Co-Chief Science Officer’s log
Sea Date 10-1-06 (Day 13)
Heading back to sea is always a good way to start the month. We left the Friday Harbor labs at around 14:30 to head over to the Port of Friday Harbor to pump out our holding tanks before we hit the high seas. Captain Todd has been hard at work over the past week repairing our engines and generators so that we could get underway today. We headed straight back out into San Juan Channel and turned left. We made it as far as Jones Island. This time we decided to moor on the South end of the island. Now that we are later in the season, there are fewer boats around and so finding a mooring buoy was easy. While dinner was being prepared I went ashore with Rena and Peggy so that they could mark and gps creosote logs and pressure treated lumber that has washed up on the beach as part of their service project for the Washington State Department of Natural Resources. While they were doing that, I took a stroll across the island (the whole island is a state park). I really enjoyed the moss on the fallen logs in the forest as well as the water tanks for the parks water supply. The water tanks are built like wooden barrels with straps. It just seems like a nice way of building a water storage tank in a relatively remote area.
Sea Date 10-2-06 (Day 14)
We left anchorage on Jones Island at 7:00 AM so as to beat the currents through Speiden Channel. What a pleasure to be under sail as the sun rises. By the time we were all up and finished with breakfast and our chores we were in Haro Strait looking for whales. We didn’t come up lucky in that department, but did get a chance to head a little farther north than we have in the past, and rounded Turn Point on Stuart Island. On the way we tested equipment again as well as our abilities to judge distance over the water. We also ran our long cable down 100 meters to measure temperature, salinity and the speed of sound in the water for some of our projects. A number of the crew had to take turns pulling the cable back up since it was so heavy. We pulled up to the dock at the State Park in Prevost Harbor on Stuart Island before sun set, so a number of us went ashore to explore and stretch our legs before dinner, which was probably a good things since Rena and I cooked up a huge dinner of pesto linguine, salad, and some sourdough/rosemary/garlic/parmesan bread. It was rumored that some had six slices of bread.
Sea Date 10-3-06 (Day 15)
What a day! Yet another early start, only this time we left the dock on Stuart at 6:30 AM. It is so nice to be able to motor away from the dock without making any noise and waking any of the neighboring boats. Once into Boundary Pass we set sails and headed back around Turn Point and to the south back into the familiar Haro Strait. It was a good thing we headed this way as we intercepted resident killer whales feeding and heading north. We first found the whales off Edwards point, south of Lime Kiln Light House and recorded data from them for around three hours, during which time we made our way all the way back up to Kellet Bluff. Towards the end we had depleted our propulsion batteries and were forced to turn the generator back on so that we could keep up. It was a very good recording session though, with not too many whales and very few boats. We managed to feed the crew lunch part way through so that they didn’t collapse. We will all probably collapse tonight from the exhaustion of so much data collection. It brings a great joy to me to see all this science happening around me. This afternoon we did manage to slip in our weekly journal club meeting. This week was led by Erin on the following paper: Johnston, D.W., Thorne, L.H. & Read, A.J. 2005 Fin whales Balenoptera physalus and minke whales Balenoptera acutorostrata exploit a tidally driven island wake ecosystem in the Bay of Fundy. Marine Ecology Progress Series 305:287-295. This article pertains to Erin’s project on the relationship between tidal currents and killer whale direction of travel. We anchored in Mitchell Bay for the evening and watched a gorgeous sunset with pink clouds over a tranquil Haro while the moon rose in the East. What a day!
Sea Date 10-4-06 (Day 16)
Today we awoke to a low tide and had to wait a little before we could safely get out of Mitchell Bay. We had fine weather and a steady breeze for us to head south past the light house at Lime Kiln. We didn’t find whales, but we did spend over half an hour with a large group of Dall’s porpoises that decided to ride our bow wake. We had enough wind that we were clipping along fast enough for a little joy ride for the porpoises. Even after we were forced to tack because we had land ahead, they came back to us. What a treat! We even spotted a Dall’s / Harbor porpoise hybrid. We had just learnt about the hybridization last week in a lecture from Anna Hall who has studied the local porpoises for the last decade. As it turns out, the hybrids are always the result of the breeding of a male Harbor porpoise with a female Dall’s porpoise. Anna has plans for the future to research this hybridization and we look forward to hearing any results she gets. At the end of the day we made our way into Garrison and Westcott Bays to anchor at one of the spots that the Friends of the San Juans has been taking water quality samples to help determine why the eel grass has been disappearing from embayments in the San Juans. While at anchor there we took readings of salinity, oxygen levels, and temperature every 2 hours and at every half meter of depth. The idea was to get a finer temporal scale of water observations across an entire tidal cycle. Donna started the evening out with the first couple of samples and finished the samples in the morning, while our fearless leader, Scott, slept on the deck right next to the water sampler so that he could wake up every two hours to take samples. We found him nestled in his sleeping bag in the morning where we had left him, feeling good about the scientific effort that had been expended.
Sea Date 10-5-06 (Day 17)
After leaving Westcott Bay we headed back out into Haro Strait and spent much of the day drifting on the tides while watching for whales. Some good progress was made on data analysis from the last time we saw whales. All in all a fairly quiet day on the water. In the afternoon we rode the flood tide back up to Snug Harbor to pick up Jim Ha who came back up to spend another evening and day with us. Three of the students are using his customized behavior software which allows them to record their behavior observations onto a Palm and then download the data into excel for analysis.
Sea Date 10-6-06 (Day 18)
Once again back out into Haro Strait for a day of low winds and riding the current while waiting for whales. In the afternoon we got reports that some of the resident killer whales were seen far to the north of the city of Vancouver. All the fishermen we have spoken to say that there have been very few salmon around this area, so it may be that the whales have headed north to happier hunting grounds. During the day the students who are using Jim’s software got a chance to meet with him and fine tune their Palm programs for data collection. In the afternoon as we were drifting we were joined by a group of Dall’s porpoises who swam around the boat for quite a while. It was as if they wanted to ride out bow wake, and were just waiting for us to pick up some speed. It is really mesmerizing to watch how easily they move in three dimensions in the water. Occasionally they would swim by on their sides, as if they were trying to get a better view of us. At the end of the day we dropped Jim back at Snug and then headed back to Westcott for the night so that we could do some more water quality monitoring. This time Donna did the first two readings and Peggy and Emily did the last at 6:30 am, while I slept on the catwalk over the trampoline in the bow of the boat and did the four samples in the middle of the night. It was a cold, crisp and dewy night with a full moon, so even though my sleep was interrupted every two hours, it was fairly enjoyable.
Sea Date 10-7-06 – 10-9-06 (Day 19 through 21)
Things have been busy enough that I must admit I have struggled to sit down and even type a little of what has happened during the day. We left anchorage in Westcott Bay and headed all the way to Fisherman’s Bay where we spent the night and collected more water quality data for the Friends of San Juan. This site on Lopez is a paired site to the one in Westcott, so the two sites will be compared with one another. On the way Val delivered Glenn, our new relief captain to us via his boat, the Cat’s Cradle. The following morning (10-8-06) we headed back into Friday Harbor for re-provisions and showers. Of course on the way we heard that the whales had returned to the West side of San Juan, where we had been waiting for them the day before. We dropped Todd and Scott off in Friday Harbor, spent the night tied to the Lab’s dock and then headed out again on the ninth. We made it all the way to Reid Harbor for the night.
Sea Date 10-10-06 (Day 22)
We awoke this morning to a gorgeous day and had breakfast, shortly after which we noticed a bunch of smoke coming from a nice old sail boat near by. We were worried they were on fire, so we lowered the dinghy and Glenn and I set forth with all our fire extinguishers, a bucket, and extra PFDs. It turned out that they were merely stoking up their wood stove, and therefore there was no fire. Great news, plus it allowed us to practice a fire drill. Everyone did exceptionally well. We lowered the dinghy and were underway with all the fire extinguishers in under two minutes which speaks wonders for the quick action of the entire crew aboard the Gato Verde. After that morning excitement we set out and to the south in Haro. By 9:00 we received a page that the whales had been spotted off the West side of San Juan Island. We raced as fast as we could without depleting our batteries, and joined the whales for a marathon session down near False Bay before heading back up to Roche Harbor for the evening. A lot of distance covered and a very long day for us all. Bravo and Brava to the entire crew for working so hard on gathering valuable data.
Sea Date 10-11-06 (Day 23)
Wow what another long day… We started by pumping out at the dock in Roche Harbor and repairing our hydrophone array along the way while we headed out into Haro Strait. We reached the whales fairly early on in the morning on the west side of San Juan Island and followed them north to the southern end of Henry before they switched direction again and we followed them all the way south to False Bay. It was another epic day on the water. It was sunny and devoid of wind, so that I ended up in shorts and a shirt. I can’t believe this October weather. We managed to get some good recordings from the whales during the day and finally left them around 17:30 when we headed towards Mackaye Harbor on the South end of Lopez. We ate dinner along the way and watched a gorgeous sunset over the city of Victoria in the distance, with views of Port Townsend on the Olympic peninsula and the Cascade Range and Mount Baker to the east. Entirely stunning. Because we are running on our backup generator we aren’t able to go very fast, so we had to post watches on the bow while we motored on into the evening. We arrived at our anchorage by 21:00 exhausted but safe.
Sea Date 10-12-06 (Day 24)
Last night I had the great idea of sleeping on top of the main sail. I made it till about 3:30 when I finally decided to head back to my berth. I should have planned ahead and used a sleeping pad because the sails don’t provide much cushioning, so I ended up basically sleeping on the hard metal of the boom. It was a beautiful night though. This morning Glenn and I spent most of the morning in vain trying to get the diesel generator running. We are both worse for wear because of it, but the generator is unchanged. Rena and Peggy went ashore with Donna to do some more marking of creosote logs while Glenn and I worked on the generator. We finally gave up and tied the dinghy to the rear of the boat again and set off under dinghy power. We made good progress along the west side of San Juan Island and rendezvoused with Val on his boat, the Cat’s Cradle. He was out doing some research of his own and was bringing us Laura, a Beam Reach student from last year. At that point Val and Glenn got the diesel generator to start and we ran with it the rest of the way into Garrison Bay for the night and some more water quality monitoring. Before we got here we also managed to have our final journal club meeting. Juliette picked the article this week; Miller, P.J.O. & Bain, D.E. 2000 Within-pod variation in sound production of a pod of killer whales, Orcinus orca. Animal Behaviour 60, 617-628. It generated some good discussions about variation in call types and the use of specific statistical tests to analyze variation in multiple variables. Also, as a side note, I was pretty confident that I saw a Blue Footed Booby yesterday evening off the south end of San Juan Island. This morning when we passed that area again, Donna spotted two birds she thought to be Blue Footed Boobies, therefore we decided that we had confirmed each others sightings.
Sea Date 10-13-06 (Day 25)
This morning we met Val in our prospective dinghies in Mosquito Pass. Val brought us his calibration hydrophone and a new hydrophone array while we handed off our garbage. Somehow I think we won in that exchange. We then headed north towards Stuart Island and had just passed Turn Point when Peggy spotted J pod heading right towards us. They caught us a little off guard, but we managed to stay with them for about an hour before our propulsion batteries ran out. We then tried to start up our diesel generator, but Emily and I managed to break the pull cord right off the starter. Given that the whales were covering lots of ground and we only had our little gas generator for power we decided to head north again into Prevost Harbor. Along the way Peggy, Emily and I took a brief swim near Turn Point to cool off and clean up. Yes, the weather has been a bit unseasonably warm and windless. Once in Prevost most of the students went ashore so that they could hike out to the light house at Turn Point while Glenn and I tried to replace the starter cord on the diesel generator. Alas we did not succeed and so will have to limp by without it till we can get in to Roche Harbor tomorrow morning.
Sea Date 10-14-06 (Day 26)
Fall has finally come. It was amazing the difference between the weather yesterday and today. Yesterday it was warm enough that some of us went for a swim. Today we awoke to thick fog. We couldn’t leave at 6:00 as planned, so we had a morning meeting and a nice lecture on navigation from Glenn. We then all went ashore and had our advisor meetings. The dinghy was then strapped back onto the Gato Verde to give it a push through John’s pass, Speiden Channel and into Roche Harbor for us to pick up more gas and pump out our holding tanks. We then made our way towards Jone’s Island and even had enough wind to sail up to 8 knots. It was a nice change from the windless sunny days we have been having.
Sea Date 10-15-06 (Day 27)
Today we had another nice sail into Friday Harbor when Colleen broke Erin’s speed record from yesterday. She had us going up to 8.5 knots in San Juan Channel. We sailed on in to the labs and hot showers…..
Sea Date 10-16-06 (Day 28)
It was nice to be on land again and be able to shower and check email, but it is also nice to be heading out for our final week on the boat. We left Friday Harbor after our typical pump out and made a bee line for Fisherman’s Bay on Lopez to anchor and do more water quality sampling. I also went ashore with Rena and Peggy so that they could look for more creosote logs. We landed on the spit right at the entrance to the Bay, which is now Land Bank property. While they were looking for logs I took the chance to hike around the preserve. A very nice area and made even better by the fruiting apple tree along the path that allowed me a lovely and sweet snack.
Sea Date 10-17-06 (Day 29)
We left Fisherman’s Bay early this morning to make it through Cattle Pass before the tide started flooding and saw several Stellar sea lions in the Pass. We then headed out into Haro Strait for a calm day on our way to Snug Harbor where we tied up for the evening. Along the way everyone was immersed in analysis in preparation for the final papers and presentations.
Sea Date 10-18-06 (Day 30)
We started out today planning to head to Prevost Harbor on Stuart, but then got a call from Scott saying there had been sightings of killer whales on their way down into the lower Puget Sound, so we spent some time tacking back and forth against the wind and current so that we could end back at Snug to position ourselves for a long haul tomorrow. We hope to leave by 6:30 and push on down to the south end of Lopez in the hopes that we will intercept the whales if they head back up this direction. We did deploy the dinghy today and tested out a new hydrophone array that was built for us by a gentleman from Olympia. It seems to be working well. Tomorrow I will hopefully get a chance to analyze the recordings we made today to see how well we can localize the sound we recorded. We tied up to the dock again in Snug and I noticed a harbor seal taking advantage of the light on the dock to forage on fish that are attracted to the light. It is neat to be able to see into the water and watch the harbor seal at night.
Sea Date 10-19-06 (Day 31)
We were ready to leave this morning at 6:30, but the sun didn’t cooperate. It was a dark rainy morning, so we had to wait a while before we could leave. After getting under way we headed out into the middle of Haro Strait to catch the ebb tide and the wind. We worked on analysis and eventually set out a hydrophone to try and monitor the whales when we were near the south end of San Juan Island. Lo and behold, it was not a half hour of monitoring before we heard killer whales vocalizations. We spotted them in the middle of the strait heading north towards us so we turned around to travel with them. It seems that it was both K and L pods so there were a lot of whales and they were vocalizing like crazy. We managed to stay with them for about an hour before they were all out of sight. We tried to catch up to them but finally had to give up around 16:00. We turned around and sailed back in to Snug Harbor for the evening where we found Marla Holt on the dock waiting for us. Marla is a Post-Doc at the National Marine Fisheries Northwest Science Center and will be joining us for a couple of days to tell us about her work on pinniped acoustics and her future work on killer whale acoustics.
Sea Date 10-20-06 (Day 32)
Today was Peggy’s birthday! We started the day with blueberry sourdough pancakes and ended it with manicotti and cake. In between we spent several hours with J pod. We also had bald eagles fly over the Gato Verde when we left and returned to Snug Harbor. Not a bad day. We also listened to a lecture by Marla on her work with elephant seals while she was at UC Santa Cruz, and then passed on to her the tidbits of knowledge of how to localize in Ishmael that we have gained during the quarter. Hopefully the tips we passed on will help her during her post doc work.
Sea Date 10-21-06 (Day 33)
This morning we listened to another nice lecture from Marla before we left her at Snug Harbor and headed north up Haro Strait and east through Speiden Channel to the south end of Jones Island. We made decent time because of wind and currents, so had time for our weekly advisor meetings on Jones. Students also took advantage of the island to stretch their legs. Some even spotted some minks scurrying around in the inter-tidal zone. By the time we headed back to the boat the temperature had dropped and fog was drifting in from the north. We never got completely engulfed though as it seemed to miraculously disperse right at the south end of Jones.
Sea Date 10-22-06 (Day 34)
It is hard to believe that we have spent a total of thirty four days aboard the Gato Verde collecting data for our projects. What a ride it has been. This morning we sailed south into Friday Harbor and tied up at the labs for our final landing. We spent the rest of the morning offloading all our gear, moving it up into our land accommodations and scrubbing down the Gato Verde. Everything from the decks and heads and even the bilges were cleaned. Great job team, and congratulations on collecting all your data. You worked very hard to collect it. Now we head into the final week and a mad dash to finish analyzing our data and turning it into a final paper and presentation.
I would like to announce that at 10:48pm my paper presentation and everything else was DONE!!! WhooHoo!
I spent the last 3 nights working until 3am! It was great. Research is cool. Analysis is cool. Significant results are even cooler – but no luck this time. I have faith though! I still have confidence that theres something about those S10’s. I like em. They’re high pitched and squeaky, and kind of sounds like a balloon being squeaked or rubbed together. But I like it.
I can’t wait to start another project… or even continue with parts of this one.
I can definately see why some scientists let thier data sit for a while instea ofgoing at it all at once. I mean I personally wouldnt have the patience to let mine sit and wait for too long, but taking it all in two weeks like this… too hectic. I feel like I need to go through it all again slowly, so I can really focus and really do a thourough job. I think I did well with this one, but I could have done it better and really fine tuned it.
My methodology was a mess and my PDA needed that milling button. Screw simpicity. That was advice I should have never taken. I knew what I needed and it turns out I was right. I’m not bitter, because I made enough mistakes on my own that it’s moot.
My goals have been solidified though. I’m content with who I am and who I’m ging to be. I can’t wait to get on with this next step! I’m hopefully meeting with Dr. Ford at UBC either n the 30th, 31st, or maybe 1st.
My parents got in tonight, and we went out for dinner. I had a chocolate martini, and dad and I split a seafood dish and a steak. YUM!!! Oh my god, I had missed food. I mean the food here was good, but there is more to life than zucchini and starches, and I love it! I cannot wait to get home and cook in MY kitchen. with my utensils and my pots and pans and my Gas stove – not to mention all my favorite ingredients!!!
Anyways, mum and dad brought me my fabulous fuschia dress and black heels!! I’m not a dress girl except for the occasional day, but it is Soooo nice to be in something other than Jeans!
It is the little things! like getting to curl up with my kitten next friday when I get home. And being able to call friends who have cell phones other than Verizon during the week and at decent hours.
I’ll miss the whales though. and the blankets of green moss. and the mist.
and speaking of blankets… I’m presenting in 9 hrs!! EEp! bedtime
Another beautiful day in the San Juan’s. Although there are no whales today, it is sunny and cool, a perfect October day. We anchored last night in Fisherman’s Bay on Lopez Island. It is a nice anchorage and appears to be a bit more of a small island community than places like Friday Harbor. I awoke to the sound of the anchor chain being hauled up at 7:15 am, we had to get an early start so we could make it through Cattle Pass with the current instead of fighting against it. Upon arriving in the galley/saloon this morning I was greeted by the smell of Jason’s famous (at least to us) sourdough pancakes. They were fabulous and the morning was calm and colorful. While going through cattle pass we saw at least 7 sea lions swimming around. They looked so big especially after spending the summer working with baby harbor seals at my internship. At the Southern end of Haro Strait, near False Bay we paused to do a CT (conductivity and temperature) cast for Emily’s project. We let the instrument down 100m by hand pausing every 10m to record results. Emily and I had a nice arm workout hauling it back up. The rest of the day we’ve been hanging out in Haro making our way north hoping to run into the whales, it’s 3 and we haven’t yet. We will be anchoring somewhere at the Northern end of San Juan Island. The wind has finally picked up enough so we are sailing for the time being.
So much to say and so little time! As everyone has been saying in their blogs, the realization that the end of BeamReach is setting in. We are back on solid ground, and as much as I liked living at sea, it feels good! The last three weeks on the boat have been… shall I say… eventful. Because the Gato Verde is in the process of switching to a bio-deisel electric propulsion system, there are lots of things that had the potential to go wrong, and that did go wrong. Its a super cool idea and sets a great president, however, when you are in the middle of the process it is both very cool and very frustrating. Besides the saga of the boat, between the multiple generators breaking and getting replaced, being pushed by the dinghy, maxing out at 3 knots and not being able to catch the whales, there were lots of great things this past voyage. First of all, we saw whales, lots and lots of whales! We saw some very tame dear and a mink up close and personal on Jones Island, a mike whale from the bluff on Stewart Island, some bow riding Dalls porpoise in front of Lime Kiln, and some sea lions in cattle pass. In terms of Science, we got some nice recordings, tried the dinghy / NOAA pipe test maybe 3-4 more times and finally got it right. Ishmael is still not cooperating, but in addition to the Sea Snake, we got another 4 element array, Willy. After tinkering with it a bit, and sending it off to the doctor (val) and his office (his garage), its worked wonderfully. Everyone chipped in for multiple rounds water quality testing every two hours from about 6pm to 8am. (Except for Scott and Jason who slept on the cat walk and saccrificed a lot of sleep in the name of science.) As for oter memorable events, we hiked to the lighthouse, played some basketball, got to pet some real kittys, and soak in the view from a bluff looking out on the water just before sunset on Stewart Island. We had a night passage from the west side of San Juan Island to the south end of Lopez Island, complete with bow watches, crafty navigation, walkie talkies, and night vision (not headlamps). We witnessed numerous beautiful mornings and beautiful sunsets. In fact, the Last time we saw the whales in fact was J pod heading south down the West Side wbehind them was the sun dropping behind Vancouver Island, AND to make things even better,it was Peggy’s birthday!
So now that we are back on land, its crunch time to get final papers and presentations done. Its time to enjoy the last week of island living until heading home and catching up with family and friends!
Yesterday concluded our final week at sea (and my twenty third revolution around the sun!) We awoke to a splendid sunrise from the south end of Jones Island looking out across San Juan Channel to San Juan Island, our final destination. But before I describe our homecoming, let me recap the week. After many many boat troubles the week before, we set out last Monday with two main broken generators, one measley gas generator and our faithful dinghy. Top speeds reach no more than three knots or so, rendering our choices for anchorage minimal. The first night we stayed in Fisherman’s Bay for creosote log tagging and more water sampling for the Friends of the San Juans. Tuesday, after our break through Cattle Pass we put-putted up the west side of San Juan Island, analyzing data, collecting more conductivity and temperature data from the south end of Haro Strait, and making our way to the infamous Sung Harbor for the night.Wednesday, again, was spent in Haro with the dinghy and a number of fishing boats. We had word that the killer whales were in the south sound so we made plans for Thursday to try and head south to catch them, but were pleasantly surprised to actually hear their vocalizations on our hydrophone mid-strait then caught sight of K and L Pods within a half and hour. We were able to spend an hour or so with the two pods near False Bay, but did not have the capabilities to follow them north-instead we sat on the bow following them with binoculars as they reached Turn Point and headed east. That evening we had Marla Holt on board. She’s beginning her post-doc research on the Southern Residents through NOAA and wanted to get a sense of our projects, equipment, methods, etc. because her project entails determining if killer whales actually call louder or longer to be heard above increased ambient noise levels. Marla accompanied us again on the water on Friday for a long day on the water with J Pod, porpoises, bald eagles and lots of birthday fun for Peggy. J Pod was quite active, foraging near False Bay, then moving slowly north throughout the day. We were able to spot a salmon in one whale’s mouth, as well as a small fish J39 caught…so they DO eat fish! On our way back to Snug Harbor we were pleasantly surprised by the pod’s return south and gave up all scientific goals and sat on the deck taking pictures and marveling as the pod traveled through the glare into the sunset. Upon our return to Snug, we were excited once more by the lucky pass-by of two bald eagles over our boat. That evening we had Peggy’s birthday dinner, manacotti and chocolate cake. Saturday we said our good-byes to both Marla and the beloved sea snake (the towed array) and set off for Jones Island for advisor meetings and a brief jaunt around the island at sunset. That does, of course, bring me to Sunday, the sunrise and our homecoming to Friday Harbor. After the sun broke the horizon we were immediately at work unpacking the boat of food, equipment and personal gear, followed by a deep clean of the cabins, galley, heads, bilges, decks, dinghy, walls, ceilings, closets, nooks, crannies and any other area of space within the 42×29 feet on the boat. Once in Friday Harbor we also spent most of the morning unloading and redistributing food, gear, etc. to our one-week temporary homes at the labs. Yesterday was also my birthday so once the cleaning was finished we all ate pizza on the dock, and I read birtday cards and note from friends and family elsewhere in the world. Exhausted, we unpacked, picked up some groceries, then made deliectible chocolate covered strawberries and bananas to be frozen and consumed after bowling in town and dinner at the Ale House…the only two establishments open of course. Emily, Erin and I had a blast giggling at our silly shoes and despeciable bowling capabilities, a yummy dinner we didn’t have to make, and of course, the chocolate covered treats. To top it off, I even received a call from my parents in Vietnam at the moment, busied by morning traffic, but lucky enough to find a payphone that accepted their calling card! As for now, talking with them makes me excited to finally get home and spend time with friends and family I haven’t seen in a while, but also makes the realization that Beam Reach is nearing it’s end. Our time on the water will be left unmatched by most opportunities I will most likely have in the future and I’m quite thankful for the opportunity to observe killer whales in such a beautiful place! This week will be dedicated to catching up on some much needed sleep, getting back into my running shoes, researching a bit more into my topic and furiously finishing up data analysis and the final paper and presenation. In fact…that’s what I should be working on right now…
As October weather sets in (and really, who doesn’t just LOVE October) we are all preparing for our final week at sea. Last week was a mixed bag of ups and downs. We had three days with J Pod off the west side of San Juan Island in Haro Strait, two days of which were so balmy if I didn’t know any better I would have guessed it was July…in fact, it was SO warm we were wearing shorts and a few even jumped in for a swim! It was great to be able to collect quality data for each member of the group so at least everyone has something to work with coming into the final weeks of collection and analysis. I’ve been working to understand the distinction of whistles and have had the help of a few experts in the field-bottom line-its challenging for even the best in the field. Go figure I’d get myself into something like that To get a better sense of the groups we’re watching I’ve also tried my hand at photo identification-it’s extremely rewarding to see a fin and saddle patch out on the water and recognize it from the computer the day before. Other highlights from the week include motoring at night into a small harbor on the south end of Lopez Island, each of us standing lookout for logs and kelp and bouys and whatnot. Also, a few of us enjoyed taking a hike out to Turn Point on Stuart Island and checking out the lighthouse, the magnificent view from Lover’s Leap (and a Minke sighting!), plus thorough enjoyment of the fall foliage, a little pickup basketball, cute kittens and lots and lots of laughs. While there were many highlights, the boat continues to be a downside to many of our days. The electic motor is excellent for acoustic recordings but it runs for only about an hour on battery power therefore it isn’t safe for us to use it for long before we need to conserve for docking and other such activities. Further, the generator had problems on three of the seven days, first it would only start with extreme difficulty, then it wouldn’t start at all, and finally the starter cord broke so there wasn’t even a chance to start it at all. Luckily on Sunday we had nasty weather which means wind and we were able to sail most of the way from Jones Island back to Friday Harbor-at one point we even had the boat flying at a whopping 9 knots, three or four times faster than any other day that week. The only trouble was that once we tried to bring the boat back to the dock the batteries died and we had no propulsion and the wind was blowing us onto the rocks. Thankfully, our team was able to quickly extend docklines and haul the boat into the dock, fighting wind and lack of maneuverability the whole way. Now that we have all showered and checked in with the “real world” we’re getting ready to head out for one last hoorah…our fingers are crossed for killer whales, sunny skies, wind, and a flawless boat…but really, that’s quite a lot to ask so we’ll be keeping our hopes up for even just one. Plus…next week is Peggy’s birthday, Leslie’s birthday and my birthday…how much more fun could we ask for!?!
So, my time here with Beam Reach is almost over.
I’ve begun analyzing data, and I’m not gonna lie – I’m excited.
The boat… has been the boat, and it’s definately not an ideal research platform, but we’ve been able to have several good enocunters with the whales regardless.
Dalls porpoises are in love with our boat… they’ve come to bowride several times and once even tried to coerce us into regaining propulsion and so they could bowride. Sadly, it didn’t work, but they gave it a good 15 minute try! We’ve seen a Stellar sea lion (endangered) and eagles, and all sorts of other nifty wildlife.
We got to go ashore for a bit on Stuart island – and it was very nice. A cute little island with some good hiking and curious deer, and a fascinating little schoolhouse.
I’m totally distracted, so I’m gonna keep this short, but overall I’m still enjoying myself, getting along with people, and loving the research element of it – despite the myriad of technical difficulties. I’m excited about that, it means I’m in the right place. My new computer is supposed to be arriving today and hopefully that’ll make data analyzation fastier and easier – well, maybe not easier, but more efficient. I’m looking forward to editing my paper and starting to put together my powerpoint presentation.
My last and final thought is I’m going stir crazy for 5 simple reasons: I miss my cat, I miss my friends, I miss being a carnivore, I miss spinning, and good god do I miss my high heels.
- but still having a totally great time!! just getting antsy.
Ok, that’s all for now. Lata Alligatas!
Well, what can I say besides we are still alive. The great October sunshine has officially disappeared and the rain has come. Thankfully I like the rain in moderations. This week was harder than most because we had a relief captain and the boat broke AGAIN! We have been using the dinghy as the only source of powering the boat and get really wierd looks from people when entering a marina. Ya, I would probably stare too if I wasn’t on the boat. We had no power when docking at the labs today and the boat almost got away by doing a 360 in the docking area. Luckily it took six people to pull the boat into the dock while the wind was trying it’s hardest to push it away. We once again walked the boat into the dock at the labs. At least I got data this week and am excited to have it finished and analyzed quick. I am losing some data points because of some electric noise screwing up the recordings. I realize that’s just how science works. I am counting the days to be able to see my family when they come up. I hope to get more opportunities to acquire more data for my project in this next week. I do hope to have my project complete soon. Did I mention we also had some great porpoise bow riders last week, it was a highlight of mine!
As of today we have now completed our third week of the sea component. We set out with new methods and ideas for projects ready to test them in practice. Also, Scott joined us for the week to get a sense of what we’d accomplish and to work out difficulties we’d been encountering. I’d have to say our duties this past week could be summarized effectivly in one word…”SCIENCE” Each day we talk about goals for the day, task to accomplish and projects to work on, but it typically comes down to doing just plain old “SCIENCE”. Some days this entails our killer whale research projects, while other days we record water quality data from various locations in the San Juan Island to monitor specifications of the water that might affects eel grass growth. Sometimes we’re fiddling with equipment, trying to reduce water flow noise past the hydrophone or troubleshooting a number of computer programs designed to analyze acoustic data. But some of the best SCIENCE abord the Gato Verde comes spontaneously through frequent observations. One day we sailed in front of the Lime Kiln Lighthouse, sprawled across the trampoline on the bow marveling at the Dall’s porpoises surfing the wake off our bow. On another occasion we spotted sea lions rummaging through a mixing area picking out prey and occasionally keeping an eny on our boat as we drifted past. And finally some days, there is not much to observe minus “birds, boats, and lots and lots of water!” best communicated in a thick British accent.
That said, all of us Beam Reachers are having a fantastic time abord the Gato Verde, floating up and down the Westside, talking with experts and enthusiats in the field of killer whale research, doing our own “SCIENCE” and keeping ourselves sane with jokes, games, silly accents, great food and nightly entertainment…
um…who loves October!!
Stay tuned for updates from week seven of the Beam Reach Adventure…
It has been far too long since I’ve “blogged” and much has happened. First and foremost, I’ve seen breaching Orcas and bow riding Dall’s Porpoise and its been great. There are only 3 weeks left of the course, unbelievably. In the 7 weeks we’ve been here we’ve been to Lime Kiln State Park, a short kayaking trip, a short sail on a Cal 20 with the Commodore of the local yacht club, developed research proposals including methodology, meet many interesting people including some well known killer whale researchers, and we’ve spent 3 weeks on a catamaran around the San Juan Islands. Our first two weeks were an adventure. The first week we mostly spent getting used the boat and learning about sailing as the whales weren’t around. The second week we had two encounters with the whales and perhaps as interestingly the propulsion system on the boat stopped working. Our relief captain stepped up to the challenge and although we had no propulsion and little wind we managed to spend another couple of days on the water until safely returning to the Friday Harbor Labs. To return to the labs we rigged the dinghy up at the stern between the two hulls and ran that 18hp engine which was able to push us back to the labs and allowed for decent steering ability using the catamaran’s rudder. Somehow that week every time we were docking with little/no engine capabilities and only light winds I always ended up at the helm. I don’t mean to brag but I did pretty damn well and am proud of myself, plus I really learned a lot over that interesting week. Our third week out on the boat, the propulsion was mostly fixed and we were back with the owner/captain. We had one great day with the whales and collected quite a bit of good data but then the disappeared for the rest of the week. We kept ourselves busy with data analyzing and reading while we drifted around in Haro Strait hoping to intercept the whales as the returned. Despite having no Orcas we had a couple of wonderful encounters with some Dall’s Porpoise. There was one day we were sailing at 5kts or so and a group of 6-10 came up and bow rode for at least 20 min. I was sitting up on the starboard bow seat and when the came up to breathe they were 3 feet away and it felt like I could reach out and touch them. With their distinct black and white shading we could see them as they swam around underwater near the surface. A couple of days later we were just drifting with the current in Haro and a group of Dall’s came up and played around the boat for maybe 30 min. It was great!