Archive for October 13th, 2007

Pea Soup (with a few whales thrown in)

Saturday, October 13, 2007

We woke up to news of whales off Val’s house, so enjoyed a quick breakfast of Leslie’s zucchini bread before cranking up the anchor by hand and heading out of Snug Harbor. We encountered whales almost immediately, but the animals were very spread out. We deployed the hydrophones, but the whales seemed to be heading south. We followed the orcas along the coast of San Juan island and had just passed the lighthouse when a thick, pea-soup fog descended. Although we continued to hear the whales intermittently, we could only see about 100 m from the Gato Verde. We made our way through the pea soup, looking and listening for whales and chatting with the other boats in the area. The fog finally lifted and the sun started shining after lunch. We recorded more calls, click, and whistles as we motored along with the whales off the west coast of the island. A group of young whales seemed especially playful as they frolicked, tailslapped, and breached. Regretfully, we had to pull up the hydrophones at around 3 pm to take advantage of the tides through Cattle Pass. Todd gave lectures on Rules of the Road and Sail Theory before pulling into North Bay. After the students took their sailing test, Anne and Ash made a grand attempt to use 2 of the remaining 13 cans of cream of mushroom soup by cooking a Minnesota Hot Dish (casserole to non-Minnesotans).

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California sea lions and Stellers and Humpbacks–oh my!

Friday, October 12, 2007


After filling up our water tanks and paying our harbor bill, we motored away from civilization at Port Angeles.  The team took turns on the bow searching for whales, while the rest of us listened hopefully to radio chatter and worked on data analysis.  After crossing the Strait of Juan de Fuca, we circled Race Rocks, taking photos and looking through binoculars at Stellers, California sea lions, and harbor seals.  We heard there were humpbacks not too far away so headed southeast to try to catch up with them.  As soon as we were able to spot blows and backs and flukes through our binoculars, we were able to hear the large whales breathing and sighing.  One individual whale had a particularly distinct, loud blow.  The humpbacks were very active at the surface, rolling and fluking before diving.  They were surrounded by a group of playful, porpoising Steller sea lions.  Although we deployed the hydrophones, the humpbacks were quiet.  We watched the whales and sea lions for almost three hours before regretfully, sailing away back towards San Juan Island.  As we headed north up to Snug Harbor for the night, a few Dall’s porpoises joined us for a sunset bowriding session.  Shannon and Alex cooked vegetarian fajitas for dinner and then Shannon gave a post-dinner talk on her thesis research on Australian sea lions.  We looked through Shannon’s photos from Antarctica and watched a short video of the humpback whales there bubble-net feeding before bed.

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Killers I Have Known

Thursday, October 11, 2007


After waking up at Roche, and having breakfast shortbread freshly baked by Alex, Tim and Anne took a shot at raising the anchor by hand.  With about 15 feet left to go, time had run short and they let the motor take over.  We motored out Mosquito Pass and met Peregrine so Tim could take more high-frequency recordings of vessel noise.  Our daily calls to friends and contacts produced no information on whale whereabouts—it seemed that the whales that had been up north yesterday where most likely transients, and the residents had left the area surrounding the San Juan islands and headed out to sea.  So the group decided to try something different and sail to Port Angeles on the peninsula, in hopes of making it over to Race Rocks early tomorrow.  We arrived in to PA and walked into town to grab coffee and take advantage of the free wireless.  Tragically, the internet crashed shortly after our arrival until our brave leader-of-the-day, Alex climbed a ladder to reset the black box and reconnect us to the world.  Hooray!  After our caffeine and internet fixes, we walked back to the Gato Verde for spaghetti and meatless meatballs with garlic bread.  We ended the day screening Ingrid Visser’s documentary, Killers I Have Known.

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