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Journals 2004/2005

Linda Hoffman
Palms Middle School, West Los Angeles, California

"Structure of Populations, Levels of Abundance,
and Status of Humpback whales (SPLASH)"

NOAA Ship McArthur
July 28 - August 28, 2004
Journal Index:
Journal Index:
July 28 - 29 - 30 - 31
August 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9 - 10 - 11

          12 - 13 - 14 - 15 - 16 - 17 - 18 - 19

          21 - 22 - 23 - 24 - 25 - 26 - 27 - 28

August 3, 2004

Better seas this morning. I feel a lot better so I will not take any medicine. I did photo identification all morning. My eyes go cross-eyed after awhile but I am hoping to find another match.

1 pm. I go up on the fly bridge with Beth, Barbara, and Cornelia. Cornelia nickname is corndog and eagle eye. She can find whales and exotic birds before anyone on the cruise. She suddenly spots a family of Orcas. They have very low blows but Cornelia spots them over 7miles away. As she instructs the ship to its destination, the Orcas keep zigging and zagging away from us and we were unable to get a photo. Orcas are photographed differently then humpbacks. One needs to get the left side of their saddle below the fin. Thus the ship needs to be on their right side. As soon as we do this, the Orcas turn and show us their back or they suddenly dive and disappear.

At one point we had two different groups of Orcas but then they came together as one group. They were originally swimming towards the humpbacks we had sighted. If they are transient Orcas, they will eat a baby humpback if they decide to do so.

We launch the small boat and decided to go back and get photo id's and biopsies of the humpbacks we sighted. I was supposed to go out on the small boat but I decided to let my roommate Jessica go out instead. When she came back she warned me that if I was to go out on the small boat I better have a lot of strength in my arms to hold on especially when the boat hits the waves hard. I thought to myself, "how do I know if I have enough strength until I am out there." Yeeks.

I am exceptionally good at spotting and keeping track of the whales but I soon realize I am terrible at determining the distance the whales are from the ship. I am amazed at how well Beth and other scientists can determine the distance just with their naked eye. She can even determine the speed and direction of the whale as well. Well that's why I need to work more on the binoculars which would give me at least the distance and bearing.

I am watching Beth putting in the data on the computer. First she locks in the information which includes the observers sight number, the first clue as to what they saw, ie, blow, etc, what binoculars they're using, bearing of mammal, raticle of mammal, species number if identified, date, time, traveling direction, weather, beaufort, visibility, etc. They also call down to Shannon who is in the dry lab and they ask her if she is hearing anything on the hydrophone. Sometimes Shannon directs the ship to sounds she is hearing as she calculates the mammal's distance and direction.

Interview with Todd Chandler-small boat-R-1 driver and scientist.

The small boat is 6.5-meter hard bottom inflatable boat. It holds four people each with a specialization. The driver is also the data recorder, Juan Carlos, bows man, and a primary and secondary photographer. The small boat is more maneuverable and faster than the mother ship, which is 224 feet long, and it takes awhile for it to change direction. Todd explained how Juan needs to hit the side fluke below the dorsal fin to get a biopsy. Also it is an opportunity to see if the animal had or once had an entanglement. Todd works out of Cascadia, which does research out of Olympia, Washington. This is a non-profit organization.

He was contracted out to do this cruise by Dr. Barlow. He specialized in photo identification in the 1980's when most of the photographs were on film. It is so much better now to take photographs on digital, as it is less expensive.

Todd has worked for fourteen years with Cascadia Research. As mentioned before, this is the first time that a scientist has been allowed to run the small boat. Dr.Barlow feels they will get more samples then ever before as a scientist at the helm is more determined to get the needed photos and shots and knows the behavior of the whales.

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