Archive for October 15th, 2007

Completed last week on the boat!

It is Monday of week 9 of the program, and I am still marveling over the fact that I was able to get through 4 full weeks on the Gato Verde. My last week did not start out well at all; Sunday night I suddenly started to feel very ill, and by Monday morning I had an unpleasantly high fever. I was pretty out of it for most of Monday, and Tuesday I was still recovering. Kind of unfortunate given that Monday and Tuesday were two particularly good orca days for the VaTo team, we not only got excellent recordings, but the whales swam very close to the boat, affording us excellent photo opportunities. Pretty much all that I really remember about it all was that Monday there were a lot of boats around, but I failed to get any good recordings because I was mostly sitting in the corner between the plastic rain covers and the helm, trying to keep warm and to be available if anyone needed an extra hand. That obviously went well; I couldn’t even help myself, let alone anyone else. Tuesday there were terrible weather forecasts so there were hardly any boats out at all, which was not so great for my data collection, but it was definitely cool to have the orcas a little more to ourselves. That bad weather forecast was completely unsubstantiated; we had gorgeous weather all week (well, as gorgeous as temperatures in the 50s could be), no winds at all, which was bad for sailing, but I absolutely could not have asked for a better week of weather. And really, it’s bad enough being sick while on a boat, how much worse it would have been if it were rainy and/or windy on top of that!
Beyond the lovely weather, the rest of the week in general was really excellent. Thursday we made for Port Angeles, which was pretty cool because we got to see another part of the state. The cafe with free wireless wasn’t a bad touch either. We were all kind of amused because when the connection was down, the barista had ME do the repair on the wireless modem box. But it was my day to be leader of the day, so it was only appropriate, right?
The next day we made for Race Rocks where we saw Steller and California sea lions. This is going to sound silly but looking at them all I could think of was those crazy sea lions in the old disney cartoons, bouncing beach balls off their noses. And the vocalizations they made were similar to the cartoon sea lion sounds too, them and Goofy. I don’t know, maybe I just watched way too many cartoons when I was little. It was really exciting a bit later in the day when we encountered a small group of humpback whales. Did THEY ever make strange sounds, they each have two blow holes (I wasn’t previously aware of this) and every time they surfaced their spouts just made the strangest noises. I thought it might be surface vocalization, but nope. My brother used to have a CD of the humpback song, but it’s been a long time since I heard it. So no data collection on Friday, but what an amazing marine mammal experience we all had.
Saturday was our last day with the orcas. And this time I was able to get boat noise recordings after all! There were maybe 15 boats around at any given time, so that was great for me, though I don’t think everyone else was so thrilled because of all the noise the boats created. Hey, fair is fair, I needed at least ONE day of boat noise data this week. Tim had several days of drive-bys from commercial whale-watching boats, and I was usually running around with the range-finder. At least my loud voice was helpful SOMEWHERE.
Finally, beyond data collection and pleasant weather, I think this was the VaTo team’s best week in terms of the group dynamics as well. We had decided to start this new practice, leader of the day, and that really helped a lot I think. Also, this was out last week out after all, and especially for some of us we had to scramble to get the last of our data together (me!) I think my own attitude improved substantially as well, and that was directly dependent on the weather. I never realized how subject my mood was to the environmental conditions around me, perhaps because I’ve never been thrown into a setting before where those conditions were so in my face. Well, there ends for me what was without a doubt the hardest part of the Beam Reach program. Now data analysis and paper-writing? No problem! That’s the stuff that I live for 🙂

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