Archive for June, 2010

Highlight video from spring class

Here is a great video put together by the spring 2010 students. It is a half-hour fantastic eye candy and an elegant visual tour of the 10-week program. Check out the still photos and video of springtime coming to the San Juan Islands, transient killer whale encounters, a sailboat race, life at sea, rope craft, the southern residents from Ken Balcomb’s boat, data collection, breaching professors, and more. Thanks to Libby, Nora, Horace, and Kathryn for putting it together!

This is the best way to summarize our 10 week adventure. Enjoy!

Read More

The End is Nigh


Today we got back on the boat and headed up to Prevost Harbor on Stuart Island. Val came back on board. It was an uneventful trip but we did see a few harbor porpoises.

Tuckered out after a long day!

We got to Prevost early so Libby, Horace and I decided to walk the 2.5+ miles to the Lighthouse at Turn Point.

We headed out at about 4:30 and walked, and walked and finally came to the School House, a stop approximately 1.7 miles from the lighthouse. It is very beautiful. It reminded me a bit of The Island School from the old days when it was still one big building.

After a brief stop to take some pictures we continued on and walked, and walked, and walked till we finally came to the Light House! It is a really picturesque couple of buildings. The surrounding area is moss and grass covered rock, which makes it stand out from the forest edge when viewing it from the water, as well as allowing for an astounding view.

When we sat down on the steps of the main building, to take a much-needed rest, we noticed a bald eagle perched atop a tree only a little ways away from us. It was chattering away, not a sound I imagined for a ferocious bird of prey I must admit.

We also noticed a number of bushes covered with bees! Hopefully they will make a good comeback. We only stayed at the lighthouse for about 8 min. and by the time we got back it was 7:00!


Today we decided to float down the south side of San Juan Island to wait for the still absent residents. The weather and currents were perfect for Jason to do his swim along the west side. We drifted to Lime Kiln and he jumped in and swam South with the current for an hour covering roughly 3 miles! We took lots of pictures and video of the whole thing for the web page we will make about it.

When he came out he was pretty cold, but luckily he had his wetsuit on so he didn’t have hypothermia!

We drifted for a while more and saw some more porpoises. Once while we had the hydrophone in we heard a sound a little like wind chimes if you treated them like a flute. It was very strange, but beautiful. We also heard at least one whistle like call from the porpoises.


Today we went to Race Rocks! Race Rocks are a few very small Islands, that are really just one big rock surrounded by a few smaller ones, off of the southern tip of Vancouver Island. They have a research station and a lighthouse on the rocks and the area is known to attract all kinds of sea life.

We saw a bunch of harbor seals hauled out and a few Californian sea lions, what we thought was a baby Californian sea lion as well as a few porpoises. One of the porpoises even dove right under the boat while Horace and I were standing on the trampoline. It was amazing!


More sailing! Yay!


We decided to pump out in the morning before going to look for the whales.  Pumping out involves unscrewing the cap to the sewage tank and putting a suction hose over the hole and sucking up everything in the tank. Great job I know. Everyone would hope that they were in the place least far from the position one needs to be in to get the hose handed up to them. Today was my unlucky day and I got to hold the nozzle.

Val was kind enough to go and get some donuts for everyone!

We had another day of sailing and fun! The weather was great and lifted our spirits despite the lack of whales.


Today we decided to look for the fish-tracking device that Scott and Jason deployed last year for part of a NOAA fish study. WE couldn’t see the rope we were looking for from the dingy so I decided to be the brave soul who would jump out of the dingy onto the rocks Jason thought he draped the tethering /retrieval rope over. In doing this I managed to sustain barnacle inflicted injuries to my palm. I was very displeased.

A little place I like to call Barnacle Island

After jumping around on the rock for a while I still couldn’t spot the rope so we made a few more passes near another rock after I returned to the dingy, but alas we never found the rope and therefore couldn’t deploy the new fish tracker.

After returning to the boat we decided to get recordings of the Gatito driving at different speeds for the group project we are doing. Besides being something we needed to do It also gave Jason and Libby a chance to joy ride in the dingy!


I headed off the boat with Val this morning to go to Lime Kiln to meet with a man named Dr. Bob Otis. He does research on Orca at the lighthouse and he kindly offered to share the data he has gathered over the years on turnaround events. I was able to gather quite a few turnaround events and their corresponding recordings! I am very excited as I no longer have a sample size of only 6!

During my data mining someone shouted “WHALES!” and I jumped up thinking that they were orcas. I was mistaken they were humpbacks, a mother and her calf! They swam not 20 feet off of the shore. I could see their blowholes; they looked to be at least the size of my fist. It was awesome!!

After I found all the data I needed I left the lighthouse to meet up with everyone at the labs. Unfortunately I forgot that I didn’t get phone service at the lighthouse so I couldn’t call Libby for a pick up. I started to walk thinking ‘hopefully this wont take more than two or three hours’. Luckily for me shortly after leaving Lime Kiln park a very nice man offered to drive me back to the post office, in Friday Harbor, so I could walk back to the labs. He was very kind and we talked about whales till he dropped me off.

I immediately took a shower and did my laundry before heading back to the boat to look at the data I had gathered.

At 6 we all got to go to a fundraiser for the whale museum and I won some very cool books at the silent auction! Our table also got two cakes, one flowerless chocolate almond torte and Leslie’s, Val’s amazing wife, ice cream torte. It smelled and looked amazing!


Today we headed out early because we heard that there were some orca coming in toward the islands from the Strait of Juan de Fuca! After we got to Discovery Island we found out that the orca were transients. Even so we wanted to see them as we are orca starved, but they remained just out of reach.

We headed home with out seeing orca once again to work on our mined data. After we got back to Snug I had my dingy driving training with Todd. It was like driving a car for the first time, I kept thinking that if I so much as bumped onto something or went too fast the boat would EXPLODE! (“Welcome to Johnny Cab”).


Today we decided to spend the morning at anchor since all of us needed some time to analyze our data. After lunch, when we were all ready to rip out all of our hair and jump into the ocean just to get away from our computers, we decided to sail to a new location for the night. We saw a seal on the way. We did more work after we arrived.


Today we found the whales!! L pod was down by Eagle Point off of San Juan Island. We didn’t find them till late afternoon and only got to spend about 3 hours with them but it was a lot of fun!


We decided to hang out at the southwest part of San Juan Island hoping that L pod would head back in through the Strait of Juan de Fuca. At about 1:00 we heard that J pod was headed in on a strong flooding current but was still about 30 miles from us and we just couldn’t make it to them.

We waited for a few hours to see if they were traveling fast and would make it before we had to turn around and head to port.

Unfortunately they were moving at a snails pace and wouldn’t make it to us till well after we had anchored. But we hope that they will be here tomorrow. Maybe we will see a greeting ceremony with the super pod. (a greeting ceremony happens when all three pods come together to form a super pod and socialize with a lot of calling).

The thing I’m looking at on my computer is called a spectrogram. It is a way to look at sound.

This is a spectragram. The y axis is the frequency and the x axis is the time. The darker pink (or yellow when it is much louder) is the amplitude (volume).


Scott came back on board today! He told us that he had been listening to the Lime Kiln and orca sound hydrophones till about 2:30 to 3:00 am last night! He heard L and J pods chattering away a lot.

We decided to head south this morning to try and see if they were below Lime Kiln. We heard that they were heard on the Lime Kiln hydrophone pretty early in the morning so we headed back up to Lime Kiln and found J pod! (well one matriline anyway).

We dropped in the hydrophones and did some data collection. About half way through the day Todd informed us that the window in the port head (the ‘escape hatch’) had opened part way and half of Haro Strait was now sloshing around in the bottom of the boat! Kathryn and I decided to help out and started cleaning up. When we put up the floorboards we saw that there was about a foot or two of water in the bilge (the bottom of the boat). Because of the tissue paper from the trashcan, the pump was getting clogged so Kathryn and I bailed all 125 gallons of it out by hand!


Since we had such great luck yesterday (and the weather was crappy [apparently having whales and good weather at the same time is too much to ask]) today we decided to go and try to find them again.

A moms dorsal fin and her baby porpoising to breathe

We found them! They were swimming rather erratically and during our time with them one male came very close to the boat, so close in fact that we could see him under water for one dive. There was also a new baby with the group (pic to the left). It was very interesting watching it come to the surface because unlike the others it would always stick its head all the way out of the water and do a half belly flop. I thought that maybe it wasn’t coordinated enough yet to do a smoother surfacing. This was also true when we saw the pod resting. Unfortunately we the whales were swimming against the current, something that we cant do very effectively, so we had to leave earlier because at full throttle we were making about two knots to their six or seven!


Today the whales were far out of our reach in the morning so we decided to stay in the harbor till about 11:30 and then head out for some sailing for the last day. The winds were great and the seas were rough, but in a fun way! We all got on the bow as the waves were crashing over it and it was exhilarating! Strangely enough I was the only student in full rain-gear! Even so I still managed to get a little wet!

It is much widnier than it looks, there were big waves coming over the bow!

Right before we entered Cattle Pass heading towards our harbor for the night, we heard the mainsail come down and realized that it had snapped! The supports that kept the mainsail attached to the main halyard (the rope that hoists the mainsail) came unsown and the whole sail dropped. Crazy hunh?

Due to this unfortunate event us students got do something very cool. We got to  hoist each other up the mast!! It was amazing, and kind of hard to keep yourself close to the mast when you are at the bottom. Luckily all f us were lighter than the mainsail so it wasn’t too bad.

For an extra special treat Scott cooked us some Thai curry that was amazing as well as making homemade applesauce, really good homemade applesauce!

Tomorrow begins the 7 days of super studying!

Thanks for reading!

Be joyous ^_^

Read More