to more recent... they are going on our walls!!! (and you thought I wouldn't think of you in paradise!) **Nikolai, I have the pic you gave me from freshmen year valentines... its going up too!) If you guys have other pics please e-mail them to me... I can upload them on Sundays!

That should be a good introduction for now!!

Over and out..

PS - We just saw about 12 harbor seals hanging out, bathing in the sun... too cute!

Whew! What a rainy, wet, stormy day. Swells of about 4 feet and strong gusts of winds up to 20 knots, southeast. We put on our foul weather gear and took advantage of the wind speed to start some more sailing practice. We actually had to put on our life jackets today because of the weather, both scary and exhilarating.

I was standing up near the bow, grinning and watching the swells within the protection of the cockpit, when suddenly some of the swells started washing up on board and spraying Laura and Val who were sitting on the trampoline(netting near the front) near the bow of the boat. From a distance we could all spot one very large wave, headed right toward the boat. Laura spotted it and scurried for higher ground... while Val lay happily and unaware of what was headed his way (he was facing toward the stern). Poor guys. Laura didn't make it... the wave totality swallowed the bow of the boat, giving both Val and Laura salt water baths. Fortunately neither of them were injured and kept fairly dry. My whole face lit up with laughter.. and then I hurried to the front to check on the crew. It was then that I thought... oh boy... this is serious. We all kept a little more caution around the boat that day, realizing it would only take a little carelessness to send one of us overboard. No real data collection, mostly sailing instruction. It was good practice for the rainy month to come. (October is said to be the rainiest month of the year around here!)

As for the sailing component....
Helming -"Ready about?"
Port side - "Ready!"
Starboard side - "Ready!"
Helming - "Hard to lee!" (in old times, meaning, pushing the tiller to lee) This turns the rudder into the wind.

This is the dialog exchanged between crew while tacking the boat. You tack when you switch the sails while sailing against the wind. There are many points of sail, but we were sailing close hauled most of the day, which is the second to fastest point of sail, the fastest being a Beam Reach... sound familiar?

Later in our very wet day... we encountered about 10 Dall's porpoises as they bow rode. It was incredible!! They are beautiful black and white animals and a rarity to see. We all gathered toward the front of the boat, leaning over the trampoline and hulls to glance the incredible animals. They rode with us for quite a while and seemed to be having a great time in the swells, playing and jumping. There should be some fun pictures from our adventurous day... be sure to check!

As the sun began to set and the currents changed, we headed to our destination point, Mitchell Bay. Sunday night we moored in Parks Bay, Monday at Garrison Bay, Tuesday back to Garrison Bay, Wednesday at Wescott Bay. Most of the these locations are at the very north tip of San Juan Island. What makes a good mooring spot? Shallow, muddy bottom for anchorage and wind protection from which ever direction the nightly wind will be blowing and preferably protection from wind at all directions.

We didn't spot any whales today, but we saw whales on Monday (all three pods) and Tuesday we only saw the L'2's of the Lpod and Wednesday was waaaay too foggy and no one saw them anywhere. Today we did not see any whales either. We believe they were west out the Strait of Juan de Fuca. A few transient whales were spotted west near Vancouver Island, but we didn't attempt chasing them. Pretty incredible day... and a very very tiring one. Although rainy days are a blast... over all, sunny days and white spotted blue skies are my favorite.

So our first stormy day was over and so I went into my room to get my computer to write a journal entry... and everything was soaking wet! I almost went into tears immediately, because among those belongings were my computer, video camera, and cell phone. My video camera and cell phone were fine, but my computer has not yet recovered. (I'm typing on Nicole's computer right now) It wasn't a great way to end to the day in the least and left me feeling pretty upset. Not only was I cold and a little damp, un-able to shower and tired, now everything, with exception of my clothes was wet. My books, electronics, personal items, sleeping bag, back-pack... all wet. Turns out there were some leaky screws from on deck letting the flood of rain water in on Nicole and I's room. :( Not the happiest moment of my experience. I'll keep you updated on the state of my computer... she is still in ICU.
So I'm signing out... still un-showered and extremely exhausted!


Okay, so a new, beautiful day! (not quite sunny yet, but the sun is trying to burn the clouds off)

So here is the morning routine...
Around 8:00 to 8:15 (with the alarm having gone off at 7:30), Nicole and I finally roll out of bed, or climb rather, and make our way upstairs to the rest of the crew enjoying breakfast. By 8:30, its time to clean the boat! We (students and instructors) are paired off to complete the morning cleaning tasks, which include: heads and hallways, galley, decks, cockpit and windows. We try to finish up by around 9:00 and then start our passage planning. We sit down with the log book, listen to the weather, look at the current tables and track down the whales via VHF radio, and then decided, depending on our travel for the day and the whales, where we want to moor for the evening. After passage planning, we have sailing class and the some sailing! We have also intermittently included science classes pertaining to our research and of course weather classes to discuss the patterns of weather, currents, tide, clouds etc etc. Learning about the clouds has been one of my favorite parts, along with learning more about the stars. It is really incredible to see how closely you can predict the weather based on cloud cycle and formation. (thanks Val!!)

Then of course we are off to sailing, manning the sheets and such and to find the whales. We tested some of our equipment today, which was both frustrating and helpful. Lets just say things don't always work out as you may have planned... right? Nicole and I are both using the same array (two hydrophones) and the software Ishmael for underwater sound localization. Additionally, we have the recorder(the Marantz) to record the sound files from the hydrophone, to later be downloaded onto our computers and run Ishmael to locate particular sounds at a certain time. (fun eh?) There is quite a bit of technology being used to support our individual research projects and being able to test them out in the open sea (as opposed to off the dock at the labs) has brought to our attention several kinks. We have managed to work out most of them, but our Science Plan component needs more attention and time... something hard to give while learning to sail! However, I think things are going to work out... maybe not as we planned, but still manageable. (ah the process of the research).............

We encountered the whales right off the west side of San Juan near Lime Kiln around early morning, mid afternoon. They were being extremely chatty and provided us with lots of trial data. The long duration of their calling also allowed us time to adjust our hydrophones and attend to some kinks. Listening to whales... it never gets old. Each encounter is enriching and awe inspiring. I'm really going to miss them when I leave.

I am also going to miss our incredible sunsets. There is nothing in comparison to a northwest sunset... the colors are so bright and clouds golden. Colors of orange, red, blues and purple, spotted with beautiful golden trimmed clouds.....

I have not experienced a sunrise yet... sleeping has been quite the priority with our daily schedules being so full, but I plan to witness it eventually, perhaps on one of my early morning watch schedules.

So its Uno time... yes, that's right. Uno. What can I say...I won't even begin to share with you half of the nerdy things we REALLY do... :p

Gato Verde - signing out


Can you believe that it is October already!! I hope all of you guys down south are enjoying your warm weather... because it is freeeeeeezing here! Well not quite... but it is pretty damn cold and the wind drives it into your bones. Yes yes, I know, wear hats and gloves and lots of layers... but regardless of layers... its still cold people.

Last night we moored at Jones Island... in order to be closer to Friday Harbor to pick up our new skipper... and we stayed right at the dock... you know what that means... oh yea...we got on LAND!!! Nicole and I (being the younger and more careless of the group) ran down the dock and catapulted ourselves onto the grass and just laid there. We took advantage and Nicole, Celia and I went for a walk to the to the other side of the island through a wooded and enjoyed the foliage and dirt around us. Mostly it felt great to stretch our legs and get some exercise. Later that night the rest of the crew played cards and Nicole and I headed down to the beach to collect rocks. The rocks were so magnificent. They were spotted, stripped and beautiful colored, not at all like any rocks I've seen in the south. The mountainous topography and geography and active fault lines make for some really beautiful rocks. I look forward to making some jewelry with them and possibly picture frames.

As Nicole and I squatted in the dark with our headlamps on, searching for rocks on the beach... I said to Nicole, "It is a Friday night, and here we are digging for rocks...and loving it!" Wow we're nerds. :p I am in my element. We are all in our element. (just wish the boat was about 200 feet bigger.. jk!)

Late last night, Scott and I stayed up really late doing surgery on my computer. We took every screw and every layer apart, looking for damp areas or droplets of water. We did find some water and damp areas but most of it was dry. After the tedious, long process of taking everything apart oh so carefully, we put it all back together again...
So with tired eyes and anxious hearts, we turned her back on... waiting...
She loaded fine... and then stopped doing anything at all. So with a large sigh we went to bed decided it would be best to send my computer to Bellingham with our captain to seek some expert attention. So this next week I will be without my computer. (don't worry, you'll still get my essay long journal entries!) Now I just have to wait and see what the estimate is... fun...

Today we picked up our new skipper Judy. She is extremely nice and most importantly, believes in SHOWERS!!! Don't get me wrong, Todd is an incredible captain and I'm going to miss him until next week, but I will enjoy being spoiled by Judy's bathing schedule. Mostly today Judy was trained on the boat and we worked on our research components. No whales today, we didn't have time to go far enough. Mostly sailing and research practice... and more beautiful sunsets.

The best part... tomorrow we get to shower... yesssssss!!! That's right, SEVEN days without a bath. Bluck! Our collective smell was definitely starting to become noticeable.

So tomorrow is Field day, where we clean the boat with a little more detail and fresh water, take inventory on food, grocery shop and hardware shop... and of course have some time for internet and phone access. Busy day...

10.01.2005: Showers

It was GREAT!

Week 2 at sea

Monday 10/03/05

The sun was out, blue skies, cumulous stratus clouds -- and whales!! This weekend we finally got our pager for the whale pager system. So what does that mean right? Well, there is an entire collaboration of people and networking that goes on to keep track of where the whales are. So, the lighthouse, the whale watchers, and center for whale research all have pagers. Okay, and now there is us under a special request as researchers. Then there is a spotter. The spotter is someone who sits atop Gonzales Point in Canada and... you guessed it, spots the whales. He then sends out pages in code, such as 907. Translation: 907 = superpod, J, K & L, 84, 83 is a lat/long ona special grid that accompanies the decoder paper, 8 is direction traveling, such as northwest and 1300 is the time. One beginning page I'm waiting for is 933, that means a humpback! Cool eh?! So anyways, to make a long story short, we finally got one! That basically means there is no more chasing the boats or locations. Usually after we finish cleaning the boat around 9:00 we have gotten our first page and just in time to start passage planning!(deciding where we are going, where we'll moor, wind direction, current, hazards, etc etc. So, that's great! As for the whales today, absolutely amazing! Don't worry, I got video. Is the suspense killing you? We had two females and a calf swim right UNDER OUR BOAT! All I could say the whole time was "oh my god!" Talk about once in a lifetime. We could have reached out and touched them. I was almost in tears. The experience was really profound. These are animals I have only dreamed about until now and to be that close to them, well -- no words.

It was a superpod today and they were incredibly active, foraging and milling about. It was also the first time we were able to gather some great data. The whales were so chatty, it was a blast to sit and listen to them throughout our encounter. I also collected several good bearings on J41, the youngest member of the southern residents, born this last July. She is still in a developmentally important vocal period, being so young. Her vocal repertoire is not yet fully developed (assumingly) and could offer some incredible insight to the development of orca vocals.

So can I just say one more time that I was 3 feet away from a killer whale today! How could I ever top today's experience. ha.. I have 3 1/2 more weeks -- we'll see.

Roger roger


Week 3 at sea

Journal 10/7/05-10/16/05

Friday 10/07/05

	So we spent most of the day in Friday Harbor, taking care of business
and such and then went on to anchor in Sucia Island… a really really
incredible place. It has been the most beautiful serene place that we have ever
been to. Sucia means “dirty” in Spanish and when the Spanish explorers came
by the island, they saw its rocky slopes and entrance, hence the name dirty.
Shortly after arrival we took advantage of docking (meaning we tie up to a
dock, hence getting to go on land, when anchoring we usually sit in the middle
of the bay, hence not getting to go on land). SO! As soon as we arrived and
tied ourselves up to the dock, we walked to the other side of the island to
watch the sunset. We took some incredible pictures of the sun setting over the
moon…what a magical moment. You should be able to see them online sometime.
Freddy hurt his leg, so Scott rolled him all the way up and down the rocky
slopes to the other side via a wheel barrow! It was pretty great for the whole
group to be there. We all piled around Freddy, sitting in the wheel barrow and
also took some great pictures. :) We played outside, along the beach and in the
grass, visiting and enjoying the scenic view. I know I’ve said this before,
but it is moments like those that make it all worth it, every penny, every
moment missed at Hendrix and certainly every moment away from the amenities of
home. Just a for a few minutes of that experience, we were all able to forget
the anxieties of a small living space and remember why we were all out here, to
remember the passion that brought us all together in the first place. What a

You would think it couldn’t any better, but oh yes…. We came back to
brownies, nice hot brownies.. mmm. The bay is called Fossil Bay and the water
was soo still you could see the stars reflecting off of the water… 

We have anchor watch tonight… I have the midnight to 1:00 am shift… not too
bad. My duties included checking all the engine components of the boat, as well
as checking the anchor, weather, etc. This is all in practice for the REAL
night watches….oooo

Off to update data sheets!

Saturday 10/08/05

We went past John’s Island(first encounter with the whales) and south around
Kellet Bluff where we met up with the whales again. We weren’t able to stay
with them that long because we had to hurry back to Friday Harbor before night
fall, our skipper Judy doesn’t feel comfortable navigating in the evening
hours. So we made it back around 7:00. Our second night in a row to be on
land!!! We docked at Friday Harbor Labs… and you know what that means…
SHOWERS!!! I think Laura and I took about a 30 minute shower…if not longer…so
amazing. My skin was steaming red the water was so hot…mmmm…

After our incredible shower experience we all hung out around the boat,
visiting and talking obsessively about our showers… still obviously very
excited about the whole experience.

Now it’s off to tucker away in our births… where Nicole and I usually ended
up spooning each other for warmth! We have to get up early in the morning to
start cleaning the boat, grocery shopping and our other Sunday activities. The
best part is… no anchor watch!! YES!

Ahh the feeling to be clean and warm… zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Sunday 10/09/05

So this morning was slow moving, as Val and Scott were on the Island with their
family… so we had no professor to push us along through our morning
routine…pretty nice actually. I woke up unusually early so that I could get
one more shower before we left for the week. What’s so sad is that I actually
felt bad about… two showers in a row… what a waste of water… yea… that’s
bad, hygiene is important. I look forward to enjoying a shower every day… and
to think I used to take 2 showers a day at times.. whewww. 

After my shower and a few quick e-mails I headed back to the boat to help with
the detail cleaning. We use fresh water and soap to swab the decks, a good rub
down of all the windows, sterilizing and scrubbing the heads and galley and
washing the rugs and towels. We knocked it out pretty fast so by mid morning we
were dispersed carrying out various tasks, such as grocery shopping and getting
supplies from the hardware store. 

Nicole and I did the grocery shopping last week (a HUGE tasks), so we were able
to float around town and hang out for the afternoon. It was so nice to be able
to walk around, go in and out of stores and mostly just to enjoy the day off.
We were thinking about stopping for a few beers, but walking around seemed way
more enticing, stretching our legs and relaxing our brain… :) Nicole and I
stopped by the used book store Serendipity, Lavender Café and a few other local
places. We spent a long long time in the book store… sooo nice!

Still no anchor watch tonight!! 

Monday 10/10/05

We got up bright and early to head to the harbor to fill up on gas (still no
biodiesel around), pump out and refill our fresh water supply. With no reports
of the whales having come through the pager yet, we decided to head back to the
labs, to take care of some logistics, i.e. printing out our data sheets on Rite
in Rain paper and last minute e-mails, phone calls. We also took some time to
discuss where the whales might be and where they were headed. With still no
sign of our cetacean friends, we motored out to the south end of Lopez and
drifted to test equipment and work on software. We are still troubleshooting
our software Ishmael (localization software). Theoretically we are supposed to
be able to compare our bearings of the whales in relation to the boat (the bow
being 12:00) to the degrees bearings given by Ishmael. However, things are
quite matching up, so we are guessing that Ishmael has a different 0 degrees or
12:00 than we are saying it does. AGH! It seems like a simple problem, but its
soo inconsistent and only plotting on one side of the 360 degrees axis…
totality frustrating. I could go into some details, but I’ll spare you the
pain and just let you know when we’ve got it working! To much math! AHH!!

After drifting and playing with equipment, with still no signs of the whales,
we motored to Aleck Bay to anchor for the night… also a very beautiful place.
Very steep rocky sides…really breathtaking landscape. 

Tomorrow its off to find the whales!!!

I have the 3:00-4:00 anchor watch shift… arrrr.. on top of having to get up in
the middle of your sleep cycle… this shift has me cleaning the starboard
heads… no wonder they call it the crap shift! It’s in the middle of the night
and you’re cleaning up crap…literally… eeeeeee

Speaking of shifts… I should really get to bed.. maybe modge podge some stuff
before I’m off to sleep.  Oh… I can’t wait to be sleeping in my own big, dry
bed! (everything stays so damp, being in the ocean of course, so it makes it a
little harder to stay warm) Hmmm…dreams of home.

Tuesday 10/11/05

So Nicole and I accidentally slept a little late today, a little before nine
and were woken up just in time to help swab the decks and finish the
windows…oops! Most other boat chores are taken care of during night watches,
but the decks and last minute touches on the windows are to be done in the
morning after everyone finishes breakfast. So Nicole and I leapt out of bed to
make it in time to help. Wheww… we made it thankfully. After finishing the
decks and a little breakfast it was time for passage planning. Today it
happened to be a painfully long process. The whales were way south near Whidbey
Island and kept changing direction between north, south and east… making our
task of finding them very difficult. After an hour or so of passage debating we
decided to head south. We ended up intercepting the whales as they were heading
north and attempted to follow them north. Then we came upon another challenge.
We were going to need to get fuel and needed to pick a new destination point to
fill up in. We wanted to fill up with biodiesel, so our best bet was to go to
San Juan Island, but at the time we couldn’t decide whether the whales were
heading to the south end of Lopez or the west side of San Juan. Our instinct
was right, they continued to head north along the west side of San Juan. We
continued to follow them as long as we could. The sun started to set and the
stars were showing. Those few moments with the whales were some of the most
magical we have had yet. You could barely see their black bodies in the water,
but we could here their incredibly intense blows. Most of the time we could
hear them before we saw them. Striking blows all around us, starboard side and
near the bow. We all sat silent, listening. The moon shone for a short time
until the clouds moved in providing just enough light to see them porpoising in
the water. What a moment, what a night. 

The sky grew darker and our ability to spot the whales visually became nearly
impossible. We depended on our hydrophones to listen and locate their
whereabouts along with their blows.  It became harder and harder, so finally we
decided to pick up our equipment out of the water and start heading to where we
were going to anchor… which ended up being in Roche Harbor (north end of San
Juan). After motoring for a while, we opted to stop barely in front of the
harbor and drop our hydrophones one last time… to listen for our friends.
Amidst many other sounds, a crazy French guy and classical music, we could
still hear a few calls. No blows were heard, but the faint calls let us know
they were within a few nautical miles near us. Hearing their calls didn’t last
long. We were all very tired as it was nearly 10:00. A long long day, but
totality rewarding. 

I look forward to more night follows and falling asleep with the whales. :)

Today has been both challenging and amazing… I bet there will be more of these
days ahead… as the October rain and chill comes in and the intensity of our
need to find the whales grows.

More adventures to come…

Wednesday 10/12/05

What an INCREDIBLE day!!! We had sooo much fun!!  The weather was rough, 4-5
foot swells, up to 30 knot gusts and great sailing. During our sailing
adventures we played the beach boys… surfing safari! Yes, we are all nerds,
but it is a great way to make the best of crazy bad weather. We were able to
catch up with the whales and get some good ID shots too. It has been about a
week since we have had such good sailing weather. Unfortunately, during
October, sunny and windy do not occur together. We’ve had some great sunny
days, some really gray and cloudy still days and a few stormy, very windy days!
The best days to do research are the sunny still wind days, because the sea
state is optimal for finding the whales. However, stormy, windy days are by far
the best for sailing. Our max speed got up to about 11 knots! We usually motor
at about 5 ½ to 6, so we were really flying. There will be some interesting
shots of us sailing and goofing off… :) I also got some great video...
although it might make me more sea sick to re-watch the video than to have
actually been there. I was falling around all over the place. 

Better yet, the whales, especially the calves, love to play in the rain
(according to personal conversation with Bain), so there was lots of beaching
and other fun percussive behaviors (good for Nicole!). Not a whole lot of data
collection, but like I said, it was great to get some good sailing weather and
get a little bit of exercise in the process. :) 

While we zoomed home and enjoyed the beautiful cloudy skies on our way to Snug
Harbor (Mitchell Bay), the whales were headed south from where we saw them,
several nautical miles south of Lime Kiln. Then, we had an amazing dinner by
Laura and Brett and our skipper Todd cooked up some banana’s foster for
desert!! Yummy! Banana’s foster (in case you don’t know, cause I didn’t) is
banana’s cooked in brown sugar and butter and then topped with ice cream…mmm…

So we have anchor watch tonight. I have the 4-5am shift and main tasks, aside
from checking on the anchor, will be to recap and record our science
information from the previous day. There is always a lot of information to
record, but I will focus my efforts on photo-iding the whales we saw from
today. Apparently, J and L pods were around,.. so we’ll see!

Well I am exhausted. Along with all of the excitement and adrenaline rush, my
body took quite the beating. I will sleep really really well. :P    Perhaps
we’ll get a little sunshine tomorrow!

Thursday 10/13/05

	 We had the sun on our side today which brought great research testing
opportunities plus a little warmth on our backs. Unfortunately, still no
whales. They must be hiding from us!  However, due to some continued
difficulties getting Ishmael to work, we decided to take apart our mobile two
hydrophone array and try something new. Our once “ears” have now become
“elephant” ears. So we now have two hydrophones off the port side stern and
port side bow, creating a huge distance between them, hence the name elephant
ears. :p (graciously named by Nicole). So we conducted our pole tests to retry
our localization software and sent Nicole, Laura and Val out in the dingy to
bang a pole at a good distance (sometimes around 100 meters) away from the
boat.  We will now go back and load up the pole sounds and let Ishmael to
attempt to localize them… seeing if the larger distance between the two
hydrophones makes Ishmael any more happy. :) Weather is supposed to be rough
tomorrow, possibly coming in tonight, so anchoring in a good spot is very
important. We ended up anchoring in Fish Creek, but it took about an hour to
get the anchor to bite. Our skipper was getting pretty frustrated but it ended
up being pretty exciting for us…well, you know:P I got to say, talking to my
friends has been a very surreal experience for me lately. While they are
telling me about their weekends at the Electric Cowboy, I’m telling them about
how the anchor wouldn’t bite.. haha. Wow, I’m convinced that when I go home I
won’t have any friends because of my extreme nerdiness… I’m going to miss
being here, in my element. There is nothing better than cooking dinner with the
crew and listening to the Free Willy song by Michael Jackson!  So I have the
4-5 am watch and should be getting to bed. Besides, tomorrow is supposed to be
bring rocky weather and that means good sailing… and a tired body.  Over

Friday 10/14/05  

	So we departed from Mackaye Harbor out by Cattle Pass to venture out
into Haro Strait…hopefully to find the whales.  We were traveling north,
anticipating rough weather as large swells came from the south. Low and
behold… we saw the whales…outside South Beach and followed them north to Lime
Kiln, until they turned around and headed south, by which point we needed to
head back and tuck in a harbor for shelter from the wind. 

	We had several unbelievably CLOSE encounters. Somehow, we continue
position ourselves way closer to the whales than we really should be. I was
able to get some of it on video and the other footage was taken via photo
camera. Look forward to those pictures on the internet! At one point we had
turned on our engines and were repositioning when we suddenly saw a whale
directly in front of us. We killed the engines and lay anxiously idol to see
where the whale might pop up. THEN we noticed that we were in fact right in the
middle of a bunch of whales. We must have parked right over their fishing hole,
because they were foraging around, beside, behind and under us. It was
amazing… and also when we had several close encounters with the whales. I
thought that after a while they that would at least get sort of old… but no…
not at all. They still have the ability to tempt me away from actually
collecting data and into just pure enjoyment of whale watching. :) I think
it’s often frustrating for our instructors, because most all of us, while
trying to multi-tasks and conduct research while watching the whales, often
fail and get totality sucked into the moment. Ahh bliss….

	The large swells being brought in from the south were making all of us
seasick. I’m not sure why these waves impacted us so much, but most all of the
students were feeling pretty  rough. At first I thought it was just me and that
I was wimping out, but it turned out that everyone else was feeling it too. We
were just rocking back and forth for so long, almost the whole time we were out
in the straits. Yuck -

	So after collecting a few more data points and hanging out with the
whales, we headed back to the north end of the island and tucked into Snug
Harbor. The anchor proved to be a little more cooperative this time around and
we tucked away all of our electronics and ourselves for rough weather.  Most of
us ended up going to bed pretty early because we still had anchor watches. My
shift was 5-6 am and the job was to clean the galley. I can’t wait to get home
and SLEEP!!! I feel like I could sleep for days and days.  PS – rough weather
never came…  only little rain and slight winds. Good for us!

Saturday 10/15/05

	Just for giggles, here is what each of us said on our anchor watch
report last night… just to give you an idea.. LoL

	Time           Person          Comments	
	12:00	       Brett	       real pissy (he was talking about the weather)	
	2:00           Celia           maybe pissy (she was also talking about weather)
        3:00           Laura	       fell under invasion, small animal espionage…left tracks, but no 					    positive ID.
	4:00           Freddie         little bit of wind
	5:00           Nicole          she put nothing…too sleepy
	6:00           Courtney        eyes…must…stay…open…
	7:00           Scott           stagnant, glassy (talking about the water)

Haha, okay, so the best part is that Brett was soo grumpy that even the weather
seemed pissy, Celia half way agreed and Laura saw sea otters jump onto our boat
last night…hence her hilarious commentary… WE ARE ALL GOING CRAZY!! 

Okay, so… I fell in. Yep… like a total clutz! I’m okay, a few bruises and
some scratches and REALLY REALLY COLD! Not only that I was on my way to take a
shower and do laundry… so everything went into the water… oh yea…including
my cell phone. :( So if you are trying to call me and can’t get a hold of me…
that’s why… right now it isn’t working. I have faith. My computer healed…
so will my cell phone. If you need to get in touch with me in the meantime,
call 919.749.4511. That is Nicole’s cell and she’ll know if you need to get
in touch with me.  Oh man….