Archive for October 16th, 2007

Ebonics blog by Wes–with translation

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Waz up USA?  Today tha Ghetto Verde was hoppin fo sho.  This be S. Fowla in da crib.  Tha crew said my grill was shining extra bright dis mornin.  We woked up at Mickey K’s.  We was fini go get T.S. when tha electrizil went to s*^@!  We ate some grub and bounced to tha straits.  There was so many vanilla faces I couldn’t tell em apart.  I saw a sea lion and I was skerred it was fini come up on tha boat.  I said, “Hellllllllz no” and we bounced.  It was peanut butta jelly time, so we’z ate.  When they was cranking tha sail, Liz, Elise and Heatha almost popped, locked, and dropped it out tha boat.  When tha waves was whackd, I told em, lean wid it, walk wid it; go wid da flow.  We’z ate Mexican and cornbread fo dinna.  Don’t playa hate.  Peace.

                                                                                                            -Ebonics Blog by Wes


Translation—We woke up again at Mackaye Harbor, had a quick breakfast, and completed morning chores before heading to Fourth of July Beach to pick up Tracy.  We headed out of the straits to attempt some sailing, but the winds and the weakness of the torn (now mended) sail deterred us—although Liz, Elise and Heather gave it a valiant effort.  A number of female Steller sea lions followed in our wake.  As Jason picked up a back-up generator for the week, Shannon and Sam prepared soup and sandwiches for lunch.  After lunch, the students went through their sailing practical—tacking back and forth and taking turns at the helm up and down the San Juan Channel.  At about 4 pm, we pulled into Fisherman Bay for shore power, showers, and water.  Unfortunately, the pump out was broken, so we had to hold it.  We spent the evening doing data analysis and working on sustainability reports.  Elise and Liz prepared Mexican for dinner and afterwards, we settled back down to our computers.


Read More


Monday, October 15, 2007


We woke up at Mackaye Harbor and had a quick breakfast before making some phone calls to try to figure out where the whales were.  The morning was spent working on sustainability projects and data analysis.  Wes cooked her special Lebanese surprise soup and toasted cheese sandwiches for lunch.  Independent work continued after lunch until Wildside radioed us to tell us that members of J pod were off the lighthouse.  We finally caught up with the whales around 4:30 in the afternoon.  We spent about two hours recording S1, S7, and S10 calls, as well as whistles and clicks.  Liz and Jason ID’d J1, J8, J26, as well as J11 with her calf.  Kenna took some great photos of cartwheels and breaches.  As the sun was setting, Mike headed us back to Mackaye for the night.  Heather and Elise cooked macaroni & cheese primavera with salad for a late dinner.  After dinner, a few hardworking souls sat in front of computers—going through photos from the day and writing this blog.

Read More

Change over at Friday Harbor for a change

Sunday, October 14, 2007


Over breakfast, we enjoyed a rare connection to the outside world over the internet.  Afterwards, we cranked up the anchor to head out to meet Western Prince for Tim’s vessel noise recordings.  We began the weekly clean up of the boat—cleaning the oven, bilge pumps, under the sinks…Alex put forth a good effort of using up some of our still-abundant produce by cooking up French-style veggie omelets for lunch as we pumped out our (very full) holding tank and refilled our (quite empty) water tank at Friday Harbor.  Team VATO entered the last of their data on systems and science, backed up the hard drive, weighed the waste (3 kg), recycling (4.6 kg) and compost (6.6 kg), and downloaded the GPS data for the week.  After grabbing some fresh apple cider off the Friday Harbor Lab docks, we met up with Team JAMI and drove to meet Jason’s friends, Noel and Anne Monin.  The Monins are making a concerted effort to reduce their carbon footprint and increase their sustainability.  Over freshly baked pumpkin bread and brewed coffee with raw milk, we discussed some of their choices and efforts, including cooking foods from scratch (chicken broth, mayonnaise, sour cream), gardening, canning, composting, etc.  Afterwards, Team JAMI loaded up the Gato Verde, while Team VATO headed back to the dorms at the labs.  We enjoyed a Lebanese feast prepared by Wes for an early dinner, and then settled into a long evening of data analysis.

Read More

Last week on the water – Week 8 (at sea)

Monday 8th October

Well, it’s the end of the first day of my last week at sea on the Beam Reach program, and we had whales today! We got some unbelievable recordings, it was literally a chorus of killer whale sounds. I was hearing sounds I’d never heard before – clicks, whistles, calls and sounds that were similar to rubbing two wet balloons together, and ones similar to rubbing two rocks together. It was awesome!

We left

Harbor after receiving reports (text messages and phone calls) of whales down near Lime Kiln. Todd successfully detached the cracked generator bracket and we successfully motored on one alternator down to the whales. We could only go around 4 knots but it was better than being stuck at the dock! The whales were heading south so they were at the southern end of
San Juan heading towards Hein Bank by the time we got a visual on them. On the route down we had a single Dall’s porpoise ride the bow wave. It was quite calm so I got some awesome video footage as I was able to lie right down on the trampoline and get very close to the surface of the water. The whales then turned and headed back north up the west side of San Juan so we spent the good part of an hour following them in order to position ourselves in front of them (within regulations) so we could vertically deploy the hydrophones. We were able to get in a fairly good position just south of Lime Kiln (about 800m offshore) so we deployed and waited. I had a few issues with ropes detaching and getting tangled but sorted them out just in time for what was a chorus of orca vocalisations. There were around 15-20 boats in the vicinity (whale watch, private and research) and were all powered off as the whales spread out and were foraging. We had J and L pods swimming randomly and surfacing in the vicinity of the GV as I sat there with the headphones on recording frantically the numerous amount of clicks coming in. Anne (who was listening on the array hydrophones) were just looking at each other in awe as to the amount of vocalisations coming through. It literally was like they were singing in a chorus as there were numerous calls at one time. These recordings would be like those played on DVD menus for killer whale documentations. That just gave me an idea… The orcas vocalised for a good 20-30 minutes, then it was as if they’d all been given instructions and then just left the area and headed west. One of the whale watch boats parked next to me was from Canada that I had spoken with and gone out with back in early August when I was checking out
Vancouver Island, so I called her up on the radio and had a chat (Liz from SeaQuest Adventures in Sidney B.C). It was actually with SeaQuest that I saw my very first killer whale in the wild and I’m very thankful to Liz for letting me go out with her to see what the business is all about. The whales were travelling off in the distance by this stage, and I had organised with a
Vancouver whale watch business to get some boat recordings so we headed slightly in-shore and set up the floating buoys on the man overboard pole and got some recordings at 100m at both speeds. Unfortunately I couldn’t get 400m recordings as they had to head back to Vancouver, but hey, something is better than nothing, and I think that’s how it’s going to be this week as I don’t expect them to come out solely to get boat recordings. I had another business lined up to record but they had to pull out at the last minute so said we would try and organise something this week. While I was recording clicks Todd was on the radio to another wildlife tour business from Pt Townsend that saw us with our hydrophones in and got talking to him, and it turns out this guy would like to get his boat recorded also so Todd got his number, and after chatting to him earlier tonight, I might be able to organise something for the morning. Only problem is, weather is meant to kick in tonight and tomorrow with winds up to 35 knots, so I may not be able to get any recordings done. See what happens when I get up in a few hours for breakfast. We are anchored again in

Bay as it provides good protection from weather and has good anchoring grounds. The JaMi group accidentally ripped the mainsail on Saturday so we have taped it up and are in the process of stitching it up. Quite a lot has ripped so Anne, myself, Val and Todd have all done a bit of sewing, still have a quite a bit to do tomorrow. Shiftwork will be in order I think. We watched ‘Who Killed the Electric Car?” just earlier, and it was very interesting. Makes you think so I would recommend watching it. I still have to see ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ which I’ve been told is a must see. One final thing before I hit the sack – due to the tension and indecisiveness in our group over the past weeks we have now adopted a “leader of the day’’ in which one member of the group organises and makes major decisions throughout the day. It was an idea put forth so we can get jobs done quickly and efficiently and not sit around discussing what we do next. Ash was today and she did a bloody great job. She hasn’t really exhibited any leadership role while on the program so far, but today she proved she was definitely capable. We have a quick “de-briefing” after dinner and give constructive criticism and positive feedback to the ‘leader of the day’ so they can think about areas to work on. I’m not till Wednesday I don’t think so I’ll see how I go. Anyway, its almost 1am so I’m off to my cold birth. Had to sleep fully clothed last night! Fun times.


Tuesday 9th October

What a full on day! We had warnings of gail force winds and 4-6ft swell arriving mid-morning, but that’s all they were, warnings. There was not a single time during the day that it seemed as though a storm was approaching or the winds were picking up, so we had a bloody great day, all day, with the whales. The weather forecasters got it pretty botched up. Anyway, so I started this morning by recording ‘Glacier Spirit’ from Port Townsend at the NW entrance to

Harbor. The recordings were awesome and we were all done in 20 min. Glacier Spirit is a whale watching boat based out of Pt Townsend USA and is currently on a 3 day sightseeing trip around the San Juans, and when he saw us out on the water yesterday he contacted Todd (as I mentioned) and so this morning we arranged to meet up, as they were staying at Roche last night, and get some recordings done. After we were done with Glacier Spirit, I opportunistically got a ferry recording and we began our trek down south to where there were reports of whales off False Bay (
SW San Juan). Todd had repaired the alternator bracket last night so we were back up to travelling at our normal speed of 5-6 knots. On the way down I chatted to Anna (POW) and she had the all clear from her boss to get boat recordings (with a few quid pro quo’s of course). We headed the whales off heading north at Eagle Point, J’s and L’s, and I decided today that I didn’t need to get any more echolocation clicks as I have literally hundreds and need to get a mean spectrum for each individual one. Instead, I decided I would be on camera and learn to use the Beam Reach camera and try and get some good orca shots. The camera is one of those ones with a really fat long lens that has an awesome zoom so it was pretty easy to get good shots. Anway, so as I was taking photos, a POW boat came onto the scene so I chatted to them on the radio, it was cleared by headquarters, and I was able to record them as they headed back to Victoria. For any future Beam Reach students that wish to do controlled boat noise recordings I suggest getting in touch with the businesses within the first few weeks, NOT the middle few weeks, because it’s really no good getting in touch with the drivers as they ultimately need the all clear from the bosses. Still, it’s worked out well for me in this last week. I plan on getting another recording (Jim Maya’s Peregrin) in the morning, weather permitting of course, as the change is starting to come in now as I write this. So after I recorded Ocean Magic II we continued north up
San Juan past Lime Kiln and just parked ourselves, dropped the hydrophones, and listened to the abundance of calls and clicks coming in. There were around 30-40 whales in a 2km radius of the GV and they were primarily foraging and playing with spyhops, tail slaps, and a few observed “business times”. (Listen to “Business Time” by Flight of the Conchords to know what I’m talking about). I ended up getting a photo of the elucid “elf shoe”. Again if you can work out what killer whale “business time” is then you can work out what I mean by a killer whale “elf shoe”. We had whales coming in all directions so literally all we could do was just sit there and wait till it was clear to move. There were only a couple of boats on scene as most of them had figured the weather would be bad today so had cancelled their trips. It was awesome because it was calm and we got the whales almost all to ourself! I did record a few clicks but was quite happy to take photos and help Anne with her vertical array. I have spent most, well pretty much all of my time with the whales sitting on the cabin table with the headphones on, so today was my day to enjoy and watch the whales and get some good photos so I can photo ID them in my spare time. We hung around the whales until well after 5pm, after being with them since 11am, so it was a long day of focussing. I loved sitting there watching them in tight groups of 4-5 individuals spyhopping, leaping, diving and tail slapping. J’s and L’s were together so it was much like a party we would have as humans, just socialising. We know they are very social creatures and just witnessing that today was truly amazing. I really do feel soo lucky to be all the way over here, on the other side of the world, seeing these creatures do things I’ve only seen on posters and documentaries. It makes me want to stick around here even more, which is why I’ll be here next summer.

We are anchored again in

Bay tonight. We were all pretty exhausted after today so a couple of people had naps this arvo. I wish I could have as I’m always last to bed (except when Scott is on board), but I choose to stay up-to-date on my blog. If the weather is bad like it says it will be then I may have a kip tomorrow arvo. I have to ring Ivan from Western Prince first thing tomorrow morning as he can skipper Jim Maya’s boat. Hopefully the weather is ok to get it done, out of the way, in the computer, and ready for analysis. Today was definitely one that will stick in the memory bank.


Wednesday 10th October

I woke up to drips on my head this morning as I had left my hatch on the ventilation setting and rain was dripping in. Fun fun. It was dead calm on the water with a little rain first thing but it soon cleared and we had clear blue sky all day. Awesome October weather! I was leader of the day today so had to be on my game. I called Ivan this morning but he was a bit crook so was unable to get Peregrine recording. We had reports of whales sighted off Pender Bluff (NW San Juans) so rang around to confirm the reports. It seemed as though that was the word on the water so we headed north out of Garrison and parked at Turn Point on

Island and deployed a hydrophone. We sat there floating for a couple of hours, had lunch, by which time other whale watch operators had navigated up to Active Pass into Strait of Georgia and down to Boundary Pass, but found nothing. I really enjoy chatting on the radio, and I think it definitely helps me to get to know the drivers out here, and ultimately assist me in getting employment next summer. As there were no whales and we had to be at Roche at 4 to meet JaMi, we headed back SE to Spieden Channel where Val and I went out in the dinghy and made recordings of the GV. It was dead calm so I was able to get some great recordings. After that was done it was time to head in Roche and meet up with JaMi to get a tour of the Roche Harbor wastewater treatment plant (part of the sustainability component of the course). Surprisingly it was interesting and quite odourless. The guy that runs it there is very passionate about his work and does a great job keeping things natural with basically no environmental impact. When you talk about water conservation I believe it comes down to what people are prepared to do, and I think that what people don’t know won’t hurt them. That may be a crude attitude but I truly believe that we will have to end up drinking treated wastewater, as water really is a precious resource and I’ve known that all my life growing up in the country living off rainwater tanks and having water restrictions. One thing that disgusted me was the fact that Victoria, BC pump their wastewater directly into the
Strait of Juan De Fuca, without any treatment at all. I might end up living there! Apparently there is pressure for them to change their ways which is a bloody good thing! It sickens me to think that what goes straight from their toilet ends up directly in the ocean without any kind of breakdown or treatment. Anyway, enough about wastewater. We talked more about water conservation at dinner on the GV and Jason seemed to be interested in things we do Down Under in terms of building houses, harnessing run-off, and financial incentives for doing so. I think Americans can learn a lot from us Aussies, particularly when it comes to water conservation. I mean, the half flush/full flush toilet is apparently only just catching on here! JaMi left straight after dinner so we went and had a much needed shower at Roche. I know we’re trying to be water conscious on the boat but seriously, one shower a week is not much to ask, and I think it’s more a personal hygiene issue rather than a sustainability issue. It’s the last week at sea anyway so it’s a non-issue now. After showers we pulled off the dock and after one failed attempt and pulling up letting out and pulling up almost 200ft (almost 70m) of chain, we were able to anchor securely. I had my ‘leader of the day’ debriefing and pretty much good comments all round. The general consensus was that today was really a day where I couldn’t fully show my leadership potential as it was a day where a lot of the time people were just doing their own thing (mainly data analysis). They said they’ve definitely witnessed me step up to a leadership position in previous weeks so know what I am capable of. I agreed, as the last two days we had whales and so systems were go go go, but today, a lot of people were tired, and so it was pretty unstructured while we were waiting around to hear reports. Comments were also made that when jobs needed to be done I just went ahead and did them, and didn’t delegate them. In my defence, they were just little jobs (pumping out, filling up freshwater, starting dishes etc) and I felt I could do them all myself, and didn’t want to delegate them. It was also stated that they always felt that I knew what was going on and that made people feel comfortable. Overall I guess I was happy with what I did today but I didn’t really get to truly display what I am capable of, but do believe I have already demonstrated this in previous weeks at sea.

On a final note before I head to my hole, when arriving back to Roche today and meeting up with the JaMi group, and Jason and Val were off chatting, and everyone else (i.e. 9 other females) were socialising, I had the major realisation that I didn’t have a bloke to chat to and kinda felt alone. Not that it’s a big issue and I really don’t know why I’m blogging about it, but I guess if there was a situation for a future male Beam Reach student to be in the same situation I am in, he could probably relate to how I feel. Look, I get along with everyone, but being the only guy I still do feel somewhat isolated and don’t feel comfortable in the girly conversations where they’re chatting soo bloody fast and soo bloody loud that nobody can get a word in either ways. I lived with two chicks back home, and when they were with their friends and chatting and laughing I could hear them through 3 doors and 3 walls in the house! There are all things we miss on this program, but I guess for me the major thing for me is to not be able to sit down with blokes my age and just talk about bloke stuff, over a nice cold ale. Just being there when the 2 groups interact it’s an in-your-face reminder of the fact that I’m surrounded by females and really just want to get away for a moment, but can’t. Don’t read into this too much, cos in 2 weeks I’ll be partying it up in the MIA with old mates and will look back at this and laugh. But, this is a snapshot of how I feel right at this moment. Last week was really good ‘cos there is an Irish guy studying back at the labs and we talked World Cup all week. Women probably wouldn’t understand it, but sometimes guys just need to talk “guy stuff”, and it’s bloody great to do it over a cold fermented vegetable drink.


Thursday 11th October

As I write this we are docked in
Port Angeles, USA! Not much to report today. I finally got boat recordings of Peregrine this morning (Jim Maya’s boat, although his character of a neighbour was skippering it). What a funny bloke Noris was. Would love to have a beer with that guy sometime. Water was almost dead calm today so we did the recordings at 9:30am just out the front of Mitchell Bay, then made our way south with the hope of getting to Race Rocks to see some pinnipeds life. Realistically it was a bit too far as it’s west past Victoria up into the Strait of Juan De Fuca, which is why we are docked in Port Angeles tonight and plan to catch the ebb to Race Rocks in the morning, cruise around checking out elephant seals and Stellar sea lions, maybe even see a Humpback or two (4 have been in the region the last two days so we are hopeful) then cruise the flood back into San Juan tomorrow night. Today was spent analysing data and finalising my Methods section. I’m finalising to a point that will be just a cut and paste into my final report. They have changed slightly in terms of boat recordings so need to adjust that accordingly. I’m pretty happy with the amount of boat recordings I have but would very much like to get a zodiac if I can this week. If not, then so be it.

We got into Pt Angeles at around 5pm. Anne actually used to live here so she spent the evening catching up with old friends while we went to a coffee shop with free wi-fi and got up-to-date on our emails and the like. Ash and I were on dinner, cooked spaghetti and fake meatballs again. It’s a no-brainer but tastes good so I stick to what I know. Watched a dvd on killer whales in
New Zealand that was awesome and now I’m writing this. I’m on breakfast in the morn so better be off. I look forward to seeing elephant seals and Stellars tomorrow! Val promises they will be there! And maybe even catch the southern residents as they come back into the Strait from the open ocean (they have been away since Tuesday, and typically go out for 2-3 days at a time). Fingers crossed!


Friday 12th October

What a marine mammal filled day! These waters are like a marine mammal playground. We saw your regular harbor seals, harbor porpoises and Dall’s porpoises, but we also saw Stellar sea lions and Humpback whales! We left
Port Angeles at around 9am and headed NW across to Race Rocks. Now to familiarise you with Race Rocks it’s a place that is very much frequented by whale watch operators when killer whales are not in the region. They have Stellar sea lions, which are the biggest of the sea lions, actually the biggest of the otariids (for you biologists) and Northern elephant seals this time of year (summer fall), and of course harbor seals that are abundant throughout these waters. But, no elephant seals this morning so I was really disappointed. Apparently the Navy had been letting off blasts above the water in the area which may have scared them off. Buggers! So we cruised around Race Rocks and got some great shots of the Stellars then got a radio call that told us that were humpbacks about 5 miles from Race Rocks in the direction we were going to head to get back to San Juan so off we went. We, the Gato Verde have definitely established ourself out on the water in terms of being known and what we’re doing. People call us up to find out where the whales are! In return of course we tell them, it’s all a big network and no-one gives anyone else false reports. I have definitely established myself out there, being the only Aussie on the radio I mean, so it has put me in good stead for recognising drivers and vessels and hopefully aiding in job prospects next summer. So we headed across to the humpbacks and boy did we get a show! They were very active – tail slaps, pec slaps, lunges and really really loud blows. Unfortunately no breaches but that is definitely something special if you witness that. There were several Stellars playing with the 4 humpbacks and we witnessed the sea lions porpoising out of the water. Got some great photos using the Beam Reach camera, a camera that is a million times better than mine for zoom wildlife shots. There were POW zodiacs in the region but it was just too unsafe to get recordings around humpbacks when they can go down for up to 40min and could surface anywhere., so I decided against contacting them. We left the humpys at around 3pm as it was around 3 hours travel to any of our
US waters anchoring spots. At about 5pm we got a report of J-pod coming in the
Strait of Juan De Fuca and were sighted 2 miles south of Race Rocks, where we were this morning! Grr! Ahh well, we have people monitoring the hydrophones at Lime Kiln and Val’s place in case they come up past Snug where we are anchored tonight. Had bloody great weather today, have actually had bloody good weather most of the week. I really didn’t think our final week at sea was going to be this calm. I guess it means we can’t go sailing as there is just not any wind, so maybe tomorrow we can get a bit of sailing in. Depends if we get whales or not I guess!


Saturday 13th October

‘Twas our last day at sea, and yes, we got whales! Killer whales that is! We woke up at 7:30am to reports from Val’s wife Leslie that she could her vocalisations on the hydrophone out the front of their house, so we hauled anchor and motored out of Snug (Mitchell Bay) to see if we could get a visual on the whales and a direction of travel. As we were motoring out the calls on the hydrophones stopped so it was a bout 15min before we got a visual, well, till I got a visual. I spotted one just off Kellet Bluff heading north around

Island, but then they changed direction heading back down south slowly while foraging. I got on the phone to one of the Victorian whale watch operators that had helped us out in getting to the humpbacks yesterday, as we were the only boat on scene. They were very much appreciative! I’m definitely in their good books, ahh job please. We identified them as J pod, which matched reports of them coming in late yesterday afternoon. They were extremely spread out across

Strait heading in a southerly direction so we followed them and tried to get in front of them in order to stop completely and drop the hydrophone array vertically. I have enough click data so didn’t deploy the high frequency. We got past Lime Kiln, stopped, deployed and watched J1 (aka Ruffles) surface about 60m off our port stern. Then, the fog set in. I have literally never seen anything like it on the water. I’ve seen it on a footy field back home where you can’t see the other end, but being out on the water with a visibility radius of around 100m is quite daunting. But the cool thing is you can hear the blows of the orcas, and they sound really close, but you can’t see them, and then you see what appears to be ghost of a dorsal fin surface off in the distance. Your eyes play tricks on you. As it was very foggy I volunteered to sound our foghorn every two minutes, only our foghorn was human lung operated, so every two minutes I’d blow into this horn that sounded like a dying bird. We also had an air-horn that after a bout half an hour I decided to start using. We were in the fog for a few hours only encountering a few other J-pod individuals. J27 and J30 (two young males) surfaced together around 40m off our starboard and that was awesome, but it wasn’t until just after lunch that the fog finally lifted, and that’s when the boats appeared. The background noise from the boats was just phenomenal. I had planned on getting a vessel recording of the Western Prince but couldn’t hear it over the abundance of boats (20+ within a few kilometre radius) so I decided to cancel, and have hopefully organised to record first thing tomorrow morning before we do the changeover with JaMi in

Harbor. There were plenty of POW zodiacs around but again, background noise was just too prominent so I couldn’t get recordings. At least I have one twin outboard motor recording for my project. J-pod was extremely spread out in the southern Haro Strait so we tried to get ahead of groups and deploy but as their direction was constantly changing it wasn’t long before they were ahead of us again and boats were motoring to catch up with them, thus making recording clicks and calls for other members of the VaTo team very difficult. It was around 3pm that we decided we had to leave to get to an anchorage at a reasonable time. It was kinda sad leaving the orcas, as today was most likely the last day this year we’ll get to see them (I may be able to next week if I go out with Giles to help her). It didn’t bother me too much as I know I’ll be back next season to spend much more time with these awesome cetaceans. We are anchored in North Bay tonight on the east side of
San Juan. I will be recording Western Prince in the morning before we head around the corner to

Harbor to do the changeover.  We had our sailing assessment this arvo, of which I got a perfect score, so I was pretty chuffed. I then had one last cruise on the dinghy with Todd. I opened it right up, and we hit around 20knots as it was dead calm. I parked it quite well this time, no going underneath the cat or anything like that. We watched ‘Whale Rider’ this evening. It wasn’t quite what I expected but still, not a bad movie. I also spoke to Todd tonight about hybrid electric propulsion systems as I want to do that for my sustainability report and look into putting electric motors onto smaller whale watch vessels such as a zodiac, so they can motor silently when in the vicinity of the whales. It’s better for the environment, and better for the whales. As I write this I’m again the last one to go to bed. It’s  been bloody cold in my berth the last couple of nights. I’ve been fully clothed with my beanie all curled up in a 0 degrees sleeping bag and a blanket! Oh well, one more night of it then back to a heated dorm room. Today was a great day, and made even greater by the fact that it’s our last day at sea and we got to see whales. I’m gonna miss the GV, as I really did enjoy living on the boat and sailing, although unfortunately this week we didn’t get the winds to sail. It was evident that living on the boat was not for everyone, but I could definitely do it.


Sunday 14th October

Well, the sea component of the Beam Reach Program is now over. I was on breakfast this morning and awoke to a magical sunrise over
North Bay. I was leader of the day again today so made a list of all the chores we needed to do for the changeover while I recorded Western Prince just off

Island. We pumped out and filled up at

Harbor and were 10 min early at the labs dock. Good work team! We unloaded the GV, I had a moments silence and reminisced over the awesome 4 weeks I had out at sea on this vessel, then we went to a friend of Jason’s who have chosen to live their life sustainably as possible. We all sat down and had a chat with them. The interesting thing was, they (parents and a single child) are living very similar to they way I lived when I was a kid growing up in country
Victoria. We were on rainwater tanks so were very water conscious, we had a compost and a veggie patch, Mum made a lot of our clothes and we often bought food in bulk as we lived a fair way out of town. So the discussions we were having were not really new to me. I guess the difference is though not everyone can bring a family up in a house that can have a compost or a veggie patch, so we discussed how you can you try and live sustainably when you’re in a flat or a house in the middle of the city. This program has definitely opened my eyes to more things and how not to leave as big a carbon footprint, but a lot of the little things I was already doing, and so will continue to do these things when I get home, and develop even more habits to try and live more sustainably. A lot of the focus though when we talk about sustainability is in regard to an American way of life, and so it is often very different to the situation back Down Under. Anyway, so we headed back to the labs, the JaMi group unpacked their gear onto the GV, we farewelled them off, and it was time for an early dinner and a much needed shower and cold beverage to celebrate the end of our sea component. I’m happy with the amount of data I have so the next 2 weeks will be spent in front of a computer writing everything up. It’s gonna be all systems go! I’ve decided NOT to state business names in my report and presentation, instead just the propulsion systems and vessel specifics. I’ve stated this to the various whale watch operators that I have measured and also that I am not out to say that one vessel is “louder” than another, as that is not the purpose of my research. Hopefully all reply with the all clear. I’m also very happy with how I have established myself out on the water in this region among whale watch operators and researchers, as it will definitely assist me in gaining employment next summer in
Canada. I feel very grateful to have been able to communicate with the whale watch operators while out at sea on this program, but even more grateful to Beam Reach for giving me the opportunity to network with people from all over the industry.

Read More

Rain, deer and “I feel like…” – Week 7

Monday 1st October to Wednesday 3rd October

It’s been an interesting couple of days back on land. We had our peer and program evaluations due just before we got off the boat and it has become evident that there is a bit of tension within the VaTo group. Now me being the only guy in the group and pretty much oblivious to issues between females, I had no idea that there even was tension between certain members. I thank Ash for bringing it to my attention, otherwise I would have had no idea! When she told me I was really surprised. She just looked at me and said “You’re such a boy”, obviously implying I know nothing about the dynamics of females living in close quarters with each other and how little small things can escalate into big issues. I guess if there was another guy my age on the program, and we clashed in one area or another for some reason, we’d lay it out, sort it out, and move on. Pretty simple. Anyway, we had a discussion last night (Tues) and talked about how we can make the last week on the boat much more pleasant and issues between members of the group seem to have been resolved. Time will tell. I got my peer evaluation back and was very pleased with the results. It seems as though I’m doing everything ok and don’t have any complaints so I’ll just continue on the way I’m going. I think it’s important to laugh and I try to bring that to the group. I want to try and make sure everyone is happy and smiling in what can sometimes be a very stressful environment. The happier we are, the more relaxed we can be, and I think the more productive we can be also. I know I don’t want to be in an environment where people are all quiet and awkward around each other, so I think laughter is the best medicine, and I believe I have the remedy! Anyway, enough of that. I have also received my proposal marking back and there are a few things I need to work on, but overall I’m happy with it. Got some data analysis to do this week, and a couple of exercises due this week so have been working away at those. I’m definitely going to give myself a night off as I think it’s important to just relax so that will probably happen Fri night. I’m hoping to go out with Giles this week also when she gets back from
California. We’ve been told to get cracking on our service projects and so I’m really hoping the whales are around so I can get out with Giles and take some boat surveys for Soundwatch. As I write this it’s Wednesday arvo and we may or may not be meeting up with the other group at British Camp (

Bay) as they could be out with the whales and obviously need the data. The pager system is no longer because it finished up at the end of September, so now when we want to find out where the whales are we have to be paying close attention to the radio and get on the phone and ring our “special contacts”.

I’d better get back to work but thought I’d leave with an idea that has been running through my head since I’ve been on the program. I’m pretty sure that research is not where I want to head as a career path, well not bio-acoustics anyway. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy listening to the whales but I just want to get out there and educate people about marine life and not be stuck in front of a computer analysing data. Out on the water is what I love, and so I’ve been thinking I’m going to look at opening up my own business when I get back Down Under. I have Beam Reach to thank though for giving me the experience out on the water. I had a good chat to Todd last week about running your own business, and so I now know basically what needs to be done for me to get on the right path. Watch this space! I’m going for a much needed run through the reserve. Catcha.


Thursday 4th October

In theme with the title of this week’s blog I thought I’d clarify why I named it that. Ok, rain, because we’ve had it every morning and some evenings since we got back on land. Deer, because they are bloody everywhere! Apparently San Juan Island is at carrying capacity for these black tail deer and every morning and every evening you just see them wandering around campus. I was walking to the library the other night and there were 4 deer (one buck, a female and two foals) on a patch of grass between some of the lab buildings. One of the foals was making a ‘bleeting’ sound, so I began to ‘bleet’ back at it, and it started to follow me! I continued on my way and it came round the corner in the dark and was staring at me. I thought it was probably a good idea to stop bleeting as I didn’t want to piss mum off, which may in turn piss the buck off, and he had some big antlers! Anyway, so you’re probably wondering why I wrote ‘”I feel like” as the final part of my blog title, well, it’s because this American phrase seems to be rubbing off on me. Help me! It’s not as bad as you may think, I don’t have an accent or anything, thank goodness, (not that having an American accent is bad or anything ;-S ), but I find myself beginning a thought or idea with “I feel like…” and then say what I want to say. The phrase “I feel like…” seems to be a very common introduction when someone wishes to put forth an idea. For example, when discussing a navigation plan on the boat, someone may put forth an idea by saying “I feel like maybe we should consider heading….” I say it sometimes but immediately stop myself after I say “feel”. It may not come across as a big deal in writing but believe me, it’s certainly noticeable for me, and a habit that I will quickly get myself out of. I’ve started using some American words as well instead of the Aussie ones just so I don’t have to repeat myself. For example, “trash” instead of “rubbish”, “trash can” instead of “bin”, and “fosset” instead of “tap”. It’s bad I know, I’m becoming American-ised! But the accent I will never succumb to I promise you that! I put on a pretty good American accent when I need to though.

Back on track now. Last night we went to British Camp on the western side of
San Juan to meet the JaMi group. While having dinner we had a talk given to us by a National Parks historian about the history of British and American Camp on the island and the ‘Pig War’ back in the 1860’s. The history was fascinating, learning about the British and the Americans in these parts back in the day, and how they went about deciding who got what land etc, and how a war almost broke out because someone shot a pig. It turned really cold quite quickly so the JaMi group got back on the boat and we the VaTo group went back to the labs.

Today was spent doing an acoustics exercise that was due in the afternoon. I did mine on the high frequency hydrophone calibration that we recorded early last week. I also had an advisor meeting with Val later in the afternoon. I feel like… (just kidding), that things are on track for my project, I just have to fine-tune my Methods section that is due on Sunday. Off to the Whale Museum in the morning for what is known as ‘Gear-Down’ where local naturalists on board the whale watching vessels on the island get together, listen to talks, and discuss the summer. We as Beam Reach students are on the agenda so will stand up and give a quick spiel about what our research projects are. Should be good.


Friday 5th November to Sunday 7th November

Friday saw us at the Gear Down held in

Harbor. Val gave a talk then we stood up and explained our research to the local naturalists and

Museum staff. I felt comfortable talking about my research as it’s something that I have planned out all on my own and after 7 weeks, should have a bloody good understanding of it all. We also listened to a couple of other talks on harbor seals and seabirds. I think being a naturalist would be an awesome job, and it’s something that I will essentially be next summer should I get a job with a whale watch company. I know all about the whales, just need to touch up on my seabirds and local natural history. I have all winter! Friday arvo we shopped for decorations and presents for Liz for her 21st that is on Monday 8th. Friday night I spent a lot of my time on Skype chatting to family back home and just generally relaxing.

Saturday we were up ready to shop at 10am for the following week’s food inventory on the boat. It rained all day so after shopping and lunch, I was in desperate need of a nap so went and crashed and woke up just before dinner. If there were whales around I was meant to be going out with Giles but obviously she didn’t call me so there were not around (well not till the arvo I heard anyway by which time I’m guessing it wasn’t worth calling me). Saturday night was spent packing up ready for my final week at sea and fine-tuning more of my Methods section.

It’s late Sunday night as I write this, actually it just turned Monday morning, Happy 21st Liz! We, Team VaTo, decorated Liz’s room this morning with photos, balloons and streamers for her 21st, so when she arrived back at the dorms this arvo she got a pleasant surprise. A call from her late this arvo came through saying she loved it and was very thankful that we did that for her. A 21st is a big deal, so even though we couldn’t be on land to celebrate it with her, we did the next best thing. Earlier on today though a major event happened in the VaTo team. Sam has decided that she was not going to get on the boat this week (for reasons I’m not going to go into), so we’re a person less on the GV this week. The changeover at Roche was a wet one, as it was last week. The other group was really keen to get off (hot showers beckoned), so we had a cake for Liz that Leslie made and sang Happy BDay to her, ate it all cos it was bloody delicious, then JaMi headed off to what I’m sure will be a celebratory night for Liz. We were about to head off when Todd opened up the engine hatch to find the bracket that attached the alternator is cracked, so it needs to be either welded or replaced, so we’ll find out about that in the morning if we can get the part or not. So we may not be going anywhere tomorrow, but fingers crossed it sorts itself out. I haven’t heard back from Anna so wrote her an email this evening and hope to chat to her tomorrow about hopefully (really hoping) that I can get some boat recordings.
Shannon arrived back on the boat around 8pm after having almost a week off in the Big Apple. We then all had a chit-chat about the days gone by and why we were one group member short, and then looked forward to the week ahead and what we can do to make it run smoothly and efficiently. It’s going to be a busy week, even if we don’t get whales everyday (which I can pretty much guarantee we won’t). Last week at sea and it’s all happening, so come this time next week I’m going to be in desperate need of a good night’s sleep I’m sure!

Read More