Nicole Lee

Liberty University
Clayton, North Carolina

Logbook index

On land:

At sea:

Logbook entries
 

08.29.2005: The big picture

It's quite breath-taking the first time you see an orca whale. You really get a sense of something other than yourself. You suddenly feel like the big picture you've been dying to see is displayed right in front of your eyes; that there really is a bigger picture of the world than most people see. I wish more people could experience what I am. Perhaps the world wouldn't be just a playground for our species anymore. One can only wish.

I love it here. I love the whales, I love the water, I love learning, I love being challenged, I love my new friends, I love the deer, I love the sticky slugs, I love rowing to town and getting lost trying to get to the west side of the island; I just love it all.

I'm excited to see what's to come and I'll update as often as I can!

09.08.2005:

oh san juan islands how i love you so.

so today was yet another splendid day. we took microscopes down to to the dock and looked at various types of phyto and zoo plankton. i even saw a microscopic jelly fish. i was partial to that little guy... anywhoo, i wish i could document everything that has happened this past week, but i think it shall be forever engrained in my memory bank. okay okay, so i'm just rather lazy. well, let's see...we rowed to town yesterday and went grocery shopping. then we had an afternoon lesson on the food chain. then we went and collected some little creatures in the nets. it's such fun stuff.

i finally "snatched" one of the bikes from under one of the dorms. now i know what you're thinking. "some poor college kid is bikeless now"...see, even i ran that through my head quite a few times. anyway, if i get a knock on my door asking for it back i will smile, and kindly say no hablo ingles.

i can't wait to get on the boat...i wish my proposal was more promising...but, we'll see right? whales...geez you have to love them. i can't wait to see them interacting with one another ...and just be able to learn more about them.

i'm learning so much here...everyone here is teaching me so much. i'm like a sponge... with a.d.d. haha... it's hard to stay on task because i'm used to doing more than one thing at once. i guess you can't do that in a class of only 6 people... haha. anyway, sarcastically speaking... lots of math... my favorite. oh god how i love it. seriously, i hope we have like 10 more hours of it.

so there is this over hanging cliff that i like to sit on and draw/carve..whatever...ha, anyway...i saw river otters there on monday. about 5 or so.. i thought it was so awesome. this place is so beautiful, all i need is my guitar...if only shipping it were an option....but i just got a new hard case that i'm in love with back in april and to lose that would be to lose my soul..haha....sigh. for now, i'll just rely on good ol' damien rice and jeff buckley cover songs. speaking of which, his song "hallelujah" is playing right now... i think it fits just right for this evening..

cheers! and dulce de lecha (only the best chocolate/milky/sugary concoction my taste buds have ever tasted)

and now the real fun begins...time to listen to whale calls over and over and over.

adios,

nic

hi mom. i miss you putting "a-saurus" on the end of everything ;) hi dad. i miss playing the guitar with you :) hi jake. woof. :o)

09.26.2005:

Wow! What a day! I'm exhausted. Today was our first whole day on the boat. I found out yesterday evening that our captain (Captain Todd) doesn't like to run the heat! The only time he runs it is in the morning for our own motivational purposes. Haha. I was so depressed! I literally slept with 5 blankets (including my sleeping bag)! I ended up being very warm though. Anyway, Captain Todd gave us a sailing lesson and then we set sail at about 12:00 pm! I got to steer the boat... it's so awesome! I have pictures/video footage of the boat to send home, so don't worry... everyone will get to see! We sailed past an island called Speiden Island. Now this island is particularly neat because of the story behind it. So, apparently back in the 1970s these taxidermists from Seattle bought this island and renamed it "Safari Island" and import exotic animals such as Barbary sheep (the ones with the huge horns that curl under), European fallow deer and Spanish goats. Speiden became a game preserve for wealthy trophy hunters who drove around the island in Jeeps sipping martinis and shooting animals. Then environmentalists decried the enterprise and the operation shut down. Anyway, all the animals still live on the island and now the island is owned by the Oakley sunglasses company. Soooo, we sailed past that island and saw a lot of these animals. It was super cool. After sailing for about 4 hours we listened to channel 80 (the channel the whale watchers communicate on) and heard that the whales were heading towards battleship island... which was right where we were heading! So Captain Todd cut the motor and we dropped a hydrophone and sure enough they were there!! We could hear them calling and squeaking it was so great to hear them in their environment. It was breathtaking! Then, we could hear their blows and they were near by! A group of them even came up right by the boat...probably a little less than 100 meters. They are so beautiful!! Well anyway, today was awesome but there are some things I am going to miss/ have been missing for the past month and a half... such as:

  1. A looooonnnng bubble bath -- or just a bath in general -- ¶with really hot water‚
  2. Actually using my hairdryer that I brought.
  3. HEAT
  4. Internet
  5. My cell phone
  6. Curling up and watching Extreme Home Make Over

...there's more, I just can't think of them all right now. Anyway... more to come!!

09.28.2005:

Today was freezing!! The sun decided to NOT come out and combined with the wind on the boat= FREEZING! I was definitely not a very happy camper. I had all my "cold gear/wet gear" clothes on and my big wool whale hat I got from Vancouver. I was nice and warm. Anyway, yesterday morning we came across the L2 pod of whales. There are only 5 members of this pod, which is a sub pod of the L pod. We saw a cute little calf swimming with them. Aw. Anyway, I'm really enjoying it out here and I won in UNO (the card game)! Oh yea! Also, I've found that personal space is non-existent on a 42 foot catamaran. Ha ha, I expected it, but, now living in it... yea, overboard is the closest option to sanity in a situation where personal space is needed. Anyway, it's beautiful out here even with the rain. I can't wait to tell all of you about it in more detail!

09.29.2005:

Dear September, you have served us well with your warmth and sunny days. Thank you for not letting us freeze our tails off when jumping into the frigid Puget Sound waters for a "swim test" and for letting us make the most of our short sleeved shirts. Oh October, go back where you came from. Seriously, in two words I can sum up the weather for today : cold and wet! Nonetheless, I am having a marvelous time. Today we started sailing upwind to the south. We began at Mitchell Bay, where we had anchored for the evening. While sailing we went through a "potato patch," or minus the sailor lingo... waves! The swells were about 4 to 5 feet high and the boat was going up and down pretty hard. I was a little worried at first, but my adrenaline got pumping and I kept thinking "This is awesome!" So, amidst the chaos of the waves and rain, Laura (another student -- and quite a cool one at that) and Val (one of my super awesome profs) decided to place themselves in the heart of the chaos by sitting at the bow of the boat in the trampoline net. Fancy this; a huge swell totally submerged them! It was crazy! Captain Todd told me that "green water" had taken place. Green water is when water rushes over the boat and you can't see the white of the boat anymore... only the greenness of the water. So the weather was nasty all day... but, just when you felt like a soggy pretzel, here come 12 or so Dall's porpoises riding our bow!! They stayed with us for about 5 or so minutes, although it seemed like forever. Rain didn't even faze us at that point! We were hanging on for dear life between the waves and wind... but, we made it... and got an awesome experience and memories to take with us. Dall porpoises are so beautiful! They have black bodies and a white stripe on their dorsal fin and a white patch on their tummy. I could look over the side of the boat and see them swimming close to the surface and they would jump out of the water right in front of us! There was a harbor porpoise with the group too. Harbor porpoises are all gray... so pretty. Oh and to top of the day, our stuff got wet where we sleep. Mine was ok, but my roomie's computer is messed up. Hmm. October, why do you have to bring rain?

10.01.2005:

So you know that feeling of not cold‚Ķbut, freezing? Like, when you think to yourself ‚Äúyep, a few degrees lower and I‚Äôm definitely turning into an icicle‚ÄĚ. No? Ok, you don‚Äôt have to admit it‚Ķ.but I know you‚Äôve thought that. Anyway, I find myself judging how warm a day is by how many times I have to run hot water into the sink and lay my hands there just so they function correctly. So, last night we anchored a little off of Roche Harbor (just far enough that we couldn‚Äôt sneak away in the middle of the night and take showers). However, in the morning we docked in Roche Harbor and got onto LAND! First time in almost a week. We were greeted by ‚ÄúSarge‚ÄĚ, a yellow lab who we found out later belonged to one of the dock workers. ‚ÄúSarge‚ÄĚ is almost 6 and has been working the docks with her owner since she was 49 days old. She‚Äôs very sweet and she greets all the boats as they come in. I tried to bribe Sarge onto the boat with a donut we bought from the Lime Kiln Caf√©, but she just couldn‚Äôt be bribed. Hey, lady has her standards. Well, after getting some fresh water and dumping our waste (yea‚Ķyum) we headed out to the South end of the island. About the time we came up to Lime Kiln lighthouse we heard blows! And sure enough, there came J1 (Ruffles) and J2 (Granny)‚Ķ.the oldest members of the J pod. Ruffles was born in 1951 and Granny was born in 1911! Pretty sweet. Anyway, then we saw more and more for the next couple of hours. We set up our equipment and dropped in the hydrophones. They were talking up a storm! We saw them breaching and tail lobbing‚Ķ.it was so cool! We even saw one member of a group of whales that was around whale watching boats tail slap 12 times in a row! Then the weirdest thing happened‚Ķall the whales went under for a deep dive, or so it appeared. Hmm‚Ķ.makes you wonder what they are saying and how they are communicating under there. We watched them at a distance today for the most part because when around Lime Kiln you have to stay a mile _ off shore to give the whales space, and to give the land watchers a more natural experience. So, we ate some lunch and while eating was taking place we heard ‚ÄúWhooosh‚ÄĚ (a whale blow)! We looked out and there were 2 whales swimming at full speed (porpoising) about 30 meters away from our boat!! They were HUGE! It really puts things in perspective. Out here, they are the dominate species. See, the one thing I love about Orcas are that they have the capability to tear our boat to shreds, one breach‚Ķand it could severely damage the boat‚Ķkayakers could be eaten‚Ķ..but, you see‚Ķthey choose not to. I find humans lack that capability. Our species feels the need to prove that just because we can‚Ķwe will. Hmm. I read this quote somewhere, although I wish I remembered where: ‚ÄúThe core problem faced by whales is the self centred focus of humans. The perception that "we" come first dictates almost every point of human contact with the natural world. The "wise use" philosophy (if something exists and is not threatened, use it) is pervasive. Perhaps this is why the captivity issue is important to understand and to be involved in. Though the numbers of captives are relatively small, the impacts of thoughtless human actions are easy to see when we come face to face with individuals whose lives we have torn apart. The captive member of British Columbia's "A5 pod" we know as Corky, and her personal cause, are important not just to her and her family in the ocean, but to all cetaceans... because in understanding Corky and her needs, we expand our field of vision to the world beyond. Why not allow self-organized and self conscious, social and intelligent species like whales and dolphins the opportunity to live free from human interference? Getting to that point from where we are now is a simple exercise in thought... seeing outside ourselves, and learning to care for others.‚ÄĚ So, now we are heading to Jones Island, which is located on the East side of San Juan Island. From there we will anchor and leave to pick up our other captain, Captain Judy, in the morning. Ahhhh bed, here I come. Hi family. I love you. I reserve the bath tub with the jets, candles and bubbles for November 1st when I return. J

10.01.2005:

Today we sailed around with Captain Judy. She's really nice, especially because she lets us shower every other day and likes to heat up our cabins before we get tucked into our beds for the evening. Today I : Ate, played around with software, froze, defrosted, ate, (repeat, repeat)

10.02.2005:

Wow, I showered today. First time in a week. I smelled so bad. I really think if you were offered to smell fish, or me….you’d gladly pick the fish. Anyway, we ran errands and took inventory of what we had/ what we needed. I did a weeks worth of laundry for 50 cents. How cool is that???? Then Scott fixed us so-so-so good veggie burgers! Today was a nice day to just relax. Courtney and I picked up some candy bars and a magazine from King’s Market (the local grocery) and have all plans on getting caught up in what the world is up to. J Tomorrow we’re gonna go find some whales! We now have a pager, which pages us and tells us where the whales have been spotted. So, I can’t wait to test out some stuff and get started on my research! I’m having an amazing time! Hope everyone back home is doing well. Don’t forget to check out the new pics that should be up shortly! J

Monday, October 3, 2005

Where to begin, where to begin?!?!  Today began our first "research" day.
It's Monday, and the beginning of week 2.  We anchored at the Friday Harbor
Labs last night and took off heading south at around 10:45 am.  We now have
acquired a pager that "beeps" us every half hour to inform us where the whales
are, what they are doing and where they are heading.  We learned they were
near Hein bank, near the southern tip of San Juan Island.  We headed out and
came across the whales by lunch time.  The hydrophones were deployed and there
they were!!  Today's recordings were clear and loud!  They were really
vocalizing!  The boat noise in the background was unbelievably loud.  We could
barely hear some of the calls that were coming in.  It makes you wonder if it
annoys the whales.  I recently read about a phenomenon called "masking" that
the whales use.  Masking is when the whales have to call louder, and we're
thinking longer due to having to communicate over anthropogenic sounds such as
boats.  It would be the equivalent of having an airplane fly over our heads
while trying to maintain a conversation.  Anyway, we collected some data and
after awhile started making our way up north, offshore from the whales.  Well,
although our good intentions reined true for the whole day, we found ourselves
in a situation later in the day that would totally rock our worlds.  Ok, here
we go.  As I was sitting in the bathroom doing bathroomly duties (haha) I hear
Brett through the haul yell "Oh my gosh-WHALE!  WHALE!! Coming straight for
us....it's coming at the boat!!"  So I run full speed up to the Port side of
the boat and no lie....three whales, 2 females and one calf, came right up to
the boat.  We could have touched them they were so close!!  One female closest
to me came up, took a breath and dove right underneath the boat.  We followed
her under by watching through the trampoline net on the bow.  We could see
almost every detail of her body including the whiteness of her eye patch and
her gray saddle patch.  We are pretty sure it was J40 that also passed under
us.  J40 is a calf who was born in 2004.  So, today was absolutely amazing.
The weather was wonderful, lots of clouds, sun and blue skies.  The day ended
with us sailing north into the sunset with the Dall porpoises riding our bow.
We all laid on the trampoline net in the front and cheered them on.  All in
all, it was a lovely day.






Tuesday, October 4, 2005

Wow.  Wow. Wow. Wow. Well here I sit, 30 minutes after the coolest moment of
my life listening to the Beatles greatest hits and convincing myself that what
I saw really happened!!!  The whole day we were with the whales, half admiring
them and half doing our research.  There were a group of them that were social
all day....rolling around with each other and tail lobbing.  It was a great
day to be out on the water, the sun was bright and the whales were giving us a
show!  I got some good data and hopefully the software I am using, 'Ishmael',
will localize it.  We're making friends with the local whale watchers
...talking to them on the radios...and having them recognize us.  It's pretty
cool.  I'm convinced some whale watching boats are alright.  Some are "good"
and some are "bad"...good being that they respect the whales and their
environment, bad being they harass the whales and use really loud motors while
zipping around the whales to get people the best view. Anyway, so I know
you're thinking "what was the big WOW that she's speaking of"?  Well, it was
about the time to end our third observation and start heading to Roche Harbor,
where we would anchor for the evening.  So, we start bringing the hydrophones
out of the water, and all of a sudden all the J pod whales we were observing
start grouping together.  They had all been swimming around the same area
before that, breaching and splashing about.  It was really cool to see.
Anyway, they all created this line formation and with one big breath from all
the whole line of whales, they all took a dive.  When they surfaced again they
were all in sync with each other.  So here we were watching this pod of whales
that had formed a line and were synchronize swimming.  All of us thought it
was so cool, but things were about to get a lot more interesting.  Rachael,
our friend from M3 (Marine Mammal Monitoring, off Canada) states that she
thinks it might be a "greeting ceremony".  We've all read about the greeting
ceremony before, but never actually have seen one.  So, almost immediately we
see L pod, coming from the north, heading south.  J pod, and us, were coming
from the south, heading north.  Just like J pod had created a line formation
and were diving in sync with each other, so did L pod.  So, here we have J pod
coming from the south, and L pod coming from the north straight at each other.
After watching them for about 10 minutes both the pods came together almost
perfectly parallel to each other.   Then, they all disappeared!  All the
whales in each of the 2 groups went under water! They were splashing around
and looking like they were having a great time, and then the water fell still
and you couldn't even tell whales were under there! By this time we had
re-deployed all the hydrophones and were listening to them.  How incredible!
I actually haven't listened to the entire recording yet, but Scott says it's
really amazing.  I can't wait to hear it.  So, anyway, after they were under
for like 10 minutes, the two pods surfaced and continued on their merry way,
opposite of one another.  We were all like....whoaaaa, we just saw a greeting
ceremony between two pods!  Then we started thinking ...'L pod is usually the
first pod to leave for the winter...and they were heading south (the direction
they have to go to get to the Pacific Ocean.)  ...What if this was a goodbye
ceremony between the two pods?  A last "hoorah!" before departing in the
chilly Pacific for the winter?  It was pretty wild, although I hope the L's
aren't leaving for good already.  So anyway, that was a definite highlight
today.  Now we are heading north to Roche Harbor to re-stock on fresh water,
have dinner, enjoy a 5 minute shower (5 quarters for a 5 minute shower at this
marina), and have a good night's rest.  Forecast for tomorrow?  RAINY and
COLD.  Brrrrr.  Oh North Carolina how I miss you so.  

Wednesday, October 5, 2005

I woke up this morning to the rocking of the boat and the motor running.  It
was actually quite peaceful....I didn't want to get up...I felt like I was in
a sea hammock.  :)  Anyway, today was another good day.  There were reports
(on the pager) of humpback whales and Transient killer whales around the
island, but we decided not to pursue them for reasons I'm still not sure of.
I would have loved to see them.  The Humpbacks were near Rack Rocks and the
Transients were off the north side of Orcas Island.  We were basically around
Eagle Point all day (the southern tip of San Juan Island, west side).  We also
learned that J and L pods were traveling together up north (so far up north,
it was off our charts!)  So, we have deduced that yesterday's ceremony was a
greeting ceremony...not a "goodbye" ceremony.  That was an awesome experience.
I'm glad; I didn't want to see the Ls go!  We also got to listen to what we
recorded yesterday from the ceremony.  Talk about amazing!  We recorded the
last 5 minutes and the first 2 minutes the whales were making a few squeaks,
calls and echolocation clicks.  By the tme the end of the 4th minute rolled
around you could hear really loud, clear, amazing sounds.  All at once
everyone in the pods started calling....in sync!!  In the midst of the
excitement we didn't write down the specific time in which the synchronization
of calls took place, but we are thinking that that was the time when the 2
pods came together.  Tonight our job is to look through pictures, video
footage and sound files to locate when those sounds took place.  Also,
amazingly we heard a series of really loud echolocation clicks.  It sounded
like they were coming from 10 or 20 meters away.....that loud!!  It was
literally saturating our hydrophones.  We realized that we were getting
ranged.  (Echolocation is a series of high frequency clicks that "echo" off
objects to show, in this case the orcas, where boats and fish are.)  Anyway,
we are currently drifting in between Eagle Point and Cattle Point. We didn't
see any whales today.  We did however have a friendly seal pup check us out
for about an hour.  We also saw some Harbor porpoises about 30 meters from the
boat.  We're now heading to Griffin Bay to anchor for the evening.  I can't
wait to see what tomorrow will bring! :) 

“You don’t have to be alone

 

 

Friday, October 7, 2005

 

Today we spent most of the day docked in Friday Harbor, taking care of things such as pumping waste, refilling on water, passage planning, etc. We didn’t see the whales today…it was more of a logistical day.  Tonight we stayed on Sucia Island in Fossil bay—a beautiful little bay tucked away from civilization.  It was awesome.  We got off the boat and hiked around the island and reached the other side just in time to watch the sunset.  Freddie’s knee was hurting him so Scott picked him up in a wheel barrow that was on the dock and started running around with him in it!!  I thought a few times Freddie was going to get a face full of dirt because Scott was running so fast!!  We stood around admiring the view, took pictures of the sunset, each other, and the moon as it came into view.  We came back to the boat and had warm brownies…what a treat!!  The stars were amazing tonight.  You could see them reflecting in the moonlit water.  Then we all settled down and got a good night’s rest. I had the 7-8 am watch. J It was a pretty great day.

 

Saturday, October 8, 2005

I AM FRUSTRATED, just to let you know.  I’m frustrated with the localizing software….lots of things broke/went wrong today.  First we left Brett on the island by accident.  Haha, ok so it was hilarious.  He apparently had gone for a walk on the island in the morning.  What’s funny is that Laura and I both heard him get up, but we thought he was just going to the bathroom.  I guess not..hehe.  So then this boat pulls up beside us and Brett hollers at us “Ahoy Mates!”  Haha.  Anyway, so…that was funny to be, but frustrating for Scott and Brett I’m sure.  Then, we drifted for a while and dropped the hydrophones overboard to listen.  Well, we tried to deploy the dingy to conduct an experiment with the hydrophones and the localizing software and the rope (the painter) got caught around the portside propeller.  Then, once that was fixed something went wrong with the portside engine.  Then, on top of that people were getting frustrated.  We went past John’s island …John’s island is used for camp Nor’wester and has all kinds of totem poles and art. Then we went south around Kellet Bluff and saw the whales again.  They were just awesome and beautiful as usual! It was really neat to see. We decided to go back home (the labs) for the night.  We were all glad!  I ran really fast to the post office to check for mail…and I got a package from my dad!  It was awesome!  My dad is the coolest dad ever.  He never stops impressing me.  J  I love you dad!  I also took a lonnnnnng shower which made me super happy…it’s always nice to feel clean and hygienic.  Anyway, now with an encouragement from home…I’m ready for this next week!

 

Sunday, October 9, 2005

 

Today we got to go into town (Friday Harbor) and just relax and walk around.  It felt great. Courtney and I went to the lavender café, which is a nice little coffee shop that is the color lavender inside.  Everything served has lavender in it.  Lavender hot chocolate, coffee, candles and everything else one could think of.  Then we strolled up to serendipity, which is the cutest little used bookstore ever.  I got a book by Maya Angelou for some inspiration.  Then, you guessed it….I took another extra long shower!!!  I got caught up on the news online---it felt great to get caught up in the world.  Today was a pretty nice day…but tomorrow it’s back to whale researching!

 

Monday, October 10, 2005

 

It was Laura and my turn to pump out the waste tanks today.  That was just awesome.  The smell was amazing, almost like fresh cut roses. Ha. (Not) Anyway, we stayed around Friday Harbor for a while because we didn’t get a clear reading as to where the whales were. We printed out our data sheets on water proof paper, and then motored to south of lopez where we drifted for a while and tested equipment.  Aleck bay was our choice of anchorage for the evening.  I had the crap shift tonight, which was from 2-3 am.  We call it the crap shift because not only do you have to wake up at 2 in the morning for only an hour, but your job is to clean the toilets.  Anyway, I can’t wait to find the whales tomorrow and collect some more data. J

 

 

Tuesday, October, 11, 2005

 

Tonight we had dinner with the whales.  We anchored at Aleck Bay last night and departed this morning around 10 to go wayyy down south.  J,K and some of the L pod were spotted near the southern tip of Whidby Island, which is pretty far from where we were.  We headed out and drifted for a while and Laura, Celia and Brett deployed hydrophones to listen.  We couldn’t hear anything but boats and ships passing.  Anyway, the weather was absolutely beautiful today.  Sunny, blue skies and only light jacket weather.  Now that’s what I’m talking about!   Captain Todd threatened to hoist Courtney and me up the mast all day.  I would have done it….maybe.  It’s really high up there.  I’m not afraid of heights…but…the freezing water isn’t too appealing to this Carolina girl.   The clouds were so pretty today…cumulous orographic clouds earlier in the day, fading to wispy purple- hinted cirrus clouds at sunset.  I learned today that the clouds are “orographic”, not “oreo-graphic”.  I tried telling Val I was just hungry for lunch, but he just didn’t listen.  Hehe.  So, we saw two minke whales on our journey south today.  We also saw a harbor porpoise traveling at full speed and jumping out of the water.  We finally caught up with the whales in the afternoon.  Ken Balcomb came over to our boat and spoke with us before he left to go chase the whales.  That was cool to see a man who has studied these whales for 35 years…just on his boat by himself, riding out to meet them for another day.  Well, we got some good recordings today and downloaded them on the computer for analyzing.  The whales were so vocal.  It was awesome to sit at least a mile and a half from them …on the catwalk of the boat…squinting hard to see them and not seeing them hardly at all……but being able to hear their blows.  The blows were so loud it felt like they were only 100 meters away.   Anyway, like I stated earlier…we had dinner with the whales.  The whales started making their way back up north, so we followed and had dinner while listening to them (Val and Scott wired the speakers so people inside could hear the recordings that were being taken outside).  It was pretty awesome.  Well anyways, now it’s pitch black outside with only the faintest light of the moon shining out on the water…and it’s me and Courtney’s turn to go sit on the bow and make sure we don’t run the boat into rocks/islands/whales/etc.  We have to put on the mustang suits because we’re wimps who can’t handle the arctic wind that in blowing in from the north (I’m ok with that).  Haha, I have to be on night watch tonight until 4 am.  I know, I know, you’re all jealous.  Anyway, everything is going good and I can’t believe it’s already the half way mark!  2 and a half more weeks…that’s insane..where did the time go???  Oh yea, and wheezy was heard swimming near us tonight…I like that whale.  J  Well, we’re heading to Snug Harbor for the rest of the night for a warm (sort of) and cozy sleeping session…more to come!

 

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

 

This morning we motored to Roche harbor to fill up on 38 gallons of bio diesel!  Roche Harbor is a quaint little marina known for it’s limestone.  I learned today that limestons can be used like cement, and that the limestone from Roche was used in the 1906 earthquake in California.  Miners would melt the limestone down and produce a white powder. Val told me and Courtney that the limestone originally was from south china and when plates tore apart forming continents…North America got half of the limestone and china the other.  Sarge, the harbor master’s dog, came by to greet me.  I met a sweet little old man who was willing to lend me his cart to move the bio diesel.  I also saw a cute little harbor seal swimming around the harbor.  Also, The hotel de Haro is a hotel in Roche Harbor where Teddy Roosevelt stayed.  It is still in the same condition as it used to be.

Well, after fueling up we set off inn search for the whales!  We learned from the pages that we received that the whales were south, down by Lime Kiln lighthouse.  So I got to hoist the main sail!! It got stuck on something and but we finally got it up after a lot of hard pulling!  It was so windy today…30 knot winds!!  We saw the whales and they were breaching like crazy…throwing their bodies out of the water and then with a big splash they would fall back into the huge waves.  I think the whales must love the rain, because whenever we see them in it they seem to be doing lots of aerial displays, playful looking stuff!! Then we sailed back to Mitchell bay and it was so much fun!!  The swells of the waves were huge!!  We turned on the Beach boys and listened to songs like “surfin safari” and sailed for a couple of hours.  We had a blast!  It was totally rainy, freezing and windy, but we had the best time ever seeing the whales and riding the waves!  I’m still on a high from it!  Well, now we’re currently listening to the Beatles greatest hits and Laura and Brett are cooking dinner.  Mmm…beans and rice!  Hot food sounds awesome right now.  I have anchor watch tonight from 3-4 am….yikes!  Tomorrow and Friday we’re supposed to be getting lots of wind and stormy conditions…I can’t wait!  Haha, I love riding the waves! J  Hopefully the whales will come back north so we can meet them tomorrow….I love the whales! J

 

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Today we dismantled our “EARS”…sniffle,sniffle.  Let me explain.  The “EARS” are the hydrophones Scott, Courtney and I produced.  The EARS consist of a pole that was 3.96 feet long.  On each end of the pole there was a hydrophone.  And…they were our “EARS” underwater.  Sigh.  We took the hydrophones off the pole and spread them out so that one hydrophone hangs from the port bow and the other off the port stern.   They are now called the “Elephant Ears” because they are much bigger now.  These ears are much easier to deploy too.  Anyway, Laura, Val and I went out in the dingy with a metal pole and a hammer.  Laura was steering and I was at the front of the boat. The water was really choppy so I got splashed quite a bit!  We banged on the metal poles so that Courtney, who was recording from the Maranz (the recording device we use), could take note of the times, range and bearing of where the bangs were coming from.  We’re still trying to get Ishmael, the localizing software, working…but, it’s still a work in progress.  But, I’ve got a plan B for my project.  Anyway, today was another testing of equipment day.  It was a lot of fun, the weather was nice and I found myself lounging on the trampoline net at the bow after finishing the Ears experiment.  I know, I know…what the life.  I don’t know how I’m going to leave here…I feel like family.  What the heck am I going to do with all the personal space I get at home??  J

 

Friday, October 14, 2005

 

We departed from Fish Creek, which is at the southern tip of San Juan Island.  There were no pages as to where the whales were. The weather report called for lots of wind and rain, so we planned on heading North with the current and wind hopefully finding shelter before the worst of the winds hit.  But, the weather guy/girl lied!!!  The winds were a bit on the high side, but the weather wasn’t that bad really.  We were sailing up to the North end of the island and I got to take the helm (steer the boat!) and I hear Val yell “whales!  11’ o clock!” and there they were!  We were the first ones to see them today.  We stopped and deployed our instruments and listened to the vocalizations they were making.  It was awesome to see them again.  Today it was J pod and a few of the L pod members together.  We observed them for a while and collected a reasonable amount of data.  Before continuing north, a few whales decided to check out our boat.  They swam underneath us and we could see them right below the surface of the water.  They are such beautiful creatures.  They are so graceful and intelligent.  Whales are just amazing.  Every time they come close to the boat and swim underneath I get this feeling in my stomach.  It’s like, that feeling of being in awe, but at the same time..just feeling at peace.  It’s hard to describe, but it’s the greatest feeling ever.  I always knew whales were beautiful, but seeing them up close, and observing how intelligent and complicated their social structures, vocals and behaviors are…..it just makes beautiful look like too vague of a word to be used to describe them. 

 

We anchored at Snug Harbor and Leslie, Val’s wife who was on board with us, and I chopped up some veggies and Val made everyone amazing omelets with mushrooms, green onions, yellow, green and red peppers, and fresh basil.  They were great.  23 eggs later our tummies were full and we all had a good night’s sleep.  I had the 5-6 am watch this morning and it took Freddie 2 times to get me out of bed this morning.  Haha, I was sleepy! It was so funny to wake up and read Laura’s comment in the log clipboard (where we write things such as the water depth, barometer reading, wind, and if the anchor is still doing ok) that “fell under invasion by small animal espionage…left tracks but no positive I.D”.  Haha!  We found out later that it was a river otter that had snuck aboard in the middle of the night!!  J  Tomorrow, we’re picking up Kevin, our captain for week 4.  Wow, week 4.  It’s hard to believe this is almost over.  I don’t want it to be over!  Ahhh…sigh.  I don’t want to go back to the real world.  I kind of like this whole isolated way of living.  It’s much more peaceful.  J

 

Saturday, October 15, 2005

 

Today we learned from Tom, the captain of Stellar Sea (a whale watching vessel), that the “greeting” ceremony could have been a funeral ceremony.  One of the females in L pod, L 32, hasn’t been seen since the ceremony.  Tom, who had a personal connection with the whale (she used to come up to his boat , and he’s always out on the water with the whales), noticed that her blow hole was caved in a bit, and her blows were weak.  We have video and vocal recordings from the ceremony that we will most likely be releasing to Tom and Ken Balcomb , hoping it will help solve the mystery of what exactly was taking place at the ceremony.  Well, we are at the docks of Friday Harbor for the night and we will be leaving tomorrow afternoon in search for the whales and possibly a night observation of them!  J