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What can I say heading over to Canada was anything but uneventful, as we headed to an acoustical conference.Im sure the other blogs will fill you in on the details, but i wanted to talk about our journey there. We set of early on Tuesday morning and having cleared customs in the USA Monday evening. When we first headed into Canadian waters we had to clear customs again, then we were finally free to set of to find the whales. What we actually found was even better than we expected – we found Humpbacks. There were two that we followed for a couple of hours and I got my geek on with my microphone and recorded them surfacing. They were surfacing in unison  with Mount Baker in the background – it was like a painting. However this is where the hatch comes in! I was merily recording away and stepped back to get to a better position away from the cameras, when . . . . . . . . . I fell through the hatch to Hana and Vanessa’s room, which was open! My gosh it hurt, but my first thought was did I break the mic!!!?? That’s when you know you’re a scientist! Megan and Hana were killing themselves laughing! The bruising was instant but it was worth it for seeing the whales. I soon picked myself up again (but left the microphone safely inside) and set about taking some pictures. That was definitely a good decision, as I got some great fluke shots and got a video of a Humpback right next to the boat.

After the Humpbacks had put on that show, we made a group decision to try and catch up with the Transient Orcas that had been reported to be feeding on seals not that far from us. Again this group got lucky and we were able to catch up. We got some great shots of the Whales infront of the lighthouse with Mount Baker again. Hana was really happy because we found a whale counterpart for her (ill let her explain why), I already have one in the Residents.  We want to find one for everyone :).

By this point time had slipped through our fingers and it was time to head back to Harbour. On the way back we did a plankton tow, it was very cool and kind of shocking how many different organisms there were in the small amount of water we filtered. Back in Victoria, we made dinner and then went on the hunt for the showers (which were harder to find than you may think). Once clean we explored the city and got ready for the conference the next day.

So to conclude I will always remember our short time in Canada fondly and the words ‘oh Canada’ hold a whole new meaning to me now :).

On a side note it was 10/10/10 for 350 last Sunday and I couldn’t write a blog without mentioning it!!  ( The focus is on the number 350—as in parts per million CO2. If we can’t get below that, scientists say, the damage we’re already seeing from global warming will continue and accelerate. On Sunday the Beam Reach crew decided we were going to join the cause. We wrote a press release to spread our message of sustainability and shared our stories. Not only did we do that but we also took some pictures to send into the website. So check it out and help spread the word!!!

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Not much to report from the beginning of the week and we were worried the whales had skipped town on us! But the whales soon returned and gave us an amazing show when they did! On Sunday the whales were very friendly. It was really interesting watching the change of behaviour when a large ship went past and all the whales actually swam towards the ship and changed their behaviour from milling to foraging.

On Monday we did a localization exercise, which is always fun as it gives us a chance to get out in the dinghy. We also did a calibration and spreading exercise for in air recordings with the newly improved microphone. The whole boat was ready to keel haul me after about 30minutes of Val’s specially made tone – that was even giving me a headache and I was 500m away.

Tuesday  the 5th will now be known by all aboard the Gato Verde the day of many porpoises. It was also Megans birthday and what a treat! The Harbor porpoises (at least 20) were foraging all around us while we ate lunch and continued to drift with us for a couple of hours. Once we left them we thought it would be a quiet journey back to anchor, but as always the days here are anything but predictable. A group of Dahls porpoises started to bow ride with us, literally spraying us every time the came to the surface to breath (Porpoises Porpoising). In the evening me and Hana made an amazing cake (if I do say so myself!) that was in the shape of a whale. We all sang happy birthday and danced on the boat, it was amazing fun.

On Wednesday the larger marine mammals returned and we were all very happy about that, the adrenaline was really pumping. When we caught up with them there were at least 20 individuals and we saw 17 spy hops/breaches in 2 minutes. The Dahls and killer whales even ‘played’ together, which is so rare! They were all surrounding the killer whale and he didn’t seem bothered – amazing! The evening was not so fun, the raccoons descended on our boat when we were at the dock for the evening. They tried to get into the compost and even poked their heads through the windows. Needless to say we didn’t have a great nights sleep.

Thursday we came back to Friday harbor and dropped Val off in the morning. We did the fastest turn around yet of only 16 minutes. We then decided to take a gamble and head for the whales before returning to Friday harbor in the evening to do laundry and shower. The gamble paid off!  We had a couple of great hours with the whales before our tired yet satisfied group headed back to the labs and then into town to belatedly celebrate Megan’s 21st birthday!

Anyway it was another great week here at Beam Reach, next week we head to Canada, so I’m sure ill have lots to report.

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Hey everyone,

We are now back on dry land and showered! I couldn’t wait to share our week with you, so here it is.

We found the whales on our first day back at sea – we must have a good luck charm on board! The poirpoises also came back with one playing around our boat while Jason went to pick up Val from the beach. It was Vals birthday and he brought cake with him – it was the first thing he made sure was safely on board when he arrived. The weather was the windiest and the sea the choppiest we have had so far so we hoisted the main sail! Which was a hilarious experience in itself – 6 students clinging to the boat while todd explained how to hoist the main sail and val jumping around with ease taking pictures – he really put us to shame! But we soon found our sea legs and took to moving around the boat with ease, sitting on the bow seat and even the trampoline (we got a bit wet!). I don’t think me, Garrett and Hana came in all day! We had wind, wonderful weather (sunshine) and whales what more could we ask for. Even though I must say trying to get good microphone recordings in the wind is hard! In the evening we anchored and got to try Val’s birthday cake and sing to him. We then headed off for walks in the woods and stretched our legs.

Tuesday couldn’t have been more of a contrast to monday – it was glassy out on the water it was so calm. We found the whales early on and were with them allday. We got some good recordings and even saw the NOAA boat tagging one of the whales, unfortunately it looked like it fell off just a short while later. They were doing lots of breaching and spy hopping too today and we saw some great feeding behaviour right next to the shore. Then we all sat down to do some journal reading – see we do do some work on this boat too – its not just fun and games i promise!

Wednesday we found the whales at 12pm and were in for a treat! They spent several hours resting and we were able to get several good recordings and then just as if an alarm had gone off they all started socialising and being really active They were breaching (at least 30), spy hopping and doing tail slaps. It was a real treat to watch!

Thursday = FUN FUN FUN! It was the perfect day for sailing. We decided it was too choppy to get recordings so we had a sailing day. It was also a great chance to break out our rain gear. Hana looked like a ninja and Garrett was just a huge orange blob. I hoisted the mainsail and was surprised at my own strength, I think I surprised everyone else too! I didn’t go inside the whole time. The best bit of the day was when me, Megan and Garrett all sat on the edge of the trampoline and were getting splashed by the waves – it was like a rollercoaster. Garrett even sat completely on the trampoline and when we hit a wave he flew (yes actually flew) in the air it was hilarious. Sailing is officially the coolest way to travel. We all had a turn at the Helm too. In the afternoon the winds got up to 30 KT which was the limit we can sail at so we headed back in to anchor. On the way back Captain Todd took the helm and we sat at the bow while the boat surfed on the waves! Very cool! We had a journal club in the afternoon that I hosted and I have to say my article was the most confusing to read yet – sorry guys!

Friday will now be remembered as Disney day! We listened to Disney all morning as we headed north to hopefully meet the whales as they headed south from coal docks. We had a bit of everything but the best was definitely circle of life while we all worked away on our computers! We did find the whales and  even got a chance to talk to the straight watch guys ( who were interested in our hydrophones and my microphone. Which on a side note, has lead to me being called the mic made, because i carry it around all day!

Saturday was the perfect last day on the boat. We had beautiful sunshine – even Hana was only wearing one layer of clothes! We met the whales by lunch time and followed them all day until we had to turn round. On the way to anchor near the friday harbor labs we deployed the dinghy and did a locilisation exercise using underwater speakers and our hydrophones. Megan loved being in the dinghy. In the evening we even got our first chance to play with the critter cam. Its an underwater camera we lights mounted on it. You know your a science geek when you can watch shrimp for several hours and not even realise! We did get to see some crabs and flounders too.

So as you can see we had a great second week at sea, and im sure we will have many more 🙂

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We finally get to get our feet wet (not literally we hope!). On Sunday we packed up S-1 and headed down the dock to the Gato Verde, our home for the next two weeks. Gato Verde means green cat, and the boat really optimises that name, it is a catamaran (hence the cat) and we operate on a combination of biodiesel and sail power (hence the green).

Our first steps on the boat held all the excitement you feel when you first go holiday and see your hotel for the first time – this is far cooler than a hotel though! There are 3 bed rooms in each of the two hulls. The galley has and amazing round sofa in it and an Aladdin lamp (yes we are all immediately thinking Disney!).  Captain Todd is really nice and we have already learnt so much from him in just a couple of days. He also must be very trusting as he quickly let us all have a turn at the helm and decide our anchorage.

We spent the first night in Griffin bay, where we learnt how to drop the anchor. On our first full day the whales were shy so we did some hydrophone tests for ambient (background) noise and headed for Snug harbor, which was our second anchorage. On day two our luck changed and as soon as we set sail (well motor because of the lack of wind) we found the whales! It was so amazing!!!! It was really foggy in the morning so we couldn’t always see the whales but we could hear them through the hydrophone and their blows when they surface, then they would emerge from the fog. We headed back to snug harbor in the evening, and the weather was dramatically different with bright sunshine and few clouds – this called for a few hours ofreading and playing on the trampoline and soaking up the weather!

Day four at sea was the coolest day ever! We set off as normal but soon slowed down when we saw a bait ball and birds feeding on it. We were going to try and catch some fish for Russell Barsh back at the labs when a Minke whale surfaced right in the

middle of the birds we were looking at! Then we saw another – it was sooooooooo cool, i even got some blow recordings. After a while the whales became less frequent and we were just chilling at the back of theboat when a seal pup came up right next to the boat (i could even see his flippers moving as he swam), i thought he would swim off but instead he swam right up to our back steps and a tried to climb on the boat!!! When that failed he swam through the middle of the hulls and under the trampoline!!!! It was very cool. We had to get moving after that and we all thought that would be the thing to write home about but it got even better! We headed out to false bay to catch up with the Orcas, and put our hydrophones in to get some recordings and i got my first successful in air recordings of the Orcas. I was merely recording after lunch when a group of females with their calves started performing some really cool behaviours. My recording was so funny it started out very sciency with me saying things like “female, j-pod, traveling, 150m” and as they got closer it changed to “oh my gosh i can’t believe what im seeing” as they started a greeting display with tail slaps, breeches, pectoral slaps, rolls and above surface calls (and i recorded it!). We were just processing what we had seen when out of the corner ouf our eyes we saw a sealion come up and joined the killer whales! Very weird – were they sharing food!!? On the way home we came across Dalls and Harbor porpoises bow riding with another boat! So our pinnipeds got larger and the day went on but our cetaceans got smaller!

After a couple of quiet days, we got the chance to see bow riding up close. We were heading back to Friday Harbor labs for an overnight stop off when 5 porpoises (4 Dalls and 1 hybrid) stared bow riding the catamaran! They were so close we could feel the splash as they surfaced.

We are now back on land,ready for showers and excited to start our second week at sea tomorrow 🙂 x x

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Hey everyone,

My name is Cat and I am from the UK. I have definitely travelled the furthest and with the most complications (good old visa’s and customs!) but it is more that worth it now im here on San Juan Island. It is so beautiful I never want to leave! I am a Zoology graduate from the University of Manchester, and have joined this program to gain research experience, meet new people, travel and of course help save the beautiful Orcas that frequent these water.

This first blog will detail highlights from the first few weeks on land and hopefully the blogs will be more frequent once we are out at sea with the whales we are studying.

The exploring phase

The best things about living at the labs are the hiking trails. Me, Megan, Hana and Garrett have been having a good explore around the area and Garrett even mapped all the runs. We have explored a couple of times and definitely always come back exhausted but happy. They also tend to always go straight for the candy. We have also been testing our rowing skills – which is something i definitely do not excel at! The situation is made even more embarrassing due to the fact that everyone keeps pointing out that the british one should know how to row. Im learning though! The water is amazing at night though, we all love the bioluminescence and jelly fish (as you can see in the picture).

The planning phase

We have all had to think about our individual questions the first week. We went up to lime kiln, to look out over the water and think about our twenty topics of interest. The setting was beautiful and very inspiring. We have also been having lots of mentor meetings and been working on our first proposal drafts. We also have lots of lectures to prepare us for field research and the topics we need to be familiar with on the boat. There has been a few guest lecturers here to, and its so interesting learning about all their research topics and how they got into the field. We all also have to do a service project, which is one day of volunteering. Me and Hana volunteered for Sound watch, which is an amazing non-profit working to help keep people more than 100m from the whales ( The coolest thing is the long pole they use to pass the leaflets to other boats. It was reall cool to get out on the boat and see the whales!

The having fun phase

We have also been doing lots more fun things. The most memorable being our first experience of sailing. It was so good to get in the boat and learn how to tack! I really enjoyed it. We also had a had a lecture from Captain Paul Watson, which was organised through the whale museum. He is a very inspirational speaker, and had some great stories. The last fun thing i am going to tell you about was the plunge dive (i think you can call it fun!) We had to jump off the docks and swim to the other side to climb out! It was seriously cold, to the point you can’t even speak! Believe me i tried. But if the aim was to teach us not to fall of the boat or tip it, it cartainly worked! It was fun though – in a wierd way.

All in all a great first few weeks, with far too many stories to write in one post! We are now off to sea for two weeks, and im sure this course will continue to be great fun and very inspiring. x x

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