Archive for the ‘2009 spring’ Category

Science blogbook: Mackaye Harbor – Snug Harbor – Jones Island north

Mackaye Harbor – Snug Harbor – Jones Island north


The seas were almost barf-inspiring today as we battled the wind northward along the west side of San Juan.  We tucked into Mitchell Bay to drop off Val for his haircut appointment (?!) and then continued around the northern tip of the island.  All was going well until we got to Spieden Channel, where the current began pushing us backwards.  We were forced to turn on our engines in order to make it to the north bay of Jones Island.  There we romped around in the rain and finished up the eveining with a double header:  Return of the Plankton (dum dum dumm) and The Life Aquatic.

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Science blogbook: Snug Harbor – Mackaye Harbor

Snug Harbor – Mackaye Harbor

This morning we had a quick breakfast and collected a gray water sample for Erica and Peter’s surfactant sustainability project from the water used to wash dishes. We spent the morning discussing our progress in becoming comfortable with data analysis methods.  We pumped out and filled up with fresh water and then headed towards Discovery Island to try to record the metallic plink that you can hear on the Lime Kiln and OrcaSound hydrophones. Because we didn’t hear the plink we recorded the noise produced by the Gato Verde with various electronics on.  We spent the afternoon motor-sailing and working on our individual projects. Hannah and Jason made a lovely dinner of falafel, tzatziki (sp??) and veggie stir fry.  Hannah and I attempted a repeat performance of the Team H Caramel Covered Chocolate Spice Cake and we all enjoyed  some deck yoga.

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Robots vs. Aliens


Ahhh, aboard the Gato Verde we seem to have plenty of free time to follow our follies,  like experimenting with watercolors and debating/detesting the role of robots in our lives- now a daily occurrence, and the most recent source of my passionate confusion.

If you’re wondering what I mean by robots, look no further, because if you are reading this, then one is literally staring you in the face right now.  It has always seemed weird to me that we try to learn more about the natural world by bottling it into numbers, spreadsheets, graphs, and whatever else robots like to eat.  The results are in robot-speak, trying to describe with squared off logic the spherical realm.

It’s easy to be an advocate for robots, and it is this propensity for ease that has led us to welcome them into our homes and lives.  Despite this, I invite you to think critically about our ever-increasing robot dependency and the balance that could exist between our experiences in the natural world and our obsession with quantification.

Is it enough to thoroughly experience an environment and form a relationship with it in order to foster an understanding of it?  Could controlling and testing aspects of an environment reveal, in numbers, more valuable insights than our senses and intuition as part of the natural world provide?  I feel that natural history splits the difference here between sheer experience and logical interpretation of the natural world.  Unfortunately, the way we have engineered our institutions of learning has led us to a point now that places little or no value on natural historians, in favor of research.  Science is loosing the humanity with which it began, as it veers from physical experience in the natural world to number crunching and technological interpretations.  It is this dominance of fact over truth that I have found incredibly demoralizing as I continue exploring on my educational path.  Could there still be a way to do science that bridges the gap between knowledge and understanding?

Regardless, have no fear.  I’m sure when J-Pod returns there will be little to no free time aboard the Gato Verde for painting, debates, and blog-writing, so expect the next ones to be short!

Over and out,
Hannah McGowan

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Science blogbook: Reid Harbor – Snug Harbor

Reid Harbor – Snug Harbor

After an efficent morning chore period, we had a long discussion of our current scientific methods and how they need to be changed and improved.   Jason also began to examine the OrcaMaster data set.
In the afternoon, we sank a Vemco receiver in front of Val’s house to pick up the pings from the salmon experiments.  The Vemco was deployed at 14:45 at 48, 33.7 and 123, 10.81 in around 10 meters of water.  The serial number was 100913.
We did a quick drill with the hydrophone array and recorded the noise of the Gato Verde at 4 knots and varying speeds below as it slowed down. We did a quick man overboard drill with a hockey helmet that we’d found and then spent the early evening learning how to motor around in the dinghy.  After a filling dinner, everybody worked through the evening. Peter and Val analysed some of the data we took on the Gato Verde’s noise levels and found some interesting results that will need further experimentation.

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Man Overboard!

We’ve had a full, exciting day today, a perfect Beam Reach day. I woke a bit later than usual, rolling out of my sleeping bag at 7:50 and wandering into the kitchen to find that almost everyone had already eaten. Jason and Bubbles, his traveling sourdough starter, had made lovely sourdough pancakes.

Our morning meeting turned into an extended, incredibly helpful, strategy session. The conversation, led by Val and Jason, flowed smoothly and ranged from the last bits of research we need to complete for our proposals, to amendments to our data sheets and data collection systems to beginning to practice our analysis. I don’t know about the others but I ended up with two pages of notes and a long list of new things to address or research. About half way through, we decided to “make like plankton,” drifting from Stuart Island, south down Haro Strait, listening to various hydrophones all the while. We were so engaged that we almost, but only almost, worked past lunch.

Our morning meeting in the sunnny cockpit

Our morning meeting in the sunny cockpit

In the course of “making like plankton” we came across some interest flotsam. I asked for the definition of flotsam while writing this and Val promptly answered, “The things you find at garage sales.” It is actually, Todd tells me, the things you find floating in the water. Anyway, today we came across a hockey helmet, a construction hardhat and a circular piece of polystyrene (Styrofoam).

We had an equally busy afternoon, sinking a receiver in front of Val’s house to pick up the pings from transmitters put in salmon. Using an array (pun intended) of ropes, tapes, weights and boats, we managed to sink a cement block attached to the receiver and anchor it to land. As we left, we did a quick drill, pulling out the hydrophone array, as quickly and neatly as possible.

We were just beginning to relax again when Todd yelled, “Man overboard!” There was a great deal of running around without a clue where to turn, trying to decide who would keep their finger pointed at the “man” overboard. This was additionally confusing because for the first few seconds, none of us could see what was supposed to be the “man.” Hannah tossed the man overboard pole like a javelin and if it had actually been a person in the water, they probably would have been impaled. The hockey helmet, our “man” was successfully rescued and we proceeded into Mitchell Bay.

I had just gone to pull out my laptop and start work on the to-do list I generated this morning when Todd called us together and began dinghy training. Erica and I went first as the night’s cooks. It was like learning how to drive all over again only backwards, all with one hand and out in the wonderful, open blue.

The reason I wanted to blog about this day in particular was mainly an idea I had just before dinner while dicing garlic to fry with zucchini. It’s the “Man Overboard” thing. Not only did I feel like today was a bit of a continuous “Man Overboard” drill, in a good, thought-provoking, keep-you-on-your-toes kind of way, but I’ve sort of come to decide that all of Beam Reach is a bit like a “Man Overboard” drill.

It presents challenges that are usually unexpected, a bit nerve-wracking, and have an enormous payoff, if successful. All of our Beam Reach overboards seem daunting and confusing at first, but with helpful direction, good judgments, reliable instincts and hard work, we can complete the rescue successfully.

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Science blogbook: Garrison Bay – Roche Harbor – Reid

Garrison Bay – Roche Harbor – Reid Harbor
We first started off our day heading towards Roche Harbor to do a captain switch and pick up Val.  Before we went into Roche Harbor we did a range (distance estimate) exercise.  We had to guess how far an object was then Jason told us the real answer.  Then we got to play with the radar and see the difference.  Then I got to radio the Harbor Master to find out where we were going to dock while we waited for the rest of the crew!!  While we were there the meat eaters got their fix.  Once Todd showed up with the supplies we refueled the Gato Verde and headed out to Reid Harbor.  Before we went to Reid we floated around Haro Straight hoping to see the Southern Residents.  We deployed the listening hydrophone at a latitude of
48 degrees and 38.7 North and a longitude  of 123 degrees and 12.72 West.  We did see plenty of Harbor porpoies, but we heard no whales.  So then we turned everything off and had journal club discussion which I lead.  The title of the paper was “Underwater noise of whale-watching boats and potential effects on killer whales (Orcinus Orca), based on an acoustic impact model” by Christine Erber.  During journal club we reached Reid Harbor and Matt and I started to cook.  We did not see any whales today, but I am sure we will see them as the season goes on.

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Science blogbook: Port Angeles – Garrison Bay

Port Angeles – Garrison Bay
The stong ebbing in the Straight of Juan de Fuca kept us anchored at Port Angeles until lunch.  We spent the morning working on our research proposals and calculating the calibration for the array of hydrophones.  As the currents began flooding, we cruised along keeping an eye out for the Southern Residents.  We deployed the listening hydrophone at 15:35 for a period of 15 minutes to try to hear the whales.  After a day of searching, all we were able to find was a couple of harbor porpoises.  Since people have been paying attention in the 1970s,the Southern Residents have always returned to these waters in April.  So we should have a better probability of seeing them with each passing day.

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Western patrol and Race Rocks turbine

Snug Harbor – Race Rocks – Port Angeles

Today we had an early start so that we could get out to Port Angeles in hopes of catching whales coming in the straight. We stopped by Race Rocks along the way so that we could deploy a hydrophone and see if the current generator makes any noise.
We made two recordings and watched the stellar sea lions sun bath on the rocks nearby. There were also three bald eagles and a lot of harbor seals sun bathing as well.
After the recordings we milled around the area and deployed a hydrophone every once in a while to see if we could hear any whales in the area but we had no such luck!
Eventually we headed into Port Angeles to anchor for the night and plan our trip back to the islands tomorrow. Our new science goals that we discussed are to calculate the calibration for the hydrophone array, and work on the behavior exercise.
We also plan to read this week’s journal article by wednesday for a discussion on it. The biggest goal that everyone agreed on was to find those whales!

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Following up on the mystery 'clanging' in Haro Strait

Mitchell Bay to Griffin Bay

After a hearty breakfast of chocolate chip pancakes thanks to Hilary we had an early start from Mitchell Bay out into Haro Strait.
As we headed south in Haro Strait we ended up with a decent breeze from the SE which we took advantage of for some nice sailing.
We practiced tacks, chicken jibes and a hove to. The hove to was performed in between Discovery Island and Beaumont Shoals, the area we thought was the potential source of the mysterious clanging on the hydrophones at Lime Kiln and Orca Sound.  Although we listened for 15 minutes we heard no clanging, but did hear the numerous container ships passing by. There was not a lot of wind and we were at slack low tide, so it may not have been the appropriate conditions needed to generate the mysterious clanging.
The breeze died down in the afternoon, but we did manage to ride what wind was available and the currents towards the south end of San Juan Island and into Cattle Pass.
We got to experience Cattle Pass on a raging flood. As we were sucked north by the current we managed to see 16 Stellar sea lions hauled out on Whale Rocks as well as cormorant nests on Goose Island.
Rounding the bend Captain Mike showed us how to anchor off the shore of American Camp in Griffin Bay where we worked on our localization exercise using the software Ishmael.

Altogether a sunny, breezey and pleasant day.

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More transients and localization

Prevost Harbor to Mitchell Bay
At 09:30 hours Val did a lecture on localization.  Right after the lecture we did an exercise on localization involving the ‘clangs’ at the OrcaSound and Lime Kiln hydorphone’s (there are some msyterious clanging/clinking sounds that have been heard intermitently on the hydrophones this winter/spring).  Our results indicated that the hyperbola leads to Discovery Island / Beaumont Shoals.  This is just an estimate from where the sound source may be.
Then at 13:25 hours we had an encounter with three transients whales.  We have IDed them as T10,T10B, and T10C.  We first saw them at Mandarte Is. and they were traveling northwest.  Then at 1400 hours they switched direction and started heading north towards Stuart Island.  Then entire time they were traveling.  We also found traces of whale poo!  It was another interesting encounter with the Transients.  It was a surprise encounter as well because they just popped out of the water and shocked us all!  Finally at 16:20 hours we did the localization exercise with the array and our sound source on the dinghy.  The position of the exercise was at N 98 degrees 34.902 W 23 degrees 11.881.
The data was uploaded to the Beam Reach computer and will be analyzed at a later date.

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