Co-Chief Science Officer’s log
Sea Date 10-1-06 (Day 13)
Heading back to sea is always a good way to start the month. We left the Friday Harbor labs at around 14:30 to head over to the Port of Friday Harbor to pump out our holding tanks before we hit the high seas. Captain Todd has been hard at work over the past week repairing our engines and generators so that we could get underway today. We headed straight back out into San Juan Channel and turned left. We made it as far as Jones Island. This time we decided to moor on the South end of the island. Now that we are later in the season, there are fewer boats around and so finding a mooring buoy was easy. While dinner was being prepared I went ashore with Rena and Peggy so that they could mark and gps creosote logs and pressure treated lumber that has washed up on the beach as part of their service project for the Washington State Department of Natural Resources. While they were doing that, I took a stroll across the island (the whole island is a state park). I really enjoyed the moss on the fallen logs in the forest as well as the water tanks for the parks water supply. The water tanks are built like wooden barrels with straps. It just seems like a nice way of building a water storage tank in a relatively remote area.
Sea Date 10-2-06 (Day 14)
We left anchorage on Jones Island at 7:00 AM so as to beat the currents through Speiden Channel. What a pleasure to be under sail as the sun rises. By the time we were all up and finished with breakfast and our chores we were in Haro Strait looking for whales. We didn’t come up lucky in that department, but did get a chance to head a little farther north than we have in the past, and rounded Turn Point on Stuart Island. On the way we tested equipment again as well as our abilities to judge distance over the water. We also ran our long cable down 100 meters to measure temperature, salinity and the speed of sound in the water for some of our projects. A number of the crew had to take turns pulling the cable back up since it was so heavy. We pulled up to the dock at the State Park in Prevost Harbor on Stuart Island before sun set, so a number of us went ashore to explore and stretch our legs before dinner, which was probably a good things since Rena and I cooked up a huge dinner of pesto linguine, salad, and some sourdough/rosemary/garlic/parmesan bread. It was rumored that some had six slices of bread.
Sea Date 10-3-06 (Day 15)
What a day! Yet another early start, only this time we left the dock on Stuart at 6:30 AM. It is so nice to be able to motor away from the dock without making any noise and waking any of the neighboring boats. Once into Boundary Pass we set sails and headed back around Turn Point and to the south back into the familiar Haro Strait. It was a good thing we headed this way as we intercepted resident killer whales feeding and heading north. We first found the whales off Edwards point, south of Lime Kiln Light House and recorded data from them for around three hours, during which time we made our way all the way back up to Kellet Bluff. Towards the end we had depleted our propulsion batteries and were forced to turn the generator back on so that we could keep up. It was a very good recording session though, with not too many whales and very few boats. We managed to feed the crew lunch part way through so that they didn’t collapse. We will all probably collapse tonight from the exhaustion of so much data collection. It brings a great joy to me to see all this science happening around me. This afternoon we did manage to slip in our weekly journal club meeting. This week was led by Erin on the following paper: Johnston, D.W., Thorne, L.H. & Read, A.J. 2005 Fin whales Balenoptera physalus and minke whales Balenoptera acutorostrata exploit a tidally driven island wake ecosystem in the Bay of Fundy. Marine Ecology Progress Series 305:287-295. This article pertains to Erin’s project on the relationship between tidal currents and killer whale direction of travel. We anchored in Mitchell Bay for the evening and watched a gorgeous sunset with pink clouds over a tranquil Haro while the moon rose in the East. What a day!
Sea Date 10-4-06 (Day 16)
Today we awoke to a low tide and had to wait a little before we could safely get out of Mitchell Bay. We had fine weather and a steady breeze for us to head south past the light house at Lime Kiln. We didn’t find whales, but we did spend over half an hour with a large group of Dall’s porpoises that decided to ride our bow wake. We had enough wind that we were clipping along fast enough for a little joy ride for the porpoises. Even after we were forced to tack because we had land ahead, they came back to us. What a treat! We even spotted a Dall’s / Harbor porpoise hybrid. We had just learnt about the hybridization last week in a lecture from Anna Hall who has studied the local porpoises for the last decade. As it turns out, the hybrids are always the result of the breeding of a male Harbor porpoise with a female Dall’s porpoise. Anna has plans for the future to research this hybridization and we look forward to hearing any results she gets. At the end of the day we made our way into Garrison and Westcott Bays to anchor at one of the spots that the Friends of the San Juans has been taking water quality samples to help determine why the eel grass has been disappearing from embayments in the San Juans. While at anchor there we took readings of salinity, oxygen levels, and temperature every 2 hours and at every half meter of depth. The idea was to get a finer temporal scale of water observations across an entire tidal cycle. Donna started the evening out with the first couple of samples and finished the samples in the morning, while our fearless leader, Scott, slept on the deck right next to the water sampler so that he could wake up every two hours to take samples. We found him nestled in his sleeping bag in the morning where we had left him, feeling good about the scientific effort that had been expended.
Sea Date 10-5-06 (Day 17)
After leaving Westcott Bay we headed back out into Haro Strait and spent much of the day drifting on the tides while watching for whales. Some good progress was made on data analysis from the last time we saw whales. All in all a fairly quiet day on the water. In the afternoon we rode the flood tide back up to Snug Harbor to pick up Jim Ha who came back up to spend another evening and day with us. Three of the students are using his customized behavior software which allows them to record their behavior observations onto a Palm and then download the data into excel for analysis.
Sea Date 10-6-06 (Day 18)
Once again back out into Haro Strait for a day of low winds and riding the current while waiting for whales. In the afternoon we got reports that some of the resident killer whales were seen far to the north of the city of Vancouver. All the fishermen we have spoken to say that there have been very few salmon around this area, so it may be that the whales have headed north to happier hunting grounds. During the day the students who are using Jim’s software got a chance to meet with him and fine tune their Palm programs for data collection. In the afternoon as we were drifting we were joined by a group of Dall’s porpoises who swam around the boat for quite a while. It was as if they wanted to ride out bow wake, and were just waiting for us to pick up some speed. It is really mesmerizing to watch how easily they move in three dimensions in the water. Occasionally they would swim by on their sides, as if they were trying to get a better view of us. At the end of the day we dropped Jim back at Snug and then headed back to Westcott for the night so that we could do some more water quality monitoring. This time Donna did the first two readings and Peggy and Emily did the last at 6:30 am, while I slept on the catwalk over the trampoline in the bow of the boat and did the four samples in the middle of the night. It was a cold, crisp and dewy night with a full moon, so even though my sleep was interrupted every two hours, it was fairly enjoyable.
Sea Date 10-7-06 – 10-9-06 (Day 19 through 21)
Things have been busy enough that I must admit I have struggled to sit down and even type a little of what has happened during the day. We left anchorage in Westcott Bay and headed all the way to Fisherman’s Bay where we spent the night and collected more water quality data for the Friends of San Juan. This site on Lopez is a paired site to the one in Westcott, so the two sites will be compared with one another. On the way Val delivered Glenn, our new relief captain to us via his boat, the Cat’s Cradle. The following morning (10-8-06) we headed back into Friday Harbor for re-provisions and showers. Of course on the way we heard that the whales had returned to the West side of San Juan, where we had been waiting for them the day before. We dropped Todd and Scott off in Friday Harbor, spent the night tied to the Lab’s dock and then headed out again on the ninth. We made it all the way to Reid Harbor for the night.
Sea Date 10-10-06 (Day 22)
We awoke this morning to a gorgeous day and had breakfast, shortly after which we noticed a bunch of smoke coming from a nice old sail boat near by. We were worried they were on fire, so we lowered the dinghy and Glenn and I set forth with all our fire extinguishers, a bucket, and extra PFDs. It turned out that they were merely stoking up their wood stove, and therefore there was no fire. Great news, plus it allowed us to practice a fire drill. Everyone did exceptionally well. We lowered the dinghy and were underway with all the fire extinguishers in under two minutes which speaks wonders for the quick action of the entire crew aboard the Gato Verde. After that morning excitement we set out and to the south in Haro. By 9:00 we received a page that the whales had been spotted off the West side of San Juan Island. We raced as fast as we could without depleting our batteries, and joined the whales for a marathon session down near False Bay before heading back up to Roche Harbor for the evening. A lot of distance covered and a very long day for us all. Bravo and Brava to the entire crew for working so hard on gathering valuable data.
Sea Date 10-11-06 (Day 23)
Wow what another long day… We started by pumping out at the dock in Roche Harbor and repairing our hydrophone array along the way while we headed out into Haro Strait. We reached the whales fairly early on in the morning on the west side of San Juan Island and followed them north to the southern end of Henry before they switched direction again and we followed them all the way south to False Bay. It was another epic day on the water. It was sunny and devoid of wind, so that I ended up in shorts and a shirt. I can’t believe this October weather. We managed to get some good recordings from the whales during the day and finally left them around 17:30 when we headed towards Mackaye Harbor on the South end of Lopez. We ate dinner along the way and watched a gorgeous sunset over the city of Victoria in the distance, with views of Port Townsend on the Olympic peninsula and the Cascade Range and Mount Baker to the east. Entirely stunning. Because we are running on our backup generator we aren’t able to go very fast, so we had to post watches on the bow while we motored on into the evening. We arrived at our anchorage by 21:00 exhausted but safe.
Sea Date 10-12-06 (Day 24)
Last night I had the great idea of sleeping on top of the main sail. I made it till about 3:30 when I finally decided to head back to my berth. I should have planned ahead and used a sleeping pad because the sails don’t provide much cushioning, so I ended up basically sleeping on the hard metal of the boom. It was a beautiful night though. This morning Glenn and I spent most of the morning in vain trying to get the diesel generator running. We are both worse for wear because of it, but the generator is unchanged. Rena and Peggy went ashore with Donna to do some more marking of creosote logs while Glenn and I worked on the generator. We finally gave up and tied the dinghy to the rear of the boat again and set off under dinghy power. We made good progress along the west side of San Juan Island and rendezvoused with Val on his boat, the Cat’s Cradle. He was out doing some research of his own and was bringing us Laura, a Beam Reach student from last year. At that point Val and Glenn got the diesel generator to start and we ran with it the rest of the way into Garrison Bay for the night and some more water quality monitoring. Before we got here we also managed to have our final journal club meeting. Juliette picked the article this week; Miller, P.J.O. & Bain, D.E. 2000 Within-pod variation in sound production of a pod of killer whales, Orcinus orca. Animal Behaviour 60, 617-628. It generated some good discussions about variation in call types and the use of specific statistical tests to analyze variation in multiple variables. Also, as a side note, I was pretty confident that I saw a Blue Footed Booby yesterday evening off the south end of San Juan Island. This morning when we passed that area again, Donna spotted two birds she thought to be Blue Footed Boobies, therefore we decided that we had confirmed each others sightings.
Sea Date 10-13-06 (Day 25)
This morning we met Val in our prospective dinghies in Mosquito Pass. Val brought us his calibration hydrophone and a new hydrophone array while we handed off our garbage. Somehow I think we won in that exchange. We then headed north towards Stuart Island and had just passed Turn Point when Peggy spotted J pod heading right towards us. They caught us a little off guard, but we managed to stay with them for about an hour before our propulsion batteries ran out. We then tried to start up our diesel generator, but Emily and I managed to break the pull cord right off the starter. Given that the whales were covering lots of ground and we only had our little gas generator for power we decided to head north again into Prevost Harbor. Along the way Peggy, Emily and I took a brief swim near Turn Point to cool off and clean up. Yes, the weather has been a bit unseasonably warm and windless. Once in Prevost most of the students went ashore so that they could hike out to the light house at Turn Point while Glenn and I tried to replace the starter cord on the diesel generator. Alas we did not succeed and so will have to limp by without it till we can get in to Roche Harbor tomorrow morning.
Sea Date 10-14-06 (Day 26)
Fall has finally come. It was amazing the difference between the weather yesterday and today. Yesterday it was warm enough that some of us went for a swim. Today we awoke to thick fog. We couldn’t leave at 6:00 as planned, so we had a morning meeting and a nice lecture on navigation from Glenn. We then all went ashore and had our advisor meetings. The dinghy was then strapped back onto the Gato Verde to give it a push through John’s pass, Speiden Channel and into Roche Harbor for us to pick up more gas and pump out our holding tanks. We then made our way towards Jone’s Island and even had enough wind to sail up to 8 knots. It was a nice change from the windless sunny days we have been having.
Sea Date 10-15-06 (Day 27)
Today we had another nice sail into Friday Harbor when Colleen broke Erin’s speed record from yesterday. She had us going up to 8.5 knots in San Juan Channel. We sailed on in to the labs and hot showers…..
Sea Date 10-16-06 (Day 28)
It was nice to be on land again and be able to shower and check email, but it is also nice to be heading out for our final week on the boat. We left Friday Harbor after our typical pump out and made a bee line for Fisherman’s Bay on Lopez to anchor and do more water quality sampling. I also went ashore with Rena and Peggy so that they could look for more creosote logs. We landed on the spit right at the entrance to the Bay, which is now Land Bank property. While they were looking for logs I took the chance to hike around the preserve. A very nice area and made even better by the fruiting apple tree along the path that allowed me a lovely and sweet snack.
Sea Date 10-17-06 (Day 29)
We left Fisherman’s Bay early this morning to make it through Cattle Pass before the tide started flooding and saw several Stellar sea lions in the Pass. We then headed out into Haro Strait for a calm day on our way to Snug Harbor where we tied up for the evening. Along the way everyone was immersed in analysis in preparation for the final papers and presentations.
Sea Date 10-18-06 (Day 30)
We started out today planning to head to Prevost Harbor on Stuart, but then got a call from Scott saying there had been sightings of killer whales on their way down into the lower Puget Sound, so we spent some time tacking back and forth against the wind and current so that we could end back at Snug to position ourselves for a long haul tomorrow. We hope to leave by 6:30 and push on down to the south end of Lopez in the hopes that we will intercept the whales if they head back up this direction. We did deploy the dinghy today and tested out a new hydrophone array that was built for us by a gentleman from Olympia. It seems to be working well. Tomorrow I will hopefully get a chance to analyze the recordings we made today to see how well we can localize the sound we recorded. We tied up to the dock again in Snug and I noticed a harbor seal taking advantage of the light on the dock to forage on fish that are attracted to the light. It is neat to be able to see into the water and watch the harbor seal at night.
Sea Date 10-19-06 (Day 31)
We were ready to leave this morning at 6:30, but the sun didn’t cooperate. It was a dark rainy morning, so we had to wait a while before we could leave. After getting under way we headed out into the middle of Haro Strait to catch the ebb tide and the wind. We worked on analysis and eventually set out a hydrophone to try and monitor the whales when we were near the south end of San Juan Island. Lo and behold, it was not a half hour of monitoring before we heard killer whales vocalizations. We spotted them in the middle of the strait heading north towards us so we turned around to travel with them. It seems that it was both K and L pods so there were a lot of whales and they were vocalizing like crazy. We managed to stay with them for about an hour before they were all out of sight. We tried to catch up to them but finally had to give up around 16:00. We turned around and sailed back in to Snug Harbor for the evening where we found Marla Holt on the dock waiting for us. Marla is a Post-Doc at the National Marine Fisheries Northwest Science Center and will be joining us for a couple of days to tell us about her work on pinniped acoustics and her future work on killer whale acoustics.
Sea Date 10-20-06 (Day 32)
Today was Peggy’s birthday! We started the day with blueberry sourdough pancakes and ended it with manicotti and cake. In between we spent several hours with J pod. We also had bald eagles fly over the Gato Verde when we left and returned to Snug Harbor. Not a bad day. We also listened to a lecture by Marla on her work with elephant seals while she was at UC Santa Cruz, and then passed on to her the tidbits of knowledge of how to localize in Ishmael that we have gained during the quarter. Hopefully the tips we passed on will help her during her post doc work.
Sea Date 10-21-06 (Day 33)
This morning we listened to another nice lecture from Marla before we left her at Snug Harbor and headed north up Haro Strait and east through Speiden Channel to the south end of Jones Island. We made decent time because of wind and currents, so had time for our weekly advisor meetings on Jones. Students also took advantage of the island to stretch their legs. Some even spotted some minks scurrying around in the inter-tidal zone. By the time we headed back to the boat the temperature had dropped and fog was drifting in from the north. We never got completely engulfed though as it seemed to miraculously disperse right at the south end of Jones.
Sea Date 10-22-06 (Day 34)
It is hard to believe that we have spent a total of thirty four days aboard the Gato Verde collecting data for our projects. What a ride it has been. This morning we sailed south into Friday Harbor and tied up at the labs for our final landing. We spent the rest of the morning offloading all our gear, moving it up into our land accommodations and scrubbing down the Gato Verde. Everything from the decks and heads and even the bilges were cleaned. Great job team, and congratulations on collecting all your data. You worked very hard to collect it. Now we head into the final week and a mad dash to finish analyzing our data and turning it into a final paper and presentation.