Monday, January 14, 2013

Kinder Waters

It was the day after my Sea Legs adventure.  The weather was decent, so we headed back to the water to find more whales.  Armed with motion sickness meds and a sleeve of saltine crackers, I prepared myself physically and emotionally for another potential oceanic disaster.  The winds and the waves had died down quite a bit overnight, so I was already feeling more confident in my abilities to maintain composure aboard our research vessel.  As we headed offshore, we got a call about a reported right whale that was sighted by a local beach-goer.  We were skeptical (did this person actually see a right whale?), but we decided to check it out just in case.

After a few minutes of searching near the reported location, we spotted something shiny and black off the starboard bow.  Further investigation proved our efforts were not in vain...our beach-goer was right!  We had found the mommy whale and her calf.  Our photo-ID confirmed that this was #2912.  Hydrophones were deployed, video was recorded, and behavioral data was collected.  There were a few bumps along the procedural road, but it was a great day to figure out things that worked well and things that may need to be tweaked in the protocol.  After a few hours with this pair, we deployed the CTD (a device that measures conductivity, temperature, and water depth) and packed up shop.  It was already time to head back for the night.

Overall, I was pleased with our day.  It wasn't perfect, but we have to have days like that to figure out the best way to collect the data that we want.  AND I doubled the number of whales on my "whales I've seen" list, and that, at least to me, is very very exciting.

But now, alas, it is my last night in Fernandina Beach.  I feel like I just got here!  I'm sad to be leaving so soon, but I'm so glad I was able to help out for the past ten days.  Until next time, right whales!

FUN SCIENCE FACT #33: The speed of sound in water is about five times faster than the speed of sound in air (1497 m/s in fresh water, compared to 343 m/s in air).  That's pretty fast.  With all these hydrophones hooked up, it's not uncommon to hear a boat coming before we actually see the boat coming.  Turns out oceans are noisy places.

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