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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 ^_^

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This morning Kathryn and Libby left at 6:30 to go to Sidney, a city a little further North of Victoria on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, to walk to raise awareness about the fish lice outbreak that is occurring in wild runs of salmon due to the presence of fisheries.

Horace and I stayed to man the boat during the open house day at FHL. It was actually quite fun, contrary to our expectations.  People from the community as well as other students and researchers from FHL came aboard the boat to learn a little about what we are doing. We had a whole set-up with a poster, a video of a greeting ceremony (where all three of the Southern Resident pods come together and vocalize a lot) and us to answer questions.

Toward the end of the open house I got some time off and I went to see some of the other ‘exhibits’. I saw two of my favorite non-mammalian sea critters, a slimy sea star and a giant orange nudibranch.

After the open house was over, we decided that since it was so late we wouldn’t have time to fill the water tanks, get groceries, pump out and find a new port before dark so we would stay the night at FHL. Horace and I spent the night relaxing on the boat. He played on his computer and I caught up on my TV shows. Pathetic I know but CSI shows make me really happy.


We left FHL this morning around 10, pumped out and headed out to sea. The weather was amazing, I only wore 3 layers instead of 4 or 5. On the way out of Friday Harbor we saw a bunch of harbor seals poking their heads out of the water and looking around. They are getting a lot easier for me to spot.

We headed around the southern top of San Juan Island and when we hit Lime Kiln we decided to drop the SplashCam down one more time to try and find the Lime Kiln hydrophone array. After about 15-20 minutes we FOUND the array!!! Finally! We took a waypoint (the GPS coordinates) so Jason and Scott could dive for it later.

By this time Libby and Kathryn had been able to contact us to tell us they were back so we headed up to Snug Harbor to pick them up. Shortly before we got into Snug we heard that two Transients had been spotted about an hour away, so after getting Kathryn and Libby we headed out to see if they were still there. They were!  We think that it was the same two form a few days prior. They had been identified as T124c (a female) and CA58 (a male? a Californian Transient).

While watching them, we think we saw what is entertainingly called a ‘sea snake’ (a male orca with an erection).  The whales got very close to a few of the whale watching vessels, circling and diving. We thought maybe a seal or something similar was hiding under the boats since we couldn’t think why they would want to be right next to the boat. Then we saw the ‘sea snake’ and decided that they were probably just socializing and didn’t care about the boats.

About 5 or 5:30 we headed back to Snug for the night and  watched the first little bit of “The Life Aquatic”, which is a tradition on Beam Reach.


We decided to head out to Discovery Island off the southern cost of Vancouver Island. We were hoping that we might catch the Residents on the way back in to the inland waters. Alas we spotted no whales. We did however see a stellar sea lion feeding on what looked like a large food source it was pulling giant chunks off of.


Today is the last day of our first 2 week stretch at sea and still no Residents! We decided to head out to Discovery Island, again, to wait and try to catch the Residents if they come back in to the Inland waters. We saw a Minke whale, which was very exciting as as I have never seen one before. They are incredibly hard to spot and so have earned the name ‘slinky minke’ in these parts, or so I have heard.

After drifting all day we decided to head back and anchor across from Friday Harbor in Parks Bay on Shaw Island. On the way into Cattle Pass we passed Whale Rocks which is a sea lion haul out. We saw maybe 10 sea lions. It was pretty cool!


About 3 minutes after we got everything off the Gato Verde and up to Lab 8 Jason got a text about a gray whale right outside of Friday Harbor. We decided to jump on the buzzard and go get ID pictures of it for the Whale Museum. We went out and found the whale pretty quick and even managed to get some great ID pics, which is much harder than it seems. It was interesting how different the breathing noises are between grays and orac, orca are much louder.


Today Horace and I went to Wolf Hollow, a wildlife rehabilitation center, for our service project. Wolf Hollow is amazing! They are huge and have a great set-up.  Shona, the head of the center, is very nice. She gave us a tour of the facility when we got there and was a joy to talk to during lunch.

Horace and I were given the task of weeding one of the enclosures usually used for herons. I found a lot of slugs on the walls and pill bugs were everywhere. It was like a pill-bug breeding ground, but I like pill bugs so it was OK. About 1 hr before we were scheduled to be done, we got a phone call telling us that the Southern Residents had been spotted close to San Juan Island heading South.

Yesterday we went to the Center for Whale Research and met the man in charge, Ken Balcomb. He offered to take us out on his boat with him if the whales showed up.

Libby and Kathryn picked us up about 20 min later and we raced over to Snug Harbor to meet Ken, hopped in his boat and went to find the whales. We found them pretty quick and spent the next 2 hrs with him following the whales taking ID shots as well as doing a few recordings. It was one of the most astounding and exciting moments fo my life. I saw two breaches!  Ken identified the pod as L-pod.

Be Joyous

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Today was our departure for the first two-week boat excursion. Todd decided that, since he had access to Costco, he would do most of the re-provisioning which meant that his estimated time of arrival was 2:30 instead of 12:00 meaning a leisurely morning for us. At about 11:30 Jason called to tell us that there was another beached sea lion that he was going to retrieve if anyone wanted to go with. He arrived at about 12 and he and Libby left shortly there after to get the sea lion. We found out that the seal had died from blunt force trauma, probably caused by Transient orca practicing hunting.

Horace Kathryn and I stayed behind to bring the equipment down to the Gato Verde when it arrived. Libby called around 12:30 to tell us that the office had said that we needed to be out of S1 by 1:00. We panicked, stored our lunch in the kitchen, ran to S1 and hauled everything down to Lab 8 where the Beam Reach office is.

Afterword Horace went to the computer lab and Kathryn and I returned to the dining haul to finish our lunch. We spent the next little while looking up sea shanties that we wanted to learn. After Todd arrived and we got everything on board we decided to anchor at Jones Island again as we really like it there.


We decided to try and find the Southern Residents by sailing down the west side of San Juan Island, which we usually just call ‘the west side’. It was a beautiful day but by the time we reached Haro Strait, because the currents and wind were fighting each other, the seas were a bit uncomfortable. The sailing was amazing though and we even reached about 13 knots with sails only.

Libby and Horace raising the Mainsail

Unfortunately I was on lunch once again and due to the size of the waves, some even crashing over the bow, I got pretty seasick. Luckily I didn’t throw up but it was close a few times. We finally made it to calmer seas and I fell asleep. I woke up for our docking, which was at a place called Prevost Harbor on the North side of Stuart Island. It is very pretty and is densely forested, but to get to the land heads you have to hike up a very steep hill.

Todd taught us some theory about sailing and shortly afterward we got a call from Scott telling us that J pod had been spotted at Lime Kiln headed North an hour and half prior. We went back out to sea to see if we could spot them. At the point we saw what looked like a white line of breaking waves from the point across the middle of the ocean. It turned out to be the convergent zones of major upwelling areas caused by the strong tides moving over the rocks on the sea floor around the point. There was a massive amount of gulls there all feeding on the fish that were getting pushed up.

Shortly after crossing that area I spotted a dorsal fin! We had found the whales. We stayed out there for about 30 minuets, but it was getting late and the winds and currents were pretty bad. We didn’t get close enough for any ID photos but Jason thought that they were Residents! We are all really excited. We came back, had a very yummy soup and later that evening Jason made brownies and I made my new yummy peanut butter cookies!


This morning we departed from Prevost Harbor full of thoughts of whales. We headed out to the West side of San Juan Island hoping to catch them there. The weather was amazing but alas we couldn’t see any whales. We dropped # 4 of Blueberry (the blue 4 hydrophone array) from the stern of the boat to listen for them and though we heard a bunch of boats, still no whales.

After a few hours we heard that they had been spotted near Anacortes heading down Rosario Strait. They were too far for us to try and catch up to! We decided, after much deliberation, that we should go with the statistics and stay in Snug Harbor tonight betting that the Residents will hang around the West side tomorrow.

On our way back up to Snug we decided to calibrate the hydrophones. We tied all 6 hydrophones to a pole and deployed them off of the back of the Gato Verde while we deployed the speaker off of the front.  Kathryn and I spent the entire time holding the 4 hydrophones and two 8lb. weights in place away from the boat.

When we were finally done we also decided to try and find the lost Lime Kiln hydrophone again with the newly repaired SplashCam. This time we decided to deploy it from the bow of the Gato Verde. After getting it ready to deploy Horace and I waited on the trampoline for the go signal. We waited and waited and finally. . . it started to rain. The camera wasn’t working!

We packed everything back up and by the time we had passed Lime Kiln and put everything but the camera away Jason had fixed the camera. It was a great example of Murphy’s Law!


Today was a bit choppy. We didn’t hear anything about where the whales might be, much to our disappointment, so we decided to head down the West side. There was a lot of wind so we got to do a bit more sailing.

Coiling the main halyard

We didn’t see any whales and so shortly before lunch we decided to go to Mackey Harbor on Lopez Island because the tides wouldn’t shift for another 2 hours and drifting was beginning to become less and less pleasant. We pulled into the harbor and learned how to take the data from the calibration recordings and calibrate the hydrophones. It was a bit confusing but in the end I think I got it.

You can’t just look at the recordings and figure it out. You have to have a hydrophone with a built in tone creator that can create a tone that is a certain known amplitude. Then you have to look at another recording from the same hydrophone and, using the known tone, figure out what the received level of sound was in that recording. Then you use that known sound to calibrate the other hydrophones by looking at the same time on all of the recordings. Long and involved I know.

Amazingly enough hydrophones that can create an internal tone of known amplitude are pretty few and far between, outside of the Navy.

Around 4:00 we decided to motor back up to Snug Harbor because the weather on Monday is supposed to have wind up to 35 knots, which we can’t go out in, and we need to be in Snug on Tuesday to pick up Val!


The weather was amazing today. It was completely sunny till about 6:00 but the entire day it was blowing from about 20-34 knots in Haro Strait. So needless to day we didn’t leave Snug Harbor. We spend the day working on our various projects as well as doing our behavior exercise, which basically consisted of Jason in the dingy writing behavior states on the whiteboard and having us record the information on PDAs. It was incredibly amusing, even though we thought the PDAs were broken!

After dinner we got to watch an episode of the show produced by Jacques Cousteau, a true explorer. It was a relaxing and enjoyable day.


Val came aboard this morning!

The weather today was nice. It was sunny and warm with only a light breeze. We spent the day drifting on the tides staying North of San Juan Island.

We saw a few porpoises foraging in the convergent zone at Turn Point and even saw them jump out of the water and chase after the fish at the surface. It was pretty wild especially since I usually think of porpoises as ‘the dorsal fins that appear and disappear rapidly that don’t do much else’.

Porpoise dorsal fin

A while later, around 4:00, I saw some lightning strike land on the Vancouver side so we decided to head in to port. We stayed at Reid Harbor, which is the harbor  across from Prevost Harbor on Stuart Island. This side too had a major hill leading to the bathroom. On Stuart Island you have to EARN the use of the bathrooms.

Later that evening, we looked over our calibration exercise and found out that while blueberry is calibrated within expectable boundaries Libby’s hydrophone needs be re-calibrated.


Today we decided we needed to to pump out our holding tank (sewage) and conveniently enough there was a barge to do so in Reid harbor. We went over and started the process then realized that the pump wasn’t pumping, so we had to ditch the barge and go to Roche Harbor instead.

Kathryn, Jason and Horace in the Gatito

While there we pumped out, Val bought propane and Jason bought milk. Very exciting I know.

We head out to drift along the west side of San Juan Island to try and listen for the whales, now that we had an easy deployment hydrophone that Jason put below the Gato Verde that morning. We didn’t hear anything of note, but the weather was nice so we decided to revisit the light bulb popping exercise.

The first one at 100m from the boat went off spectacularly! The imploding light bulbs sound a little like gunshots. It was amazing to listen to! After that more and more problems just kept coming up.

During the exercise I was on the range finder, recording the distance between the Gato Verde and Gatito, as well as the radio. I have to say I am not the most adept at radio communication. It is kind of odd how flustered I got calling on the radio, it is a little like stage fright. I would say the most convoluted and confusing things because my mind blanked and I couldn’t think of the appropriate word. It was fun though. After that we decided to head back to Snug Harbor for the night.


We decided (again) to drift around North of San Juan Island and, once again, saw no whales! We think that the Residents have gone back out to sea for a while; apparently this happened last year as well, though not quite as late in the year.

Jason and Val gave us fake data sets today so we could see how we are going to analyze it and what data we really needed to collect. It turns out that my data sheet is completely useless and I will have to make a new one. I actually need to pay attention to fewer things, but that means that my current data sheet is unsuitable.

My hypotheses also have undergone serious reduction and refinement. I still have three hypotheses but the three I have now were actually only one of my original three.

Though organizing and analyzing the data was exceedingly useful, I spent the day trying not to destroy my computer while doing so in Excel. I am very aggravated with Excel right now and I wish I could easily give pc people numbers documents! I finally figured it out, with a lot of help from both Jason and Val, and have completed my fake data set analysis. Now we are sitting in Westcott Bay working on our proposals which are due on Friday.

Oh, we also saw some harbor seals that we think were mating, but were not sure they could just have been splashing around a bit while playing.


Today after breakfast, since we were in a quiet harbor, decided to recalibrate Libby’s hydrophone. It went well, but this time since we knew that there were harbor seals in the bay we decided to ramp up the tone amplitude slowly so the seals could move away from the sound if it bothered them.

After we headed out we decided to go north and drift hoping the whales would be there. Our proposal is due tonight and tomorrow is the open house so we will be docking at the labs.

While we were heading out north of San Juan Island we decided to have watches for marine mammals. I was on the bow and saw a number of porpoises as well as a sea lion.

At about 2:30 we were informed that there were a few Transients only a half hour from where we were so we decided to go check it out. We motored up and found them! It was awesome. There was one female and one adolescent male.  We deployed blueberry and managed to hear one call! Our first live acoustic recording! They were socializing and milling for a while before they decided to leave.

There was one very oblivious boater that motored at high speed right over where they were and only slowed down well after they passed them. This, for those who don’t know, is very much against the law as orca are an endangered species.

After that we decided to motor back to the labs to take showers and do some laundry!

Be joyous

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The Green Cat


Today was amazing. We had great weather today as well as a warm night. It is the 1st day on the Gato Verde (the boat) and everything is going smoothly so far. Todd is wonderful. He is happy to explain anything we want to know about the boat as well as other any other local or seafaring questions we have.

After leaving the dock at FHL we headed strait to our anchoring area, which was a gorgeous place called Griffin Bay. On the way to Griffin Bay we had very little wind but we got to put up the schreecher, the very front sail that is used primarily in low wind conditions, and everyone got a turn at the helm. While under sail we saw a few proposes, an otter and a Rhinoceros Auklet (a very cool seabird that develops a ‘horn’ on its beak in the spring). After anchoring, a very loud experience, we ate dinner accompanied by the call of a Loon. We eventually managed to spot and saw a Blue Heron as well.

After night fell we were still exploring the boat and saw some sparkling in the water off the bow of the ship. Scott told us it was bioluminescent plankton. We tried to get them to bioluminescence more by dangling a rope through the trampoline (the net on the bow of the boat) into the water the but the noise it made when we moved it through the net was echoing around the boat so Scott gave us the boathook to use instead. That made them light up really well!

You could see them really far down, they kind of look like tiny fireflies. Very cool! We are planning on going to Neah Bay tomorrow to repair the hydrophone.



Today we headed out for Neah bay at 7:00. Toward the end of breakfast Kathryn spotted some transient orcas! We got to run along side of them for the next 6 hours!

We took turns taking pictures with the zoom lens for IDs. I decided to try and look through the pictures and try to figure out which Transients they were. After some scrutiny I figured out that the male that we saw was a Transient named T87. I further confirmed this after ID-ing his sister T90b.  It was very cool!

We followed the orcas down to Admiralty Inlet so we decided to dock at Fort Warden State Park in Port Townsend next to the Marine Science Center. We met the head of the Marine Science Center as well as the four very nice AmeriCorps women who work there and they let us go inside after hours and play in the touch tanks, which was a lot of fun.


Today was a very odd day. We decided to head back up to the islands and do a calibration type test for a project Jason, Scott, Val and a few others are doing before the instillation of the tidal turbines in Admiralty Inlet.

The light bulb deployment line.

We needed to put six light bulbs 10 meters apart on a rope, deploy it vertically in the water and drop a weight from the top causing each of the light bulbs to implode in turn while hydrophones recorded it from 100 m, 200m, and 400m. It sounds easy but in reality is full of logistic problems, which Libby Scott and I found while deploying the light bulb line from the inflatable dingy, affectionately named Gatito, in the middle of Admiralty Inlet while the 4 foot waves rocked us about.

Scott with the hat, Me in the black and Libby in the blue jacket.

We never got more than the first two light bulbs to break in about four hours of trying! We kept adjusting our attachment and weight deployment methods until the radio ran out of battery and then Scott’s telephone got too cumbersome to use. Welcome to field science!

By the time we got back to the boat we realized that with the wind, currents and time we wouldn’t be able to make it back to the islands before dark, so we decided to dock at the main harbor in Port Townsend. It was full of sailboats and the wind through the rigging made a wonderful sound like bells and chimes. It was beautiful!


We started early today, casting off at about 7:00. Horace and I were in charge of breakfast for that day so we were already up. The weather had turned foul during the night and after about 20 minuets out of the Harbor we realized that the winds were too strong, gusting to about 35 knots, and we wouldn’t be able to make it back to the islands. The seas were very choppy and because I was in the cabin cleaning up after breakfast I got pretty queasy. It wasn’t fun but at least I didn’t throw-up.

Me, Horace, Libby and Kathryn playing at Fort Ward

We quickly turned around and ended up docking at Fort Warden for the second time in three days. It was actually a good thing too because we had a chance to accomplish some things we hadn’t gotten around to yet.

First we got to learn the names of the different parts of the boat. It was a lot of fun. I enjoyed it primarily because not only do almost all of the names make sense, but now I can respond properly to Todd’s requests.

Next, since we hadn’t listened to Libby’s hydrophone yet, we got to stick it into the Marine Science Center tanks to see if any of the creatures were making any noise. We were disappointed at how quiet they were. After that we stuck it through the floor to listen to the ocean. It was a good thing we did because there were some technical problems with the recorder, but we got them fixed pretty quick.

While we were in the Science Center there were a pair of otters which were mating in front of the boat and on the beach. We could hear them all the way from inside the building. It was pretty wild.

After that Scott took us to the Marine Museum and let us explore a bit before he taught us all about rocks and the geography of the area. He took us to the point down by the bunkers and we each tried to find some of the types of rocks he mentioned, igneous sedimentary and metamorphic. We had to smash some of the rocks open to get a better idea of what they were, which was very fun. Afterwards we threw an orange in the ocean to figure out which way the tide was going.

It was a very relaxing day.


Jason had to leave the boat at 5:30am to get back up to Friday Harbor to give a talk on some of the projects he is doing.

We left Fort Warden for Snug Harbor, at the North end of San Juan Island, around 9:00. On the way there the weather was perfect weather for sailing so Todd taught us how to raise and lower the mainsail and we got to do some sailing. It was a lot of fun even during the beginning when everyone was feeling a bit queasy.

We made great time and got to the head of Snug Harbor earlier than expected so we were able to do a plankton tow. We found some very cool critters, including a long translucent worm, some baby jellyfish and a few other larger predators.

Horace and Kathryn manning the camera

After getting into the harbor, and finding out that the Beam Reach mooring was in fact gone, we decided to search for it. We used the very cool SplashCam, which is an underwater camera, to search the bottom for the anchors. While searching the bottom with the SplashCam we got to see a lot of seaweed and one crab, which startled everyone into a fit of laughter. It was a lot of fun! We never did find the mooring but since we didn’t see any eelgrass, which is important habitat and rarer than it should be, we decided to drop anchor. After we brought the camera up and ate dinner, Scott went a shore to bring some things to Val and contact Jason, who hadn’t returned to the boat or contacted us yet. We watched the sunset and after it had gotten dark we got a call from Scott saying that his sister, Laura, had given birth to a healthy son named Tennessee Viers Martine and that he was staying the night at his parent’s. Laura’s new baby is super adorable by the way!


Jason and Scott came aboard after breakfast and we decided to head down to Lime Kiln to try and find one of the hydrophones that has been lost over the years. On the way down there were perfect conditions for sailing so we got some practice in for the race we were contemplating joining the next day.  We all got to man the helm as well as pull and release the Jib sheets. Kathryn and I hoisted the mainsail, not as easy as people make it look, and I got to release it.

When we got to Lime Kiln we deployed the SplashCam and got an amazing look at the various sea stars, clams, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, seaweed and fish that we ran across. Unfortunately the awesomeness ended when the screen went blank and Scott shouted for Todd to stop the engine. The cord had gotten wrapped around the Starboard engine and damaged in a few areas.

We couldn’t get the cord unwrapped from the boat, so Scott got into his wetsuit and snorkeling mask and had to dive in to un wrap it manually! A long time later, maybe 30 min to an hour, Scott unwrapped all of the cord and we were able to see the damage. It wasn’t too bad but damaged enough that they will probably have to splice the line. On our way back up to Snug Harbor we deployed the blue 4 hydrophone array as well as Libby’s hydrophone for practice. Everything went smoothly.

When we got back to Snug Harbor Scott and Jason went out in Gatito so Scott could snorkel to try and find the mooring anchors or ball. They were unfruitful. While they were doing that we all learned how to use a pressure cooker from Todd. It was very exciting!


Today we started out at about 9:00 so we could get readings for the temperature, salinity and dissolved oxygen every 10 meters for 100 meters of the water that we did the plankton tow in a few days prior, before the race started at 11:00.

We participated in two of the races. It was a blast. During the first race we couldn’t get around the first checkpoint because our boat was too big to catch the little wind that came around the point the buoy was behind. But we did well after that.

During the second race we were doing very well at the beginning, but one of the other sailors got stuck on some rocks so we stayed it the area until he got free. Instead of finishing the race, since we were already going the correct direction, we decided to head up to Roche Harbor to pump the holding tank (sewage) before going up to Jones Island just Northeast of San Juan Island.

Jones Island is a gorgeous area! We got to learn how to tie to a mooring, but when someone left we moved to the dock so we could use the land heads. Before dinner, and the move to the dock, Todd showed us some knots we need to know. We learned the square knot, the bowline, the clove hitch, the girth hitch, the truckers hitch and a few others I don’t remember the names of. It was a lot of fun!

Libby Kathryn and I went for a walk and after playing on the West side of Jones Island heard from a couple that they had seen a pod of at least 12 orcas not 10 minuets prior that were traveling south past he point of Jones. We kept watch for a while but never spotted them. It was a really fun night.


Today we left early, got to Friday Harbor Labs around 9:00 and managed to clean down the boat in about and hour. Then we waved goodbye to Todd and went back to S1 for the next 4 days.(Gato Verde translates as Green Cat)


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Cold Much?


This week was pretty much a study week. We worked hard and learned a lot but also had a few adventures.

On Wednesday we made granola. I’ve never made granola before and thought that it would be rather complex and messy. It turns out it’s very simple. We decided to use most of the leftover dried fruit and nuts from my stash as well as all the stuff Jason brought over for the non-oatmeal ingredients. Amazingly during the entire process we only managed to spill a little, and no one burned or cut themselves or anything else! It was very fun.

Thursday was good. The person who was supposed to come couldn’t, which was disappointing, but we got to spend the day working on our proposals and finding the papers we needed for our projects. It was a somewhat relaxing day, though study intensive, and we all needed it.

On Friday afternoon, about two o’clock, we jumped off of the Friday Harbor Lab’s dock. It was excruciatingly cold. It is tradition for the Beam Reach students and faculty to jump off of the dock before the first sail, so there we were looking with great trepidation into the freezing water hoping desperately that something would intervene. We had told the rest of the FHL population that we would be doing this during the first week and amazingly enough a few students from the other programs joined us in our cold plunge. Of course Jason and Val jumped first since they weren’t as scared of the water as the rest of us. But we soon followed. On my first jump, after getting over the sudden “oh my god so cold!!” feeling, I swam over and climbed up the ladder that leads up to the tall dock. On my second jump Horace and I, with a 3..2..1.. countdown/encouragement from Val, jumped from the tall dock. I have to say, the stomach dropping feeling of jumping from high places does nothing to distract from the cold shock. On his first dive off of the tall dock, Val did an amazing swan dive. It turns out he used to dive competitively. Cool hunh!

Although the water was cold it was exhilarating especially once you got out. Because plunging yourself into cold water causes reduced circulation on your skin, you feel downright warm after getting out! It was kind of weird seeing all of us walking around I our swimsuits dripping wet in 60 degree weather not cold at all.

All in all it was an interesting week.

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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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First Week


Today we went on a field trip to Lime Kiln State Park on the west coast of San Juan Island. The weather was typical PNW spring weather when we arrived at the lighthouse, sunny and breezy. It was chilly but nice. We were tasked with thinking of 21 questions, which captured our interest, to do with orca and the environment they live in.

When time was up and we were heading back to the lighthouse from our various inspirational areas, we saw a sea lion. It was very cool. We couldn’t tell what type it was, mainly because we only saw a bit of its head once or twice, but Kathryn thought it was a stellar or California sea lion.

In the lighthouse we eat lunch as a group and talked a bit about our interests, which in turn sparked some discussion about what kind of research has been done and was being investigated currently. That was pretty interesting and allowed us to get a better idea of what were feasible topics for our areas of study.

The lighthouse at Lime Kiln State Park


Today we did acoustics. It was awesome. Val showed us how to use some of the sound recording and analyzing equipment. Then we did our own experiments to figure out what we were seeing on the computer and how to change the amount of reflected sound the microphone was receiving from the wall behind it.  We used a pillow and a glass bowl! We were also able to work out some of the basic calculations to find the speed of sound, which we managed to get very wrong. It was a lot of fun to see how every thing worked from the ground up.

After Val left Jason taught us more about the technical and mathematical side of acoustics so we would understand more of the jargon as well as the equations and parts of sound, like amplitude (volume) and frequency (pitch). We also got to see how sound waves canceled each other out and made each other louder with a very cool computer program he used.  It was fascinating to first use a hands-on approach to figure out how the simple stuff worked so when we learned about how the more complex things worked it all made sense and fit together.

After lunch we got to meet with Jason to discuss our questions that we want to focus on for our research topics, which was cool. I am finding it very difficult to hone my interests into one narrow researchable field.


Today we got a great talk from a lady named Lynn. She is a beacon of hope for all people, like me, who struggle with writing. I have never, before today, been excited to write something or understood what was really expected of me.  She was very good at explaining what was expected for both our research proposals as well as our final papers in a very no-nonsense and explicit manner. It was delightful!

After Lynn left we discussed a paper about the effects of sound exposure on the southern resident killer whale community. It never ceases to amaze me that for every decision, action or lifestyle choice we make there are hundreds of other living creatures strongly, and most of the time adversely, effected.

I am excited about the service project. I am still trying to decide between volunteering at a wildlife rehabilitation shelter called Wolf Hollow or at the whale museum working as an educational helper.

For the last few days we have been plagued by a strange and very fast metallic hammering noise, the source of which remained a great mystery. Today we finally found who was responsible, through the enthusiastic sleuth work of Kathryn! It turns out that it was a Red-shafted Northern Flicker (a type of woodpecker), which was pecking on a metal streetlight cover. I looked it up and found that many woodpeckers peck on metal during seasons when they want to establish territories and attract mates. It is kind of amusing watching the little guy peck on the light.

Red-shafted Northern Flicker


Today was blustery to say the least. We had gusts up to 45 mph!

Upon our return from breakfast, we discussed a really cool paper about some of the concerns the AEI (Acoustic Ecology Institute) has as well as some of the new technologies that were being utilized and invented last year. During the discussion the power went out, so after we finished we went down to the computer lab, as it was one of the only buildings with power and internet, to acquire the applications that will help us analyze our eventual sound data. My favorite is a program called RavenLight. The programs we got allow us to look at sounds. It’s really fun!

It was still really windy when we were walking to lunch. Val and Jason mentioned that they should probably check on the state of the ‘Buzzard’, a boat whose purpose is to collect dead samples, to make sure the wind hadn’t blown it away. When we got down to the dock we realized that the winds were so strong that the waves were washing over the dock. The boat was moving around pretty good causing the mooring rubbing against the dock lines to fray. They fixed the lines pretty fast and we went to lunch.

Me and Val on the dock next to the “Buzzard” as the waves wash over.

After lunch we finished our lecture on acoustics, which was really awesome because we got to listen to a bunch of different animal calls and see them on the spectrogram (the thing that lets you see the sound). We could see the amplitude modulation as well as the frequency modulation (change in volume and pitch).

During our lecture we saw two river otters running down towards the water and I managed to get a few good shots.

Tomorrow we have our first day off and are planning to go to the whale museum. Everyone is really excited.


Today we went to the Whale Museum! It was really cool. They had a lot of different exhibits including some very fun ones for kids. There were also a few skeletons, which really showed the incredible size of the animals!

When we left the museum it had been hailing like crazy. The ice balls were huge, about the size of small peas! It was pretty wild to come out of the museum and see the ground covered in white with small rivers of water running hear and there.

We walked around town for a bit and had lunch at a really good Syrian restaurant. Overall it was a good relaxing day after a fun but hard first week.

Kathryn, Libby, Me and Horace

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