Archive for May, 2011

The Chase

I’m sure you all are wondering if we’ve seen any whales these past few weeks. At this point I’m thrilled to say we have seen them more than a few times! Initially, it seemed that the whales were avoiding us or at least choosing the exact opposite direction and side of the San Juan Islands in relation to wherever we were. Days past with this sense of disappointment but determination kept us going. Our lingering hope led us to venture far into northern and southern parts of the Salish Sea. One day, we travelled up to my favorite island so far; Patos Island, in hopes the reported killer whale’s up in Pt. Roberts, Canada would continue on one of their annual routes down south between Patos Island and Eagle Point. After taking night shifts listening to underwater hydrophones that are located throughout the islands we woke up the next morning knowing that they whales hadn’t passed our location. The day ended with news the whales were transients and going at a slower pace then expected. We were unable to see any whales that day, but our efforts continued nonetheless.

Another day we travelled an even farther distance south around Whidbey Island. Supposedly we were the first Beam Reach course to go this far south! We had heard that J pod was seen down in that area so we spent the day looking and found gray whales and a breaching Minke instead! This is very rare to see a Minke breach so our long trip down ended up being worth the time and fuel used.

I feel like I haven’t explained how exactly we go about finding the whales. I make it sound  as if we use underwater hydrophones as our main locating source, but this only half of our method! One part is to check to see if killer whale call spectrograms were picked up from the Lime Kiln underwater hydrophone if necessary, or listen to the hydrophones that stream live on orca sound at to see if we can locate the direction the whales are travelling. Our other main locating source is communicating with people. We keep in contact with land based observers, Vancouver, Victoria and San Juan Island whale watching boats, along with other companies such as the Whale Museum, the Whale Research Center, Sound Watch and Strait Watch. Each contacts purpose is either to educate boaters on vessel noise and how it can negatively impact whale communication, educate and entertain the public about their general biology or to continue research on the Southern Resident killer whale’s.  All of these contacts serve as vital source for our knowledge of the southern resident and transient killer whale location. In order for us to create an equal sharing of information relationship with these contacts we try and relay any information of what marine mammals we see on our daily routes. There are exceptions when there is the concern of overcrowding the whales, so we make it a point to be very careful about who we relay the information to.

For the past 4 weeks the information we have been able to provide for others is actually not about finding the Southern Resident killer whales.  When pulling out of Snug Harbor along the west side of San Juan Island on May 8th. Ally  spotted a humpback whale! Not only did we see a humpack whale but we caught them in a playful state allowing us to see the giant mammal breach multiple times! The amazing photo below was taken by our photographer/video-augrapher Carlos Sanchez.

There was also pectoral and chin slapping that occurred. After our initial shock of observing a humpback breach not too far from our catamaran we called all of our contacts so that they could share in the enjoyment. That was the first moment we felt so good about giving information to our contacts instead of only receiving what they had to tell us.

We have also seen the Southern Resident killer whales for 5 days total so far, and it was all possible because of this connection with other whale observers and researchers!

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Beam Reach is coming to an end.  Before I got here, I never imagined how much would be packed into ten weeks.  We have learned so much in science, sailing, and life.  I will most treasure all the people we have met.  From experts in the field like David Bain to experts in the kitchen like the talented Leslie Veirs, we have met so many new faces.

The last two weeks on the boat we had two guests.  Andrea Buckman came on board to tell us about her work with persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in both salmon and killer whales.  Living in Canada, she focuses on the Northern Residents, but has been able to use her work to make predictions on effects of POPs on the Southern Residents.   We got to give a little back by showing her J-pod!  Always a treat.


Ally, Val, Mandy, Andrea, and Carlos watching J-pod

Unfortunately for our second guest, Julie Woodruff, we could not deliver the whales, despite all the positive energy we tried to send out.  We still had a fantastic time.  We were however able to have a discussion on communication on the bow of Gato Verde traveling through Haro Strait.  We tried speculate why matriline group structure would be beneficial to the Southern Residents.  Classes on the water don’t get much better than that!  Julie is finishing her PhD at Berkley and has been coming to the islands to enjoy the whales and water for many years.  She studies tuco-tucos, patagonian rodents, to understand stress in group-living and lone females.

Our group with Julie

Our guests have shared their work and wisdom.  We have been able to tie together many aspects of these whales lives.  Thank you to all those who came to share their knowledge with us in these ten weeks.  We couldn’t have done it without all of you.



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Thar she blows!

On the glorious day of May 10, 2010 we found the long awaited J-Pod and it was wonderful. We got to spend 4 hours with them and got some great recordings. Check them out Orca Recordings. The whole time we were surrounded by orcas, it was surreal.  I can’t even begin to explain the level of excitement on the boat when we first spotted the whales. Whenever we spot the whales, we yell out their bearings with respect to the boat so we can better keep track of where the whales are. There were so many whales, we  had one on nearly every hour of the clock!   I never realized how big a creature can be until you see it in real life. Orcas are huge, not as big as a humpback, but when that black dorsal fin cut through the water, it rose to a stunning 5ft. It was amazing.

We stayed with them till dusk and eventually when all the whale watching boats were gone, it was just us and J-Pod. It was a beautiful clear sunny day and our recordings, as well as the photos, were fantastic.  These photos were taken by our videographer, Carlos Sanchez

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Killer whale session at ASA meeting

Erica Beneze at ASA Seattle

Erica Beneze talks about clicks. (Note the reflection of co-author Jason, as well as session Chair David Mellinger.)

Beam Reach staff and alumni presented no less than six talks at the Acoustical Society of America (ASA) meeting held this week in Seattle. Setting a record that will be hard to beat, in one session on killer whale acoustics a full third of the 12 presentations involved Beam Reach! The talks ranged widely in their topics and methodologies (abstracts below). Bravo to the whole crew!

Three Beam Reach alumni were involved in this ASA meeting, up from one (Kenna Lehmann, fall 2007) at the 2008 ASA meeting in Paris.  Alumnus Erica Beneze (spring 2009) spoke about the relationship between the behavioral state of killer whales and their echolocation click rates and how it changes in versus out of areas proposed for marine protection. Alumnus Laura Madden (fall 2005) spoke first in a fisheries workshop session, comparing two ways to assess fish habitat restoration structures: non-invasive hydroacoustic methods versus the traditional electrofishing technique. Jason Wood and Peggy Foreman (fall 2006) asked whether the southern residents compensate vocally when ship noise increases using new recordings and ship track data from the Lime Kiln acoustic observatory maintained by The Whale Museum.

Val Veirs discussed ship noise signatures from a long-term study in killer whale habitat on Monday, and then introduced the concept of new underwater noise metric — the orca-weighted decibel — on Thursday.  Scott Veirs presented a model of killer whale signal masking by commercial ship noise (Prezi embedded below).

4pAB5. Masking of southern resident killer whale signals by commercial ship noise. Scott R. Veirs and Val R. Veirs

The endangered southern resident killer whales (SRKWs) emit sound to communicate with each other and to hunt fish. Communication or fishing are possible only within a distance R at which a signal can be detected.We determine detection distance by comparing the power spectra of the ambient noise and the received signal, with attention to the auditory response curve of the receiver. In Haro Strait, the center of the SRKW critical habitat, about 21 commercial ships per day, increases the ambient noise level by about 20 dB. To assess how ship noise may affect the SRKW communication and hunting, we define the fractional reduction in the zone of audibility at any location and time as the ratio of the area where signal detection is expected to occur in the increased noise regime to the maxi- mum detection area expected under ideal conditions R^2/Rmax^2. We map the decreased zones of audibility in Haro Strait during average and extreme ship noise by combining field measurements of spreading rates with source power spectra 1–100 kHz of common SRKW signals and typical ships.

1aABa8. Shipping noise signatures. Val Veirs, Scott Veirs, and Jason Wood

Throughout 2010, underwater recordings have been made of each ship passing two separate Haro Strait nodes of the hydrophone network. About 20 ships pass each day. Each ship has been identified in real time [automatic identification system (AIS)]. Measurements of received underwater noise levels and AIS variables are recorded as each ship passes the listening stations. Individual ships are observed multiple times moving in either northerly or southerly directions at times separated by a day or two and also by intervals of months. A database has been developed that contains the spectrum level of each ship 􏰃bandwidth 96 kHz at one location and 22 kHz at the other and the source level both in terms of intensity and angular distribution. Ship signatures in terms of frequency quantiles and angular distributions of emissions are quite reproducible. This database can be used to predict limitations on echolocating and vocalizing marine mammals’ active space due to specific ship noise emissions. In particular, predictions of marine mammal noise exposures in specific frequency bands can be made prior to specific vessels’ entry into an area opening the possibility of planning field observations to investigate correlations between behaviors and specific predicted noise exposures.

4pAB9. Are click rates in killer whales an indicator of group behavior and foraging hotspots? Erica L. Beneze, Jason Wood, Scott Veirs , and Val Veirs

Killer whales use sound to communicate, find food, and navigate through the ocean. Southern Resident killer whales are specialized hunters and predominantly target Chinook salmon. It is presumed that these whales use echolocation clicks to distinguish between different species of salmon and to navigate. If this is the case, then click rates should vary by group behavior as the need for locating prey and navigating change. It has also been suggested that certain areas are utilized heavily by this population for foraging (hotspots) and some of these areas have been included in NOAA’s proposed “no-go” zone. If click rates during foraging are distinct, then hotspots should be identifiable by click rates. This study tested if click rates varied by behavior state and geographic area. Group behavior was categorized into five states: foraging, traveling, milling, resting, and socializing. Click rate varied significantly by behavior state and by area. Socializing had the highest click rate followed by foraging, traveling, milling, and then resting. The Southern Residents had higher click rates in foraging hotspots.

4pAB6. Shipping noise and vocal compensation by Southern Resident killer whales: Haro Strait as a study case. Jason D. Wood (SMRU Ltd.), Peggy Foreman (Univ. of Washington), Val Veirs, and Scott Veirs

Southern resident killer whales (SRKWs) use acoustic signals to navigate, forage, and facilitate social dynamics. Researchers have published evidence that suggests SRKW compensate for increased background noise by increasing the source level and duration of their signals. Unpublished reports have also suggested that SRKW may compensate for background noise by repeating their signals and by preferentially using certain signal types. Most of this work has focused on noise from whale watching vessels or general background noise. Haro Strait is both the center of the summertime home range of the SRKW and an important shipping channel. From September 2009 to December 2010 almost 10 000 ships transited through Haro Strait with an average of 21 ships passing per day. Ship transits in Haro Strait can increase background noise by up to 20 dB and are detectable above back- ground noise for up to 30 min. This may be impacting the ability of SRKW to detect and utilize their acoustic signals. A five hydrophone array and Automatic Identification System receiver located at the Lime Kiln Lighthouse were used to record passing ships and SRKW in Haro Strait. This project investigates signal compensation strategies in SRKW in correlation with increased noise from passing ships.

4pAB7. Orca hearing weighted decibels: Underwater sound measurements appropriate to studies of Orcinus (killer whales). Val Veirs, David Bain, and Scott Veirs

In community noise studies, sound levels are usually measured under the dB-A weighting scheme, which was introduced 50 years ago in an effort to match noise measurements to the response of human listeners. Here we pro- pose an underwater noise decibel weighting scheme matched to the hearing sensitivity of killer whales (dB-O). This scheme is based on a convolution of the spectral energy of sound with the frequency-specific hearing detection thresholds of killer whales. The biological significance of noise sources may be more readily discerned if underwater sounds are quantified dB-O weighted. Further, use of this measure would emphasize the importance of broad-band measurement of noise rather than characterizing noise sources by the frequency with the peak power-spectral density and the source level of low frequency components. We compare the measures of representative noise sources, which have been recorded within the range of Southern Resi- dent Killer Whales, including small boats, ships, airguns, and mid-frequency sonar, using both flat and db-O weighted levels. While dB-O provides a more relevant characterization of noise than flat measurements e.g., for predicting noise-induced stress, more detailed measurements will be required to address masking of biological signals, whose frequency structure varies with type of phonation and direction.

4pFWa1. Evaluating freshwater habitat restoration with active acoustics. Laura E. Madden (School of Forest Resources and Appl. Res. Lab., The Penn State Univ.) and Jennifer L. Miksis-Olds (The Penn State Univ.)

The effectiveness of adding a submerged physical structure in order to increase fishery production is uncertain. Measuring fishery response to these alterations with conventional techniques is difficult. Electrofishing is a typical assessment method in freshwater fishery management and is often limited in sample size and sampling frequency. This study used active acoustic technology to evaluate the distribution and behavior of fish assemblages associated with added submerged rock structures in a reservoir currently undergoing habitat improvement. An acoustic water column profiler was deployed for three 1-week intervals at each of three replicate sites consisting of adjacent treatment areas with added rock structures and control areas without added structures. Electrofishing was conducted during each sam- pling interval. Fish abundance and behavior at each site were assessed from the volume backscatter time series and electrofishing data. Differences between areas with and without structures were compared. Combining acoustic technology with conventional assessment methods has enabled a more thorough evaluation of habitat restoration projects and helps guide the development of future conservation efforts.

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Quality Not Quantity

During the last few days at the end of the third week at sea, we were beginning to question if J-pod was real.  We had been out with vigil eyes, but had a better track record on land for seeing killer whales.  Each and every time a report came in, it seemed we were in the complete opposite area.  The Gato Verde is not fast, so each path has to be carefully planned out in order to find these elusive (well at least they were to us) animals.  One evening we got word that they were in Active Pass.  After mooring at Patos Island, we all took shifts staying up and listening to the hydrophone hoping to know if they tried to get past us.  We got up early and headed just a bit north to wait for them to pass by.  Unfortunately, they had not gone the way we had planned and had been sighted at Lime Kiln, a location we frequently visit.  We were too far north to catch up and would not get our wish of seeing J-pod.

This past Monday ended in us hearing word of residents, possibly J-pod, at Neah Bay.  We were already stopped for the night, but tried to calculate when they would head our way.  If they did decide to come into the area instead of going back out into the open ocean, it could take them anywhere from 17 hours to one and a half days.  I was convinced we would get back to land and then be able to catch them once again from Lime Kiln’s rocky edge.  Tuesday we headed to Lime Kiln.  We planned to get some samples and do a sound spreading experiment in the area.  Things were going great in terms of our science.  Then, Val radioed us from the Gatito and said he had gotten a text claiming J-pod was close.  I did not get excited because they were always close just never close enough.  Mandy of course went into observer mode.  To our surprise we saw several whale watch boats just south of us.  We packed everything up and headed down the west side of San Juan Island.  Mandy then let out a high pitched sentence…WHALES in sight!!!  Excitement filled the air as we got close.  Suddenly two orcas surfaced on our port (left) side.  The whale watch boats were spread out pretty far, so we continued further in.

Eventually we found ourselves surrounded by these whales.  We stayed there for hours and got great recordings from the vocal J-pod members that were all around.   Slowly the small groupings left us.  We headed back to Friday Harbor, since we were close and would be getting off the boat Wednesday morning.

I still find it hard to believe that day was so great.  Val and Todd speculated that these recordings are the best Beam Reach has ever gotten.  Here are a few short clips.

many S1 calls

J-pod 5/10/11

What a great feeling.  We all could walk back on to land with our whale fix.

Looking back we have had some great once in a lifetime whale encounters.  They have by no means been numerous, but have led us to our motto, “when we see whales, we SEE whales”.  Our first day, we spotted transients through the Lime Kiln Lighthouse window, a fluke to say the least.  It continued with our literally unbelievable Minke whale breaching.  Several days before seeing our beloved J-pod, we stumbled upon two humpbacks.

They were an unexpected surprise to our morning.  We have been told humpbacks in Haro Strait are rare.  Seeing these two off of Kellet Bluff breach and pec slap repeatedly was nothing short of amazing.

I am grateful  for our encounters and can not wait for the ones to follow.  I will leave you with something I found today by a fellow Aggie…

The truth is that billions of us live on this small blue planet with millions of other species. Even 90% of the cells in our own bodies are other species….

Next time you feel lonely, go meet another species of this world, they’re all around us and they have much to say.

I have never met another species I didn’t like and they are usually more like us than they are different. They dream like we do, they are made of the same stuff as we are, they think and feel, they play… and they are all so very present. Each one has so much to teach us and we know practically nothing about 90% of the species on this planet.

Begin your discovery today and I promise you’ll not regret it. Start by watching the bugs, the birds, your dog… watch them just be. Then go to the park or the forest or a reef and look for them, they are waiting for you.

We are not, nor have we ever been, alone.

– David Campbell, MarineBio

Happy Watching,


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Waves of Fun

Who needs a roller coaster when you can go out on the water?  At first this wave action was despised and sent most running for ginger and soda crackers, but now we have gotten used to it and say, “Bring it on!”  On this particular day I was cold (actually most days I am cold), so I moved up to drier ground.  Mandy was a champ and faced the waves as each one rose through the net.

photos by Val Veirs

Several times I thought she was going to be swept right off the trampoline.  Later, Kelsey joined her for the fun.  Watching the two of them get doused with each wave sent Ally and I into laughter every time.  Their faces were as unpredictable as the waves, luckily Val captured a few of them.

Along with conquering waves, we have improved our sailing skills.  We had a great day sailing.  We each got to practice a tack.  Check out this video of us in action.

Through The Eye Of The Wind

We also got a chance to experience each point of sail.  A close reach is the first range at which you can sail if trying to go against the wind.  In this point of the sail we were hitting each wave head on which made for a more exciting ride.  At a broad reach the waves are virtually undetecable and is one of the calmer points of sail.

Did you know beam reach is the point of sail in which you travel the fastest?!  Fitting name for the program.  We are definitely speeding through things.  It feels like so long ago since we got our first row boat lesson or our first lecture on the physics of sound.  The information has definitely not stopped though.  We have been trying lately to get a grasp on whale watch boat names and their operators, as well as parts of a boat and sailing terms.  Our vocabularies have exponential expanded for sure!

It is not all work though.  When possible we look forward to walking along the beach or enjoying the sunset.  We are definitely allowing ourselves to enjoy the simple things in life.  The little unexpected things are those that seem to bring the most happiness.  We have all enjoyed small care packages from our families, the random ice cream deliveries (THANK YOU CARLOS!), and perhaps the most unexpected, a payment in prawns for allowing a neighbor to use our drill.

photo on the left and right taken by Carlos Javier Sanchez

I look forward to tackling more waves and enjoying the simple things on this grand adventure.

Happy Life Living,


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Humpback Whales!

Throughout our travels in the San Juans, we passed an island called Spiden. Todd said Spiden is unique because it originally belonged to two brothers who were taxidermists. They  liked to hunt and stocked the island with all sorts of exotic deer. When we went by on our way to Patos Island, we were able to see a few of them. Todd told me that sometimes the deer swim to different islands and occasionally one will see a set of antlers making its way across the water.

Last week we  had a confirmed report that the elusive J-Pod came in through Discovery Island and had gone up Swanson Cannel into Canada. Normally, when they come to the islands, they go up Swanson Channel and down Boundary Pass or Presidents Channel. Taking the strategic approach, we decided to camp out near Patos Island where we would be at the fork of the two channels (see map). This way, we could be close and listen for them when they came back down. To ensure that they didn’t slip by us overnight, we did an anchor watch. For the anchor watch,  we all took turns listening to the hydrophones overnight. My shift was from 12-1:30am. I unfortunately didn’t hear anything and neither did anyone else. As a result, we were up bright and early the next morning watching and waiting for J-Pod to hopefully come back down.  Oddly enough, these tricky killer whales went back down the way they came in and we missed them all together. Oh nature.  On the brighter side, Patos Island was amazing. It was very secluded and there were only two mooring buoys where we stayed. After dinner we went on a hike to the lighthouse where we watched the most beautiful sunset yet.

On Mother’s Day we saw humpbacks! We spotted them early in the morning and had them all to ourselves. We arrived at the perfect time. When we found them they were very playful, breaching and peck slapping, all right in front of us!  They are massive creatures. A humpback whale can reach lengths of 48-63 feet and weigh up to 40 tons! There’s also a picture of us in Jeanie’s blog, here. We spent about an hour and half with them before we moved on to Salmon Bank to get plankton samples.

Photo by Carlos Sanchez

We also spent one day down on south Lopez looking at fish populations. To assess the fish, we photographed sea birds and looked at what types of fish were in their  beaks. This is difficult because the birds like to swallow the fish immediately.  Luckily, Carols with his awesome photo skills, was able to capture a picture of a seagull with a sand lance in its mouth which was the fish that Kelsey was looking for to support her project. It was a successful day overall.

Cormorant, photo by Carlos Sanchez

Seagull with sand lance photo by Carlos Sanchez

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Through The Eye Of The Wind

Video of Gato Verde’s captain, Todd Shuster, teaching Beam Reach students how to sail on the Salish Sea.

Through The Eye Of The Wind

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All we want are whales!

Yesterday we got back from our two week session at sea.  We had a rough start.  Our first ten days were whale-less.  Sure, J pod was around, but we always seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  At one point we got a call that the whales were up in Active Pass.  We couldn’t catch up to them, but we anchored strategically at Patos Island.  That way, when they came through Active Pass we could see them if they went down either Boundary Pass or President’s Channel.  To be sure that we didn’t miss them, we posted anchor watch that night.  We each took two hour shifts listening to the hydrophone all night.  I slept outside in hopes that I would hear their blows if they came by.  None of us heard anything, so the next day we set ourselves up so that we had a view of everything.  I got  hoisted up onto the mast to have a better view of the surrounding water.  We were there half the day before we heard that there were whales down south at Lime Kiln.  Of course.  They must have gone up Active Pass and then turned around and gone back the way they came, which they almost never do.  We were six hours away, and by the time we made it down to Snug Harbor the whales had gone back out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Our week continued like that until the Saturday before we got off the boat.  We were headed out of Snug when Robin told me that she had seen a minke from the road on her way over.  She figured that it’d be long gone, but I decided to go out and check anyway, just in case the whale had slowed down.  I was out looking for no more than two minutes before Ally came out and asked what I was looking for.  As I turned and told her, she suddenly pointed and said, “What’s that?”  It was our whale!   As the whale arched its back, it was obvious that it was not a minke, but actually a humpback!  Surprise #1!  Another blow rose up and glistened in the sun.  Surprise #2!  There were actually two whales!  It was exceptional.  Humpbacks are rarely seen in Haro Strait, so it was a real treat.  The local humpback population was destroyed by commercial whaling operations in the early 1900s.  In fact, the whole Salish Sea population was wiped out in just one season of industrial whaling.  They are only just starting to return a century later.  We were lucky enough to get to observe two of these leviathons.  I have had the opportunity to see a lot of humpbacks on whale watches on the East Coast, and they are always my favorite to see.  They’re known for being extremely active and acrobatic.  These whales did not disappoint.  We were treated to just about every surface behavior imaginable.  One whale breached, then performed a series of chin slaps before finishing with another breach.  One of the whales slapped his pectorals repeatedly, giving us a beautiful display of his “big wings” that give humpbacks their Latin name (Megaptera novaeangliae translates to ‘big-winged New Englander’).  It was fantastic.  We also got some good looks at the flukes of the humpbacks.  The markings on the undersides of the flukes are like a human’s fingerprint.  The unique patterns and pigmentation  are used to identify individual whales.  For a catalog of the humpbacks that are seen in these waters, check out this site.

Just two days after this, we were performing a spreading and localization exercise when we got a text saying, “Many whales between False Bay and Lime Kiln.”  When we spotted the first blows and fins I was incoherent with excitement (literally – Captain Todd had to ask me to calm down enough so that he could understand what I was saying).  Finally, after three weeks of searching, J pod had come to us.  It was amazing.  The whales were extremely vocal, and we were the last boat with them, so we got some great recordings with minimal boat noise.  We also witnessed a lot of surface active behaviors, including cartwheels, which was fantastic.  We managed to remain with J pod for four hours.  Even if it took us three weeks to find them, it was well worth the wait!  I can’t wait to go back out and hopefully find them again!

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Tasks at Sea

Photo by Val Veirs

I’m happy to say we all survived 3 weeks at sea with many stories to tell! To the left is one of my favorite pictures taken so far of me and Mandy riding the waves on the trampoline along the bow of the catamaran! And yes it was cold…as you can see in my face. Before I jump too far into the 3 weeks, I’ll start by reviewing how a typical day is structured. We first get up around 7:00 a.m. every day with specific tasks. We each rotate around 4 different roles that help keep the boat in shape and organize our science activities for the day.The systems reporter measures the water level in our tank, updates the sewage level,checks the percent of biodeisel left in the tank, and records our engine run time. The navigator is responsible for the weather forecast ,strength and direction of the currents,direction of the wind, amount of time predicted to reach our destination ,and is responsible for directing the boat accordingly throughout the day.The University of Washington developed a useful online program called BIS Portal and we also use another source called Open CPN that helps us predict the timing of the currents. If you live close to shore or are interested, take a look at what the tides might be like! Here is the link to BIS Portal: We also learned how to use a current atlas called the Washburn Tables that seemed to conflict multiple times with Open CPN and Bis Portal predictions. This conflict further proves the complexity behind our ocean’s dynamics! Especially within the San Juan Islands where currents have hundreds of obstacles compared to deeper ocean waters away from the coast.

The science lead has the most work out of all the roles. This person is in charge of all the science activities and helps individuals reach their particular goals. The science reporter is the person who was science lead the day before and recaps what was achieved previously through graphs or a narrative presented in front of the crew. After a science meeting presenting each update, we cast off for the day.One topic that is always on our minds no matter what our science goals are for the day is the presence of whales! If we hear that whales are around we make finding them our number one priority!

We are also learning how to efficiently stay warm without putting on too many layers and making it impossible to move. Even though its Spring its very cold on the boat, especially at night in our cabins. I think this trip will make us all appreciate  how much is readily available to us on land on a daily basis (including a heater) and be more aware of how much energy and water we are using without thinking about it! This sustainability awareness is presented in the name of our catamaran. Our captain, Todd Shuster, named his catamaran the Gato Verde. This translates to the Green Cat in spanish. It is “green” because it practices sustainable methods and “cat” represents the fact it is a catamaran. Our class revolves around practicing sustainability when we clean using environementally friendly cleaning materials and methods,minimize water usage, run the boat with biodiesel, and use the sails as our source of speed when wind is present. This class is already making me more conscious of my actions and keeping me more organized compared to how I used to be!

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