Archive for the ‘2010 fall’ Category


Humpback-fluke 1


When you set out for Ithaka
ask that your way be long,
full of adventure, full of instruction.
The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops,
angry Poseidon – do not fear them:
such as these you will never find
as long as your thought is lofty, as long as a rare
emotion touch your spirit and your body.
The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops,
angry Poseidon – you will not meet them
unless you carry them in your soul,
unless your soul raise them up before you.

Ask that your way be long.
At many a Summer dawn to enter
with what gratitude, what joy –
ports seen for the first time;
to stop at Phoenician trading centres,
and to buy good merchandise,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and sensuous perfumes of every kind,
sensuous perfumes as lavishly as you can;
to visit many Egyptian cities,
to gather stores of knowledge from the learned.

Have Ithaka always in your mind.
Your arrival there is what you are destined for.
But don’t in the least hurry the journey.
Better it last for years,
so that when you reach the island you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to give you wealth.
Ithaka gave you a splendid journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She hasn’t anything else to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka hasn’t deceived you.
So wise you have become, of such experience,
that already you’ll have understood what these Ithakas mean.

By Constantine P Cavafy (1863-1933, Greece)

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A new found love

Okay so I admit, coming into this program I didn’t think I would actually get into sailing, but I also didn’t know much about it. I was completely wrong, I LOVE IT! Aboard the Gato Verde, Captain Todd teaches us a variety of things about the boat and sailing like: how to tie knots, points of sail, right of way while sailing, parts of the boat and the list could go on. Sailing is definitely up there with being around the whales, it’s THAT fun! Here just are just a few of my top moments:
1. So, here we are in a program called Beam Reach. Well beam reach is an actual point of sail! This is known as the fastest point of sail where the wind is perpendicular to the boat. Although it may be the fast and some people say it’s the “best sailing”  but Todd doesn’t agree with that so we spend most of our time in a close reach, which is a zone, instead of a point of sail. I must admit I was rather excited to learn this!

Here is a video Scott posted on the Beam Reach facebook page, that I was completely blown away by. This kite surfer is at the point of sail; beam reach.

2. Living on the Gato Verde we are considered part of the crew. We don’t sit back and relax while Todd does all the work. After he shows us how things work and what to do, we get a chance to try it ourselves. The best moment for me thus far would have to be hoisting the mainsail. I was really nervous before I started, but after that first pull I was into it. I got it most of the way up before my own body weight couldn’t pull the rope anymore and I had to wench it the rest of the way.  It’s actually a full body work out too!  There is always a sense of accomplishment after hoisting the mainsail, or even just helping with a tack, or chicken jibe.

Todd teaching us how to reef, and hoist the mainsail

3. While under sail Todd gives us each a turn at the helm. (Actually, the first time he let us take the helm was the very first day on the boat, talk about some real trust!) I’ll admit during my time at the helm, I’m rather nervous and stressed, there is so much to pay attention to, and if you move the wheel in the slightest bit, the boat really turns, and dodging the kelp really throws me off sometimes. But, once you get a hang of it, it is rather fun.

4. If the wind gets above 30 knots we have to stay in at anchor, but we have had a couple very windy, stormy days under 30 knots. On these days we bundle up in layers and waterproof gear and go sit out by the trampoline. It’s almost like being on the Disneyland ride, Splash Mountain, but so much better! The waves come breaking over the bow, up through the trampoline and we get covered in water. I feel like a little kid on my first rollercoaster! It brings laughter amongst the group, smiles, and a whole new type of joy.

Garrett Cat and I enjoying getting splashed

Waves crashing over the bow

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Oh hey Humpbacks!

Canada may be my new favorite place. Here’s why:

WE SAW HUMPBACKS!!!!!!! It was INCREDIBLE! It was my first time seeing humpbacks, and they got pretty close to our boat–they’re HUGE!!! We also got to see some characteristic fluke shots (they dove deep enough that their entire flukes came out of the water. We got some pretty incredible photos and even video! How many cool/awesome/amazing/gorgeous/inspiring moments can I keep having?!?!?! we also got to see transient killer whales, which we haven’t seen before. They look and behave so differently than the residents we’ve been seeing and it was so cool to compare them. Plus, I found a buddy with the transients: there was one that has scoliosis, so I bonded with it and feel especially attached to it (I have fairly advanced scoliosis so I feel bonded to all creatures, besides snakes, which a curvy spine!)! I’m in love with all the amazing creatures I’ve been getting to see!! Everyday is absolutely spectacular!

We were in Victoria for an acoustics conference, which was very interesting. It’s really cool to hear about how many ways acoustics is being used for different types of projects.  Many of the abstracts are up online at It was also held at Canada’s only carbon-neutral hotel, which was pretty cool.

The city of Victoria is gorgeous and fun to go out and explore, although we were all pretty overwhelmed coming into a city after having been on the boat (and out of contact with much of civilization).

Today we’re heading out for our final (!!!!!) week on the water. I have absolutely no idea where the time has gone. Certainly it’s flown by way too fast! I know I’m going to enjoy absolutely every minute out on the water because I doubt I’ll ever get this chance again. This program has been amazing, and I know the last week on the water will be the same!

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

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

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

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

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

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Victoria, Whales, Plankton, and the Conference

In order to get to Victoria and the conference we had to cross Haro Strait and start heading West through the strait of Juan de Fuca.  We had to make a quick stop in the harbor, in order to pass customs for Canada, but after we were cleared the opportunity arose to watch a few Humpbacks in area.  We got some amazing photos, and Cat even got some recordings of the blows with her fancy parabola set up.  She also had a close call involving a hatch, but everything turned out okay (see her blog for more information).  After the we got some amazing videos and pictures of the Humpbacks we turned around and found some transient killer whales near by.  We heard that the transients had killed three seals just before we got to them, and when we found them they were all resting.

One major downside to spending time with the whales was we missed a chance to have a tour at Race Rocks on the southern tip of Vancouver Island.  The institute there sounded very interesting, and earlier Beam Reach classes have attempted to measure the underwater noise from a tidal turbine located in that area.  On the way into Victoria Harbor Scott deployed some Plankton towing equipment, and by using a microscope we were able to find some very interesting critters.  My Favorite was a bright orange Polychaete worm that had some very impressive looking spines.

We went to explore the city of Victoria as a group on our first night there, and in the end we all agreed that the city felt very strange after four weeks on the boat.  The next day was completely filled with the acoustics conference, and it was a new experience for me.  We heard a broad range of presentations that applied to current acoustical research, and our professor Jason Wood gave a talk about the killer whales we are studying.  Over all is was a great experience, and it was very interesting to see and meet other scientists that work in the field of acoustics.  Cat and I had a great opportunity to talk with the keynote speaker Christine Erbe, which was extra cool because we read  a few of her publications early on in the quarter.  Cat got some very interesting contacts, and I had a good time discussing my project with her.  We had a great chance to meet other students and see them present their personal research, and one in particular was in the process of studying the same killer was as Beam Reach.  We are currently on land and we are about to leave for our final week on the boat tomorrow.  Personally I am going to miss the atmosphere of the Gato Verde, and I plan on visiting Todd and the Gato Verde in Bellingham with my family in future.
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O Canada!

Last week on the boat, we spent a couple of days in Victoria, B.C.  To make friends with our neighbors to the north, we learned a few facts about Canada:

1.  Gained independence: 1867 or 1931, depending on who you ask.  It’s worth noting that there wasn’t an independent Canadian embassy to the US until 1947

2. Prime Minister: Stephen Harper

3.  Currency: Well, they call it a dollar, but there’s not a single President on it.  Nor are there any creepy masonic eye pyramids either, so maybe they’re onto something.

4.  National Anthem (Music so you can sing along)

O Canada!  The land where we saw whales
A whale-less week at sea, ends with a humpback tail
With Transients near the waterfront
And porpoises galore
With Mt. Baker as our photo mat
They swim away from shore!

O Canada! Your conference we attend
O Canada! We duly recommend
O Canada! Jason’s talk at 10

O Canada! Your showers take loonies
What’s one to do, with American currency?
The Mounties nearly chased us down
On the morn we left early
But all was good, for we ate our way
Through our surplus fruits and veggies!

O Canada! Your conference we attend
O Canada! We duly recommend
O Canada! Jason’s talk at 10

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Birthdays, Whales, and Sustainability

Our break on land was very useful because it gave everyone a chance to use the wireless internet, and get some things done. The first day back on the water was mostly spent traveling to Port Townsend because reports of whales came in from Puget Sound. Unfortunately, the whales decided to pass directly by where we were staying during the night, and we could even hear their blows despite not being able see them. Also there is a hydrophone installed at at the dock there, and it did an excellent job picking up calls from the whales as they pasted by in the dark. Some of the students took advantage of being on land by taking walks after dinner, and a few even took a cold shower in the morning (I wasn’t brave enough for the shower). During a walk Cat, Hana, and I found the old remains of what once was Fort Warden. This was very interesting stop, however, the next day was spent fighting a extremely strong current to get back to San Juan Island and the whales. It was a good day for everyone to work on their projects because of the long trip. Going North payed off and we found the whales, and in the process we made it close to Cherry Point and Bellingham, which is my hometown, so that was fun so see it from the water. One day when we were with the whales near Victoria we witnessed close to 20 spy hops and whales breaching left and right; this resulted in some excellent pictures and videos.

The group also celebrated our second and third birthdays on the boat with some delicious dinners, and whale shaped cake, and a cheesecake. The birthdays helped pass the days that we didn’t see many whales. For 10/10/10 we decided to write an editorial as a group to advocate for people to make a small sustainable change in their day to day lives. 10/10/10 is an call to action for keeping the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere to 350 ppm.

Everyone had strong opinions about this topic, and the group had some interesting discussions while we wrote the piece. On that Sunday Scott had everyone form the number for 350 with our bodies, and he was hoisted to the top of the mast with his camera for some really cool pictures. Now we are getting ready for a conference starting on Wednesday in Victoria Canada. Customs have cleared us in Rouche Harbor and we are planning on leaving bright and early tomorrow.

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I’ve eaten porpoise spit, have you???

Ok, now I know what you might be thinking: Porpoise spit?? Disgusting! But, before you judge, consider what I mean. There we were, sailing along on a gorgeous sunny October day (that happened to be Megan’s 21st birthday—Happy Birthday!) when we were lucky enough to get Dall’s porpoises bow riding the Gato Verde again! How fortunate can one Beam Reach group get! They were so close that Megan and I, who were enjoying some fresh, crisp, amazingly delicious honeycrisp apples, got showered with some of the spray from their blows. HOW COOL IS THAT?? Too amazing. You’re jealous you haven’t gotten to eat porpoise spit, admit it.

How about some more random facts about the current Beam Reach experience:

1) I have now become a measure of temperature for the group. Despite my Midwestern roots, I am by far the coldest member of the boat at any time. I am typically wearing 2-3, sometimes 4 more layers than anyone else. Need an ice pack? Try my fingers!

2) Dave is pulling ahead in the cribbage competition. Which is absolutely not ok with this highly competitive girl…

3) Val Veirs (my current hero) has created a click detecting (aka “click counter”) program for my data analysis. Though this is wonderful and could make my data analysis infinitely easier, I’m still fighting with it, trying to get accurate and consistent results. I will keep you posted on my struggle with technology.

4) I am the first, and only, Beam Reacher to get stuck on an oar while climbing into the dinghy. This occurred while Megan, Cat, and I were attempting to go for a walk while anchored at Prevost. I won’t pretend that I’m the most graceful person, but I may have outdone myself with this stunt: wobble into dinghy, stumble down to the stern to make room for others, find myself (via the back straps of my lifejacket) attached to oar, attempt to free myself, only manage to flail about a bit, and nearly lose the oar in the water. Luckily, Megan had already successfully climbed into the dinghy and freed me from my trap. Whew. I think I impressed even Jason with that one.

5) The log of a number is the power of 10 that gets you the number!

6) When sewage doesn’t go where it’s supposed to go, it’s no fun for anyone. Seriously (thank you Capitan Todd!)

7) There isn’t a cooler view than standing on the roof of the galley. Well, maybe the roof of the cockpit is better. I don’t think you’ve lived until you’ve gotten a chance to experience a sunny day with an ocean full of whales until you’ve done that.

8 ) Orca shaped funfetti birthday cakes are the most delicious of all.

9) I’m running out of random facts.

10) When orcas pass your boat (that is fighting a strong current) and you can’t keep up with them, it feels exactly the same as when bikes pass your car while you’re sitting in traffic. Not a great feeling.

10) Oh oh! October 6, 2010 may have been one of the best days yet (are you sick of me saying that yet??)

So. Here’s why today was awesome. Gorgeous, sunny, (albeit a little chilly) fall day. Lovely trip down to Discovery Island, where we drifted a little and came upon…WHALES! There were like 20 whales all bunched together. So cool! There was a ton of spyhopping, and I mean a TON….we’re talking up to 3 at a time and like 20 in the span of 2 minutes! And even better, DALL’S PORPOISES CAME TO PLAY (would you really play with a predator that can, and has killed your kind??) with the whales!!!! The porpoises were darting around with the whales, even following some of them directly. It looked like a blast, and was such an amazing sight to see two beautiful species interacting like that. Definitely a top 3 moment for me!! That was the most exciting whale adventure for the day, but after a slight wrong turn south at False Bay, we headed north with them and saw some great foraging behavior. After docking at Jones Island tonight, we got to enjoy a warm dinner, leftover birthday cake (some of us may or may not have skipped right to the leftover frosting…), stargazing, and….RACOONS! I know I should be used to how cute they are and accept them for the dirty pests most people see them as, but they climbed up on our boat and were just SO CUTE! They’d press their little faces up against the glass and peer in, we’d scare them away (well, not all of us), and then they’d return for more fun. It was adorable. Granted, now we have to sleep with all our hatches closed since one did attempt to climb in to cuddle with Jason. All in all, a terrific day!

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This day deserves its own post because…



My 21st birthday spent aboard the Gato Verde has definitely been one of my better birthdays. The morning started off with opening the box from my sister, which had the “perfect meal” in it: cheese, fruit, and chocolate in the form of easy mac and dark chocolate raisenets. It was classic. The whales hadn’t been sighted in over 24 hours so in hopes of cutting them off as they came back in, we headed south towards Discovery Island. There were a couple updates about Humpbacks and Transients, but they were too far for us to get to them, so we drifted for a couple hours in hopes they might come closer to us. During our drift we were surrounded by seals in Harbor Porpoises, at least they wanted to say hi on my birthday. No luck with the whales, but the currents and wind were with us to sail back up island! On our journey back north we got a brief visit from Dall’s Porpoises bow riding our boat again! If I wasn’t going to see whales on my birthday, Dall’s were a good substitute.

When we pulled into our anchor spot for the night, Garisson Harbor, Todd gave us a little talk about what to in a man over board situation and taught us how to heave-to in order to retrieve them. That is when I got banished from being inside. Dave and I went to sit on the front deck and he caught me up on the right of way sailing talk that I had missed from being in the clinic the day before. I also took that time to call my parents and catch up on some journaling, and after a bit Dave came to keep me company with his guitar as the sun was starting to go down.

When I was finally allowed back inside (almost 2 hours later) I was welcomed with a best of James Brown dance party and my awesome birthday sign. I had requested Vanessa’s mushroom stroganoff for dinner, which was AMAZING! Then it was time for my surprise that everyone else had been working on…AN ORCA CAKE!! Hands down the coolest cake I’ve ever had.

Along with my Orca cake, Leslie (Val’s wife) and I had made two shoo fly pies  the day before while I was not allowed back on the boat. Shoo fly pie is my favorite pie my grandma makes for me when she comes to visit me, it’s a tradition Amish pie and it’s so yummy! As if the cake wasn’t enough the group all signed a card with words of “wisdom” for being 21, got me an Orca wine glass, and a Bailey’s (non-alcoholic) chocolate bar as a joke since we are on a dry boat.

Click here for a recipe of shoo fly pie, or to just find out what it is!

Shoo Fly Pie

So, even though I was on a dry boat for my 21st birthday, I would say I had more fun than most people on their 21st because of the awesome people I was able to spend it with, the memories made, and the laughs that were had.  Plus, how many people get to say they have spent their birthday on a boat surrounded by marine mammals?

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