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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:
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 6, 2004

I spent the morning from 7:30am -11:04 sighting humpbacks off the Aleutians when we were in an off-effort mode. Allen is such a gem, since air one was on to the whales; I was able to take more fluke pictures with his instructions. I took shots of approximately five different animals and I must say I am getting really good at this. My first shot Allen said was excellent.

Since the small boat was in repairs, I had the opportunity to interview Juan Carlos the "marksman" onboard. He worked with Ken Balcomb in the Bahamas in 1996. This was such a surprise, since I worked with Ken Balcombs former wife Diane in the Bahamas in the 1990's as well. Juan did not strictly work with biopsy samplings until this SPLASH cruise. He explained that there are two kinds of bows onboard.

The shifts on the small boat are rigorous. They're basically on call the entire day from 6am till 9pm depending on the weather and visibility. Rain does not stop them from going out. They travel many, many miles from the mother ship but stay within visibility of the ship. We can't see them but they can see us. There are crewmembers on board that keep track of their location at all times.

I also talked briefly to Kevin. Kevin is a crewmember who is interning onboard the McArthur II. Basically that means he does everything from maintenance such as painting the ship to steering the ship. He hopes to get a fulltime job with Noaa when his internship is done.

The ship is divided into three sections-Steward, Deck and Engineer. Kurt another crewmember told me he is a "wiper." The name is derived from when the crew needed the ships windows wiped. Today it means he puts light bulbs in the ship when needed. The steward handles the general functioning of the ship, and the engineer section mainly handles the electronics of the ship and motor of the small boat and the ship itself.

Today the flybridge is on effort again, so I can only call blows after a 90degree angle, so I decided to stay inside and match more fluke pictures. Dr.Barlow tells the team that he wants more sightings off shore. I asked Dr. Barlow why he wanted us off shore when we are sighting many humpbacks along the shoreline; he tells me that the shoreline research has been done before. No one has researched the off shore population. It has been too expensive and the weather too unpredictable. It is obvious that our research in these waters during leg 2 might be the only research done in this area on humpbacks for a long time. It will be too expensive to repeat this research in the near future.

9pm. As I once again decide to take a nap, Barbara comes running into the room. "Linda," Barbara says. "The volcano you have been talking about can be seen from the boat and it is smoking."

Before I boarded the ship, I had been studying the weather and the volcanoes along the Aleutian chain. I printed out a map of the area and circled the two volcanoes that were active in the area where we would be studying the whales. When I was onboard, several scientists found out about my map and they wanted a copy. Dr. Barlow was very interested about my findings as well. So, here we were right in front of one of the active volcanoes. I immediately get up and run to the bow of the ship to take video pictures of the volcano. I also take pictures of the amazingly beautiful sunset.

Photo: Protected Resources Division, Southwest Fisheries Science Center, La Jolla, California.

Almost all the scientists are on the flybridge watching the volcano through the big eye binoculars. Then it is time to cover the binoculars, computer, deck chairs, etc. The green data books and cameras are taken downstairs into the lab at night. It is finally time to call it a wrap for the night. "Blow", "I see a blow", says Beth. Shuuuu everyone chimes. It's a wrap. So one humpback gets away without a photo shot. Good Night.

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