Archive for April 4th, 2008

J Pod Welcomes us to Washington

      So we just finished an intense first week at Beam Reach. Our first day way was spent touring the labs and taking in the view from scenic Lime Kiln State Park on the west side of San Juan Island. Our second day became even more exciting as we got our first sighting of Orcas. J Pod was along the west side and we were able to get over there in time to see them from a distance of about 1/2 a mile or so. Even at that distance we were able to clearly hear their blows when they came to the surface. It was an exciting way for the whales to welcome us to washington.

Since then we’ve been doing a lot of work with the math and physics of sound and learning about the differences between sound in the air and sound in the water. As someone who hasn’t been in a physics or math course in a while it was very good for me to relearn all these important concepts. I’m sure they will ocme in very handy in the coming weeks.

Today we also got an introduction to sailing and underwater acoustics off of the back dock. Using a little dingy we each sailed out and back. We also used an underwater speaker to play sounds underwater and record them to practice sound analysis this weekend. During the playback a seal popped up near the dock perhaps curious to see what these new sounds were. All in all it was a good way to wrap up the final week of work here.

One thing I love is the atmosphere of the small island community. As someone who has spent most of his life on Cape Cod I would like to consider myself a small town islander but in reality the development of the Cape in recent years has caused it to move away from that small town feeling. Only Nantucket and the Vineyard still come close. However, here in Friday Harbor everyone is friendly and there is a feeling of trust. Nothing around the lab is locked and the town is equally  picturesque. As for the scenery, it can’t be beat. With rocky shorlines coming downing to meet the chilly blue waters of the Pacific Northwest its easy to feel at home on the island. In the distance mountains loom adding to the overall effect. I’m greatly looking forward to the coming weeks.

Another exciting thing about living here is the wildlife. As I write this two foxes just ran across the grass in front of my window. In addition to that I’ve seen quite a few black tailed deer along the way and a bald eagle on the way to Lime Kiln our first day. Looking out over the water it is not uncommon to see a seal looking back at you. One seal in particular might come say hello when rowing into town. His name is Popeye due to the fact he is blind in one of his eyes. Our first time rowing into town he came right up to the dock as we tied up our boat and said hello before swimming off again. This weekend I am looking forward to doing some trail running through the woods near the lab.

As for my specific research project I haven’t quite narrowed it down yet. I first wanted to do something with the effect of sonar on orcas but realized that logistically might pose some difficulties. I was also interested in differences in calls between specific age groups but localizing the calls to a specific whale of known age could prove difficult. It seems like every time I come across a new paper I come up with more possibilities and it fuels my motivation. Hopefully this weekend I will be able to narrow it down more. In the mean time I still have some papers I am interested in reading.

Read More

a succesful tack!

Today we practiced sailing on Jason’s little dingy the Cyprid, as well as testing out how to use the hydrophones and underwater speaker. There was a seagull listening near by, and when he heard the S1 call from the speaker on deck I heard him start to cawk at it- Seabird and Orca communication!

It was so much fun! It really is the best way to sail- and Dominique and I were able to successfully tack on our voyage- which faced perils such as the massive ferry heading full speed towards us (from 1/2 mile away)- but thanks to our tacking techniques we were able to dodge just in the nick of time!

Lindsay and I also poked an anemone off the side of the dock- it sucked our finger and we got Ryan to touch it too! What a wonderful way to end the week! 

Read More