August 10, 2001

ORCAWALE 2001:  Weekly Report for 8/2/02 to 8/8/08

Our week started out as the previous week ended ... lots of animals and improving weather.  Acoustics found a slow-clicking lone-male sperm whale on Thursday.  Our pattern of daily sperm whale sightings continued into Friday, with another lone male detected by the visual team.  The next day we left the sperm whales behind and concentrated on an abundance of baleen whales.  We were awarded the famous triple header of large balaenoptera ... sei, fin and blue whales in the same day.  Weather was spectacular and stayed that way on our trip in towards Cape Mendocino.  We had to dodge a few fog patches, but generally were on-effort, in Beaufort 2 conditions, off one of the most notoriously windy parts of the California coast.  We saw tons of Dall’s porpoise as the water temperatures plummeted.  We also got into a mess of Lags and Lisso, telling us that we had hit true cold temperate waters (Toto, I don’t think we are in Kansas any more).  As we turned the corner and headed offshore from Cape Mendocino (on Monday), things started to get rough again.

On Tuesday, the Honeymoon ended.  We woke up to a full Beaufort 6 and a forecast calling for several more days of the same.  And that was the good news.  Later that morning, the port generator exploded.  In the technical words of our Chief Engineer, Joe Schuster, it was toast.  We were faced with the immediate need to go to a major port and fix it.  We turned and headed into the swell toward Astoria.  The next day, we had more bad news from the engine room.  One of our main engines was leaking oil (probably through the oil cooler) and had to be shut down.  After banging into 30 kts winds for a day and a half, we are now limping towards the Columbia River Bar were a tug is waiting to aid us into the River.  How ignominious!  We won’t know how long the delays will be until things are taken apart, be we are confident that, with a little counseling, we can resume our honeymoon relationship with the Pacific Ocean.


                                 Trackline Avg

  Date Time    Lat      Long      Miles    Beauf
080201 0649 N33:45.57 W124:42.22  93.9nmi  4.0
           2010 N34:10.72 W126:34.88
080301 0644 N34:16.07 W127:03.13  78.2nmi  2.1
           1817 N35:39.28 W127:04.40
080401 0645 N35:47.73 W126:58.83  63.5nmi  2.2
           2029 N37:09.60 W126:33.50
080501 0641 N38:26.24 W126:07.07 100.1nmi  2.4
           1815 N40:04.56 W125:32.07
080601 0642 N40:28.13 W125:24.08 104.9nmi  3.4
           2028 N41:41.03 W126:31.54
080701       off effort            0.0nmi  6.5
080801       off effort            0.0nmi  6.0

 Code                        Species     Tot#    
   13                    striped dolphin    1
   17           shortbeak common dolphin   14
   21                    Risso's dolphin    3
   22        Pacific white-sided dolphin    2
   27       northern right whale dolphin    1
   44                    Dall's porpoise   28
   46                        sperm whale    2
   61              Cuvier's beaked whale    2
   70               unidentified rorqual    1
   73                          sei whale    1
   74                          fin whale    5
   75                         blue whale    1
   77            unidentified delphinoid    2
   CU                  northern fur seal    1

                                   TOTAL   64

Oceanographic Update (Val Philbrick and Candice Hall)

The EK-500 depth sounder has been faithfully recording acoustic backscatter information on this cruise.  We have noticed that intense prey patches in the upper water column (top 100 meters) are often associated with high densities of baleen whales.   However, there are enough exceptions to this generalization to keep things interesting.

Day                  #CTDs             #XBTs             #Bongos
8/02                  1                      4                      1
8/03                  1                      4                      1
8/04                  1                      4                      1
8/05                  1                      4                      1
8/06                  1                      4                      1
8/07                  0                      2                      0
8/08                  0                      0                      0

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

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

Physeter macrocephalus              0                      7                      0                      9
Balaenoptera musculus               1                      1                      3                      3
Balaenoptera physalus                1                      1                      6                      6
Delphinus delphis                       14                    14                    3 schools           3
Lagenorhyncus obliquidens         2                      2                      0                       0
Lissodelphis borealis                  5                      5                      0                       0
Phocoenoides dalli                     1                      1                      0                       0
             Total                           24                    31                    12                     21

Seabirds Weekly Report (Michael Force and Cornelia Oedekoven)

This week we covered barren offshore waters and productive near shelf waters and the avian density and diversity contrasts between these radically different habitats mirrored these differences. During the first few days of this reporting period we saw very little other than a scattering of Leach's Storm-Petrels, Black-footed Albatrosses and Red Phalaropes. Cook's Petrel, the expected Pterodroma was seen in small numbers (several within the US EEZ where they're considered to be rare visitors). Unexpected was a "Dark-rumped" Petrel about 230 NM west of Point Pinos. Whether it was a Hawaiian or Galapagos Petrel of this recently split taxon is anyone's guess. A juvenile Ruddy Turnstone on it's first trip to southern wintering grounds was far from any inter-tidal habitat 325 NM west of Point Conception. Another species notable for being this far north was Xantus' Murrelets, with both subspecies represented. Data entry was a challenge when we made our closest approach to Cape Mendocino, being almost overwhelmed with the "morning commute" of Leach's Storm-Petrels outbound from their colonies. Also here were high numbers of Long-tailed Jaegers. This is the earliest jaeger to begin migrating south, perhaps to take advantage of still nesting storm-petrels at this time. It was interesting that almost all of the jaegers were flying west with the storm-petrels. Also here were quite a few Buller's Shearwaters, the most beautiful of all the shearwaters.

Acoustics (Shannon Rankin’s Squeakly Report)

This week started out strong with great recordings of common dolphins, sperm whales, and Risso's dolphins... and then began the test of our own natural abilities.  How do humans, with such poor hearing abilities, study animals whose primary sense is sound?  Most baleen whale vocalizations are below the hearing range of humans, and the vocalizations of Dall's porpoise are well above our hearing range. When we are all back up and running we will be testing equipment that will allow us to monitor the higher frequencies, however the ship noise limits our ability to devise techniques for monitoring at the lower frequencies.  In the meantime we will enjoy great acoustics discussions over the local micro-brews.

 We did test all three of our arrays this week to see how each functioned.  The Norris 5-element mid-frequency array (to 40 KHz) worked fine on the deck, but failed immediately in the water.  The problem was traced to a wire break in the voltage supply at the forward hydrophone.  We hot-wired around that problem area and were back in the water with a functioning 5-element array the next day.  Jay’s new 3-element array was tested and worked ok above 10 KHz, but had severe problems with flow noise in the sperm whale range (2-7 KHz).  More work is clearly needed to smooth out the flow around this one.  Our mainstay remains to be the Norris 3-element high-frequency array (to 140 KHz);  it does great up to a high Beaufort 5, at  which time it develops a low frequency noise problem.  With this array, two backups, and another backup arriving in September from the SEFSC, we hope to stay in the water for the entire cruise.

Last modified: 12/24/2014