September 2, 2005
I woke this morning to a page over the intercom system calling Gary Friedrichsen to the bow for biopsies. Finally the weather broke, and we were back on effort! Short-beaked common dolphins were riding the bow again, but this time they had company. A few fin whales were in the area, but not close enough to draw my attention from the bow riders. The dolphins stayed for a while, allowing Gary and Laura Morse to get the biopsies needed.
The next couple of sightings were sperm whales, but we did not get close enough to go crazy. The absolute highlight of the day was after dinner when a group of common dolphins were spotted near the horizon. It took me a minute or so to find them on the big eyes, but I soon had the dolphins in the binoculars and watched them as they headed toward the ship. Cornelia Oedekoven was on the flying bridge directing the XO which way to steer the Jordan to best keep us with them. As I watched the dolphins get closer, I soon realized that all the splashing in the water was actually dolphins porpoising! At first I thought they were whitecaps. Porpoising is a term that refers to the way small cetaceans make low, arcing leaps as they travel rapidly near the surface. Their splashes were everywhere. It was like an army of dolphins approaching the ship! Hundreds and hundreds of short-beaked common dolphins were playing near the ship and riding the bow. I never imagined I would see so many dolphins in one place! Captain Von Saunder saw me watching from the flying bridge and asked if I wanted to go into the bow chamber again. I was soon positioned under the water and watched the dolphins as they rode the Jordan's waves. We could even hear the dolphins whistling! I watched in awe for about twenty minutes until they lost interest and swam away. It is exciting to be back on effort again!
Mammal observer Gary Friedrichsen is the lead biopsy person and id specialist on this leg of the cruise. He started his career with Southwest Marine Fisheries as an observer on the tuna/dolphin project and has been working for them intermittently ever since. Just to let you know how long Gary has worked for the lab, mammal observers are given a number that stays with them for life. Gary's number is 001! Gary has done research in the Atlantic Ocean, Antarctica, and Alaska, but he has spent most of his time in the Pacific. He said if he added up all his research time at sea, it would amount to over five years! In between research projects, Gary was a commercial fisherman for almost thirty years, fishing for salmon, crab, and albacore. It is obvious Gary loves this ecosystem. He takes note of the fish, the birds, the invertebrates, everything. According to Gary, "The whole scene is quite enthralling!"
In an earlier journal entry, I mentioned the job of the Independent Observer. The IO on this leg is Mari Rosales. Mari's job is to watch for cetaceans, but as I mentioned before, she cannot call them out until they pass 90° from the bow. This is Mari's second time at sea. Her first trip with NOAA was as a visiting scientist on the 2003 STAR Project. Mari recently received her Masters in Biology from California State in Los Angeles where she did her thesis work on the population structure of coastal spotted dolphins (Stenella attenuata graffmani). The DNA analyses showed there are more distinct populations than previously thought. Mari hopes her future involves bridging the gap between scientists and the general public by making science more interesting and lively.