September 6, 2005
High winds kept us off effort most of the day. We started with a Beaufort Scale of 6, indicating winds over 22 knots. The winds died down then picked up, only to die down again. We were off effort, on effort, off effort, on effort. Fortunately both times on effort, mammal observer Annie Douglas distinguished dolphin splashes from whitecaps at a distance of about three miles. It was quite impressive! With a change in course, we soon had hundreds of common and striped dolphins join us for the ride.
I have mentioned the Beaufort Scale several times during this journey. Admiral Beaufort of the British Navy constructed this scale back in 1800s. The scale relates wind forces to sea states. The Beaufort Scale consists of numbers from 0 to 12 indicating the strength or force of the wind. When the winds are from 22-27 knots (25-31 mph), it is a Beaufort 6.
At sea, knots are used as the unit of measure for speed and nautical mile is the measurement for distance. One nautical mile is equal to 1.15 miles. A nautical mile takes into consideration the curvature of the Earth. The term knot refers to the number of knots in a line that pass over the stern of the vessel in a thirty second period. This method was used to determine the speed of a vessel. Sailors would toss a knotted line overboard and count the number of knots taken out. This determined the 'knots' or speed of the ship. The term knot was then also used as a unit of measure for wind speed at sea.
Even though the conditions were not favorable for the mammal observers most of the day, the bird observers were busy at work on the flying bridge. Since their transect is only 300 meters from the ship, rough seas and high winds are not as much of a problem. The birders can be on effort until the Beaufort is greater than 6, or it is really foggy or pouring rain. Otherwise, Thomas Staudt or Scott Mills is on the flying bridge scouting for birds and recording their findings.
This is Scott's 5th time at sea with NOAA. His previous NOAA trips were all off the coast of Washington, mostly within the Olympic Coast Marine Sanctuary. Scott considers himself "mostly retired," but stays involved in his field in many ways. Several times a year, Scott leads Westport Seabird trips out of Washington. His job on the trips is to show people birds and also to count seabirds. Seabirds off the Washington coast have been counted by "spotters" on these trips since the early 1970s. Scott also does some environmental consulting work every year. When he worked full time, Scott worked mostly on projects which involved endangered species. Scott received his doctorate in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona where he also had the opportunity to teach ornithology for a couple of semesters.
Thomas Staudt, the other diehard birder, is doing all the CSCAPE legs for NOAA. His last NOAA trip was in 1990 on the Eastern Tropical Pacific study. Thomas has spent many months of the last eight years in Antarctica, providing support for all the scientific studies being conducted and working with the hazardous waste program. From October through February, Thomas lived at Antarctica's McMurdo Station where up to 1,000 residents work each summer. Thomas has also done a variety of environmental surveys, most recently for the state and federally listed Ferruginous Cactus Pygmy Owl.
Interestingly, Scott and Thomas knew each other when they lived in Arizona and they worked together in the early 1990s doing Golden-cheeked Warbler surveys in Texas. They had not seen each other since until this trip. I have found this to be the case with many of the mammal observers. Their careers may take them to a variety of places in the world, however, certain projects have them crossing paths every now and then.