August 3, 2001

ORCAWALE 2001:  Weekly Report for 7/30/01 to 8/1/01

The ORCAWALE cruise began at about 1330 as we slipped away from the Navy fuel pier.  We spent the first half-day shaking the bugs out of all the systems.  Thanks to the diligence of all, we were fully operational for several hours of mammal watch, hydrophone tests, and even a CTD station early on 7/31.

Tuesday, 7/31 was the first real day of survey effort.  It was punctuated by occasional small groups of common dolphins and ended with a surprise encounter with sperm whales.  The sperm whales evaded the acoustic observers but could not hide from the ever-vigilant visual observers.  After 10-, 60-, and 90-minute counts, we launched two RHIBs and got a biopsy, a sloughed skin sample from a breaching calf, and fluke photos.  We were off to a good start. 

Wednesday started with an almost immediate acoustic detection of more sperm whales.  These were also seen by the visual team a bit later.   Conditions were rougher, so we could not launch J-2 (the Lab’s RHIB), but we got 2 biopsies from J-1 plus some fluke photos.  We barely got back on effort when acoustics had picked up another cluster of sperm whales, later seen by the visual observers.  Again we launched J-1, but this time better success was had from the bow of the Jordan (3 biopsies and more fluke photos).  We got 60 and 90 minute counts on both groups today, which means that we covered very little trackline (a whopping 15 miles).   However, we did pick up a few more common dolphin sightings.

After 3 large sperm whale groups in 2 days, we’ve decided to re-name our cruise SWAPS-2001.  [I digress... SWAPS-1997 was the exciting expedition to the middle of nowhere, lead by Barb Taylor.  The Sperm Whale Abundance and Population Structure survey is fondly remembered as the cruise that featured the St. Patrick’s Day Massacre (5 straight days of Beauf 6+ with sustained winds reaching 50 kts) and the Triangle Tour (Bob and Lisa’s digression from trackline protocol that netted ~40 biopsy samples from a group of ~23 sperm whales).... end of digression].  Anyway, the first SWAPS cruise was so fun we decided to repeat it.  See you in Hawaii!

Late breaking news from 8/2/01.  Guess what!!!  More sperm whales.  This time it was an acoustic detection of a near-trackline lone male that was missed by the visual team.  We lined the ship up and got in place for a fluke shot.  Based on click patterns, we estimate that this animal was submerged for over 60 minutes!

073001 1526 N32:38.11 W117:26.67  30.4nmi  3.9
            1934 N32:36.98 W118:08.82
073101 0642 N32:37.74 W119:42.34  71.8nmi  4.4
            1542 N32:56.22 W121:08.40
080101 0645 N33:17.86 W122:43.72  14.8nmi  4.0
       1504 N33:21.32 W123:04.30

 Code                        Species     Tot#    

   05      common dolphin (unclassified)    1

   17           shortbeak common dolphin    5

   46                                sperm whale    3

                                               TOTAL    9

Oceanographic Update (Val Philbrick and Candice Hall)

We are fully oceanographically functional, now including primary productivity measurements. 

Day      #CTDs     #XBTs     #Bongos
7/30       0         0          0
7/31       1         4          1
8/01       1         3          1

Biopsy Report (Juan Carlos Salinas and Erin LaBrecque)
Photo-ID Report (Annie Douglas, Leigh Torres and Laura Morse)


Species                        #Biopsies     Cumulative     #ID-Photos
                                    (this week)     Total  

Physeter macrocephalus        7              7                     9
                       Total            7               7                     9

Seabirds Weekly Report (Michael Force and Cornelia Oedekoven)

Only a few days are covered in this report and that, plus a couple of days devoted to Sperm Whales, leaves us little news to pass on. Out of San Diego was the usual assortment of Black Storm-Petrels, while farther offshore these were replaced by Leach's Storm-Petrels. Surprising was a South Polar Skua only a few miles west of Point Loma feeding on a discarded fish head. A few Red-billed Tropicbirds manage to make it this far north every summer and we did indeed see three on our first day out. Farther offshore was a scattering of Black-footed Albatrosses, Leach's Storm-Petrels and Red Phalaropes.

Acoustics (Shannon Rankin’s Squeakly Report)

click. click. click. click. click. click. click...

The first sperm whale group of the week surprised us with their silence, however we have since been blessed with hours and hours of these little carpenter fish.  The acousticians' sixth sense (directional hydrophone) was valuable in locating sperm whales from the small boat, and we plan on devising other gadgets to get us out on the water... Outside of sperm whales, we have had only a smattering of common dolphin vocals and quite a bit of ship noise. The acoustic equipment has been working surprisingly well, despite Megan's Evil Karma, but we've only just begun...

Last modified: 12/24/2014