Blood, Guts and Lunch?

Just a note, farther down this blog entry are graphic pictures of insides of a marine animal. If this kind of thing disturbs you please don’t read past 4/8.


This morning a very cool guy named Russell came to talk to us about the juvenile salmon that use the San Juan Islands as a nursery. It was a very interesting talk and I learned quite a bit about the ecosystem that salmon spend their juvenile time in and how we can affect it.

After he left Jason taught us about the anatomy of whale sound production and reception. It was extremely cool! The anatomy of sound production and reception between terrestrial and aquatic mammals is very different and even the production difference between baleen and toothed whales is pretty significant. Whales don’t hear through holes on the surface of their heads like we do, instead they most likely hear through the surface of their head and along their jaw! I find the different ways that animals evolve amazing, especially things like basic senses.

After lunch we went down to the dock to play with the recording equipment. We got to lower a microphone to make sounds, one of the orca calls on a loot, that we could then record with the hydrophone. It was great. We each did all of the different jobs from moving the hydrophone box and recording, to measuring the distance between the hydrophone and the speaker. About half way through we saw a harbor seal pop up to look around. We surmised that it was looking for the predators it could hear under water. It was pretty cool.

When we got back to S1, the duplex we live in, we entered the data into Excel and made a graph. Most of us are still a bit confused but we will be doing more tomorrow since our lecture got cut short. We did learn that “The log of a number (x) = the power of a base that gives you the number (x)”.

Val’s Board


We spent the morning learning a bit more about sound and how it is related to energy. That was pretty cool and a little less confusing. It is amazing seeing Val work on the board because you can tell that he loves what he does and he gets so into it!

After that lecture we go to head down to Lime Kiln to clean out the lighthouse as part of our group community work. It was actually quite fun and very therapeutic. Horace and Val replaced the radio tower that streams live sounds to people with receivers in the park. Kathryn, Libby, Jason and I worked at cleaning out the lighthouse and organizing the computers. After the inside was mostly put together I got to take the grounding wire from one side of the rocks below the lighthouse and move it to the other. Basically I got to jump around on rocks with a green wire for 30 min! It was fun!


The proposal rough draft is due tomorrow so today is study study work work!


We had a very informative lesson on statistics today from Jason. We were introduced to the “Happy Face Stats Family” which entertained us all while being very informative.

Happy Face Stats Family

Around 12:30 ish Jason got a call from Amy, a person who then informed us about a stranded sea lion that she needed us to pick up. We set out about 40-50 min later in the buzzard to pick up a sea lion that was floating in a harbor. When we got there the sea lion had washed to the shallows on the beach and, although the Buzzard is made for that kind of situation, Jason didn’t want to get too close to shore cause getting back out to sea can still be problematic. So we went to the beach to inspect our options and decided to have two people, Horace and Libby, stay with the sea lion, tie a rope around its flippers and throw us the line so we could drag it back out to sea. The sea lion was still in pretty good condition and was just a bit bloated so it floated really well. Of course by this time it had started to hail and snow! After we got back to the dock we decided that the best cores would be to pull sea lion into the boat. This was a big mistake! We tied the rope around its feet to the winch and started to winch it into the boat, when we had about half of the sea lion in the boat the winch broke! For the next 20 min or so we tried to pull it in by hand. Not an easy feat as you may imagine since it weighed about 1 ton. Finally the winch came back, as did the sun, and we got the sea lion in the boat. Te sea lion firmly on the boat and all of us perched on the back to balance out its shear mass, we set out only to realize that the wind had picked up and the boat was too heavy. So we went back to the dock, pulled the sea lion off the boat, by tying it by its armpits to the dock and the other to the boat and driving away, and cinch it to the dock so we could come back the next day and pick it up.  Then we rode home and got back about 4:45. I slept well that night!


Today we got a call from Jason at 7:15 telling us that he was heading back out to pick up the sea lion at 7:45 and of course all of us once again jumped on the chance. The ride out was very smooth and absolutely gorgeous!  We got there quickly and found him in the same spot we left him, tied to the dock. We unhooked him and decided that since we had ropes around his tail, torso and snout we should tie him to the side of the boat rather than hope that we could get him all the way back to the labs towing him. Because of our extra load and the careful manner in which we drove, it took us about an hour to get back to the labs.

We were met there by whale museum volunteers who often assisted the Orcus Island veterinarian named Joe who routinely performs necropsies on stranded animals that are brought to the labs that are still in good shape. Joe hadn’t gotten there yet but Jason called him and it was decided that it would be best to perform the necropsy in the boat. So once again it was ‘haul the 1 ton sea lion into the boat’ time! The winch broke AGAIN but only for a few minuets and since we had some experience it went much quicker this time. After the sea lion was in the boat and we took some measurements of girth, length, etc., Joe got down to business.  It was awesome!

I have ever seen a necropsy, excluding cat lab in college and the few frogs and squid from elementary school. The shear size of everything boggled my mind. The heart was the size of my head! Its blood has two kinds of oxygen carriers in it making the muscles look very dark red and it had a good 3 inches of blubber. During the necropsy Joe would quiz us on different parts and explain what he was doing. He was great and answered all of our questions.

We found out that the sea lion has suffered some major trauma and had a lot of hemorrhagic tissue in his chest cavity. Trauma like that was most likely caused by a run in with a ship or some orca. We got to look at a bunch of different organs up close and Joe even went through the anatomy of the heart and cut it open for us to look at all of the parts. The liver was strange because it had abnormal yellow and black spots on it but Joe didn’t know if it was just a natural oddity or a sign of disease. The kidneys were also interesting because instead of having one outer area filtering into one inner area like ours, it basically had hundreds of little kidneys all filtering into one area.

After Joe was finished with the necropsy it was about 12:30 and time for us to eat lunch lest we miss it! After lunch we got finished cleaning the boat, a very stinky and messy job, and then got sailing lessons from Val in his sail dingy.

The first time we went out we were with Val so he could explain what to do.  Libby and Kathryn were first and then Horace and I went. The second time all four of us went, that was hilarious because we barley all fit into the boat! After that Val put on the jib sail and we went out in our pairs of two, this time without the guidance of Val. Libby and Kathryn did good as did Horace and I, given that none of us really knew what we were doing. Horace and I got stuck in no wind areas a few times and spent a lot of time going in circles. It was a lot of fun and a great end to a stressful week!

In case you missed it no lunch was actually mentioned.

Be joyous!

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