Author Archive

Boat recordings, Roche, and water-use

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


We started the day making phone calls and connecting with friends to try to figure out where the whales were.  There were rumors that whales had been spotted north off Pender Bluff, in between Pender and Moresby Islands.  As no whales had been found south, we decided to motor north to have a look around.  We made it as far as Turn Point on Stuart Island, and decided to drop the hydrophone and listen.  As we listened, we watched and waited and reconnected with our friends, who had traveled north faster than the Gato Verde, but had not been able to find the whales.  Todd finished up sewing the sail, as we finished up lunch at Turn Point.  Afterwards, Tim took vessel noise recordings of the Gato Verde from Gatito.  The students continued to catch up on data analysis and sustainability reports before heading into Roche in the late afternoon.  We pumped out our holding tank, filled up our water tank, and threw in some laundry before meeting up with the other group at Hotel de Haro.  David gave us an entertaining and informative tour of Roche’s water treatment facility.  We then headed back as a group to the boat for dinner—chicken curry and wild rice from Friday Harbor Labs with tempah and root vegetable stew prepared by Anne.  During dinner, Jason gave us statistics on water use to ponder over—the average American uses 69 gallons/day, while onboard the Gato Verde we only use 2.61.  After finishing up the apple pie from the Friday Harbor Labs, the VATO group grabbed quick showers at Roche before anchoring just outside of the harbor.

Read More

Whale soup

Tuesday, October 09, 2007


Although we were expecting gale force winds, we woke up to a calm morning and flat seas at Garrison Bay.  After porridge prepared by Ash and Tim, we headed out past Roche so Tim could record vessel noise from the Glacier Spirit.  Tim successfully recorded a number of drive-by’s at different distances and speeds.  We then headed back out and down the west coast of San Juan Island to try to catch up with the whales before the weather caught up with us.  We received reports of members of J and L pods at False Bay and Eagle Point, so we continued to motor along the coast.  We found J1 near Edward Point and deployed the hydrophones, getting some great recordings of calls, whistles, and clicks.  Soon, we were surrounded by the whales.  After a couple of hours recording and a great variety of vocalizations, Tim was able to organize another set of drive-by’s with Ocean Magic II.  Tim altered his methodologies and had the vessel circle the Gato Verde instead of deploying the buoy, which seemed to work much more efficiently.  Afterwards, we headed north along the coast of San Juan Island until we passed the whales, and again deployed both the hydrophone array and the high frequency hydrophone.  We saw a number of very young animals and recorded some great calls for another couple of hours.  Tim tried to organize a third drive-by with Prince of Whales, The Jester, but they were heading out to find humpbacks off Race Rocks, so Tim was only able to make a quick recording as they were departing.  We started to head back to Garrison Bay to prepare for the 25-35 knot winds predicted for the night, but stopped one more time to watch the whales just before heading in.  The whales were spyhopping, tailslapping, and resting at the surface.  Anne finally dropped the hydrophone one more time, while the rest of us took photos and watching through binoculars.  Alex and Shannon started preparing vegetarian moussaka, while Tim lowered the anchor at Garrison.

Read More

Back on the Boat

Monday, October 8, 2007


We woke up at Roche—Anne and Alex prepared scrambled eggs with real New York bagels sent over by Alex’s mother.  Ash was leader-of-the-day and got the ball rolling, giving us a quick navigation and systems overview.  There were many reports of whales along the west coast of San Juan island, so after breakfast and a few logistical phone calls regarding boat parts, we motored out.  The main sail was taped back together underway, as we continued to listen for updates on whale whereabouts.  The whales were south of Eagle Point.  So, we grabbed lunch on the fly (more NY bagels, ramen, hard boiled eggs) as we approached J1—that guy, the San Juan celebrity.  We caught up with members of J and L pods and deployed both the high frequency hydrophone and the hydrophone array.  After a little troubleshooting with the deployments, we heard a cornucopia of clicks, a cacophony of calls, and a (small) wealth of whistles.  Alex took surveys for SoundWatch, and then Tim recorded drive-by vessel noise with Explorathor.  By this point, the whales had moved west.  We still had to sew our main sail and the winds were predicted to pick up tonight (25-35 knots), so we motored north to Garrison, to meet up with Jason to exchange data backed up the Gato Verde hard drive for a fan belt.  We dropped anchor off British camp and settled in to sew and study our data collected from the afternoon.

Read More

Rainy Roche changeover

Sunday, September 30, 2007


We woke up at Garrison Bay to a drizzly, windy, grey morning.  After breakfast, we lifted anchor and headed over to Roche for the changeover, while we completed our chores.  At Roche, we cleaned the boat, finalized data entry onto the boat’s hard drive, and packed up.  We had a quick, early lunch before the other group arrived.  While the instructors met, the students discussed data collection and potential overlap in projects.  Then, Scott and Jason led a discussion on transportation and sustainability.  Afterwards, Val’s group headed back to the labs while Jason’s group got dinner ready.  We pulled away from the docks at Roche before 1800 and anchored out in the harbor.  Shannon and Jason read proposals, while Kenna, Elise and Liz read the chosen article for this weeks journal club.  Wes continued to localize calls and analyze data, and Heather caught up on some rest.

Read More

Oil and swell don't go well

Saturday, September 29, 2007

We woke up at Snug Harbor to oatmeal for breakfast and a full holding tank to pump out.  After chores and cooling the fridge, we headed to Roche where we emptied the holding tank, topped off the water tank, stocked up on a few essential items (i.e. cocoa), got our espresso fixes, and posted postcards to lucky, lucky recipients.  We had our voyage planning in the cockpit as we left Roche.  Anne informed us that we were under a gale warning for the weekend, with winds predicted up to 30 knots.  A superpod was reported southwest of Victoria heading west, so the group decided to motor sail south for a few hours and see what the weather and whales were doing after lunch.  Alex and Anne prepared quesadillas for lunch and heated up leftover stew from last night.  Before 1400, the wind had picked up and the pager informed us that they weren’t going to be sending out anymore messages.  After a few unsuccessful phone calls to try to find out more about whale whereabouts, the group decided that whales weren’t happening today and the seas weren’t suited for studying.  We turned around and headed back to Garrison Bay to take shelter from the storm.  Anne and Tim did some dinghy driving training, Alex plotted a graph of VATO’s water usage, and Ash caught up with the pager data.  Todd passed out the sail assessment test, Scott planned our Sunday turnover, and Shannon wrote this.  As the students tried to catch up on entering data, Scott and Shannon prepared chili and cornbread with cheese and sour cream on the side, because as Tim declared earlier today, “oil and swell don’t go well.”

Read More

Whale soup

Orcas resting at sunset

Friday, September 28, 2007

We woke up at Snug harbor and Leslie rang to tell us that she could hear the whales off Lime Kiln, so we lifted anchor right after breakfast and put off our morning chores until later. We spent most of the morning chasing the whales—writing down pager information, listening to the radio, and making phone calls to try to figure out which way they were headed.

Shannon and Ash heated up left over lasagna and bread pudding for lunch, as we made our way to Hein Bank, where there were reports of J, K, and L pods. We deployed the hydrophone array and the high frequency hydrophone and began our recording attempts for the day. We switched direction a number of times, alternating between pure sailing and motor sailing, as we tried to record calls, clicks, and whistles of individuals. A rope got momentarily wrapped around the starboard prop, as Scott and Tim were trying to deploy the high frequency. We sailed back to the west coast of San Juan Island and were going to head back to Snug Harbor early, when we saw J1 and a couple of other whales. Shelmar, a research vessel collecting the breath of killer whales with petri dishes suction cupped to a 24 ft pole in order to analyze bacteria, was also there. Tim took advantage of the opportunity to deploy a buoy and record drive-by’s, but the clicks and calls of nearby whales drowned out their jet engines. So, Anne once again attempted to deploy the hydrophone array vertically. A tanker was passing by, so we aren’t sure what the sound files will look like. Just as we were getting ready to call it a day, a large number of whales resting and slowly traveling in a line through the sunset approached us, followed afterwards by a lone minke whale. We finally pulled back into Snug about 8 pm after traveling over 37 miles today.

Read More

North, south, then north again

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Tim cooked potatoes for breakfast and as we were starting our morning chores, we headed to Roche to pump out our holding tank and fill up our water tank. We picked up a few essentials (including chocolate chips) and discussed voyage planning for the channel. J and K pods were up north, so we started heading out past Spieden Island, heading towards Flattop Island. But then, we began receiving pages informing us that L pod was heading north up the coast of San Juan Island. L pod seemed more attainable, so we turned around and headed back south. The winds and the seas were picking up considerably. Val and Ash made bean burritos and heated up the last of the stir fry for lunch. After lunch, Sam and Anne worked on the set up for deploying the array and Anne and Tim worked on the high frequency. The students took turns sailing as we made our way south. Unfortunately, L pod switched direction and began heading south as well. Late in the afternoon, we switched direction one more time and headed back into Snug Harbor for the night, where we sat down to lasagna and Greek salad prepared by Scott, Sam, and Shannon.

Read More

Friday Harbor Lab Dinner

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Shannon woke up early again for a direly needed morning stroll and returned in time to prepare breakfast with Val and Anne. After breakfast and chores at Prevost, we sat down to voyage planning and goals for the day. The superpod was resting south of Vancouver Island, so Todd went over parts of the boat and points of sail. Sam and Tim heated up stir-fry leftovers and cream of potato soup for lunch, as Marla, Anne and
Shannon replicated the sound propagation experiments from yesterday with Val and his speaker playing calls and clips from the dinghy. We pulled into Snug Harbor and unloaded Marla’s gear onto the dock before anchoring. Val’s wife, Leslie drove Marla to Roche to pick up her car after Sam and Anne had their last chances to pick Marla’s brain. Jason picked us up at 3:30 and we headed to the Friday Harbor Labs to meet with the other group and discuss data collection and science narrative protocols. We also took the opportunity to grab quick showers, try to catch up on email and make a few rushed phone calls. Afterwards, we sat down to dinner and learned what the visiting scientists at the labs and their apprentices will be studying during their time in the San Juan Islands. There were some particularly interesting research projects on fiddler crabs and worms. After dinner, we headed back to Snug Harbor for the night and to dream of superpod sightings for tomorrow.

Read More

Sound propagation and drive-by's

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Shannon and Tim woke up early to go for a morning hike before breakfast and returned just in time for oatmeal. After chores and a never-ending deck wash, we used the mechanical pump out at Reid Harbor before heading out. Conditions were calm and skies were clear, so we set up an experiment to measure sound propagation. We deployed our high frequency hydrophone and array, and Marla deployed her array as well. Val and Tim boarded the dinghy with a speaker while Anne, Sam, Ashleigh, and Marla recorded the calls and clicks played. Shannon gave the distance between the dinghy and Gato Verdeusing the range finder and Alex and Todd held the hydrophones away from the boat’s hull as they were pushed by the current. After recording both calls and clicks at a range of distances (approximately 25 m to 300 m), a number of dinghy drive-bys were recorded with the high frequency hydrophone. Alex heated up the eggplant parmesan, while Shannon prepared egg salad for lunch. After lunch, Val recorded the speed of sound (1484.55 m/s), the students analyzed their data, and Shannon wrote this. Data analysis continued into the late afternoon, as Tim and Anne tried to troubleshoot the high frequency hydrophone. As the sun was beginning to hang low in the horizon, Val and Sam boarded the dinghy for more drive-bys. Anne set up the high frequency hydrophone with the boat hook as an outrigger, Tim recorded the data, and Shannon perfected her range-finding abilities. We said goodbye to a lone male elephant seal and headed for Prevost Harbor on Stuart Island for the night as Anne was preparing veggie and tofu stir-fry.

Read More

More hydrophone calibrations

Monday, September 24, 2007

After Anne’s freshly baked bread for breakfast, we completed our chores and sat down to voyage planning. We discussed goals for the day, as well as goals for the week. We lifted anchor and motored out of Snug Harbor for a quick lunch and then set up our hydrophone calibration. The speaker was dropped off the starboard side of the Gato Verde, while 7 hydrophones strung together were lowered off the port side. We played S1 calls, cal tones, and tones to try to calibrate our hydrophone array, high frequency hydrophone, and Marla Holt’s high frequency hydrophone. After disassembling all of the gear, Todd spotted two cargo ships on the horizon and Tim wanted to try to record vessel noise with the high frequency hydrophone. Shannon took photos, Anne held the hydrophone, Alex found distance with the range finder, and Sam helped with recording data. We rolled out the jib and sailed north for a little, waiting for the ferry at 1630. As the ferry approached, Tim used the high frequency hydrophone again to record vessel noise. After the ferry passed, we headed to Reid Harbor on Stuart Island for the night. We tied up to the dock, and Alex made eggplant parmesan with linguine for dinner. Shannon was aching for a stroll—so, she, Val, and Ashleigh attempted to check their voice messages at the top of the hill, but only Val was successful. Then Shannon updated this blog and Ashleigh and Marla discussed Marla’s thesis research. Anne baked a second loaf of bread. Alex caught up on her Vanity Fair reading. Sam tried unsuccessfully to get online. And Tim worked with Val on creating a calibration curve for the high frequency hydrophone.

Read More