August 17, 2001

ORCAWALE 2001:  Weekly Report for 8/9/01 to 8/15/01

At the end of the last chapter, our heroes were headed towards Certain Doom (which would be a good name for a bar in Astoria).  We made port on the noon tide on Thursday.  The engines and oil coolers were repaired and we were headed back out to sea by Sunday morning.  The town soaked up much of our money, but we left with the best from their thrift stores.  Our stay overlapped with the biggest celebration of summer in Astoria, the Regatta.  Although we were not able to compete in the aquatic events, we did compete in table shuffleboard, and some of us got to witness the big parade (featuring fire trucks AND Miss Clatsop County!).

Our first day out give us the sighting of the week.  We had a mixed school of killer whales and humpback whales.  The orcas were surfacing all round the three humpbacks.  At first we thought we might witness the obvious ... “breakfast for the orcas”.  However, when the humpbacks started chasing the orcas around, we had to alter our story (now “revenge of the humpbacks”).  Ultimately, however, we decided that they all must be feeding on the same thing (which was also attracting many birds, see below).  After we realized that our photos of carnage would not be featured in the next National Geographic (who wants to see a dead herring?), we launched the small boat for photos and biopsies.  The humpbacks weren’t fluking up, but we got lots of good killer whale photos.  No biopsies, but we obtained some brief recordings from a sonobuoy that may help identify the type of orca (presumably a “resident” pod, given their dolphin-safe eating habits).

Since we left port, sightings have been few and far between.  We have been blessed with great weather here in the northern outside area and have been just eating up the trackline miles.  However, sightings have included only a very few animals.  We launched a small boat on a group of fin whales and got another biopsy, and we launched both small boats (the Jordan’s J-1 and Chico’s J-2) on a group of sperm whales and got another biopsy from them.  The sperm whales appeared to be perturbed by the small boats and never fluked up in their presence (something we experience before in temperate waters where they have been hunted within their lifetimes).  However, we managed to get several longer-range fluke shots from the Jordan itself.  Small cetaceans out here have included Risso’s, Lags, Lissos, and Dall’s porpoise.

LATE BREAKING NEWS.  We are broken again.  One of the main shaft bearings has overheated and frozen-up.  We are headed into Newport on one engine for an early port call and repair period.  With luck, Leg 2 will begin on Sunday morning, 2 days ahead of schedule.

                                   Trackline Avg

  Date Time    Lat      Long      Miles    Beauf

080901 0657 N45:35.92 W124:36.04  17.8nmi  3.8
            1302 N46:09.01 W124:11.40
081201 1027 N45:40.16 W123:58.14  62.5nmi  4.1
            1929 N45:57.35 W125:30.60
081301 0639 N47:11.11 W126:16.45 120.9nmi  3.9
            2025 N46:22.13 W128:13.88
081401 0639 N46:20.66 W129:52.33  76.9nmi  3.3
            1650 N45:26.31 W130:46.69
081501 0659 N44:10.81 W130:40.30 125.2nmi  2.8
            2012 N45:05.03 W128:56.05

 Code                                Species     Tot#
   21                            Risso's dolphin    1
   22           Pacific white-sided dolphin    1
   27        northern right whale dolphin    2
   37                                 killer whale    1
   44                            Dall's porpoise    4
   46                              sperm whale     1
   61                 Cuvier's beaked whale    1
   71                              minke whale     1
   74                                   fin whale     1
   76                        humpback whale     2

                                              TOTAL   15

Oceanographic Update (Val Philbrick and Candice Hall)

Day                  #CTDs             #XBTs             #Bongos
8/09                 0                      0                      0
8/10                 0                      0                      0
8/11                 0                      0                      0
8/12                 0                      4                      1
8/13                 1                      4                      1
8/14                 1                      4                      1
8/15                 1                      4                      1

Biopsy Report (Juan Carlos Salinas and Erin La Breque)
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             1                      8                      6                      15
Balaenoptera musculus              0                      1                      0                      3
Balaenoptera physalus               1                      2                      3                      9
Megaptera novaeangliae             0                      0                      1                      1
Delphinus delphis                      0                      14                    0                      3
Lagenorhyncus obliquidens         0                      2                      0                      0
Lissodelphis borealis                  2                      7                      0                      0
Phocoenoides dalli                     0                      1                      0                      0
Orcinus orca                             0                      0                      6 indiv.             6
             Total                           4                      35                    17                    38

Seabirds Weekly Report (Michael Force and Cornelia Oedekoven)

After leaving Astoria Sunday morning the bird life started out to be very promising. We encountered a mixed feeding flock of roughly 120 birds that took advantage of a feeding frenzy of Humpback and Killer Whales that were feasting with each other-not one on the other! The flock was composed mostly of Pink-footed and Sooty Shearwaters but also included California Gulls, a Red-necked Phalarope and-the starring guests-a Buller’s and a Flesh-footed Shearwater, the latter our first for the cruise. The bird community in the inshore waters we observed that day was fairly diverse: lots of Common Murres, Sooty Shearwaters and California Gulls, two South Polar Skuas, a few jaegers, Northern Fulmars, Arctic Terns, Tufted Puffins, Rhinoceros and Cassin’s Auklets-and the highlight of the day-two Xantus’ Murrelets (southern subspecies hypoleucus). As we headed farther offshore the diversity decreased rapidly and remained at low levels. For the last couple of days Leach’s Storm-Petrels have proven to be our most loyal friends making a big effort to prevent us from having zero-bird-transects. The occasional Red Phalarope reminds us to keep a keen eye on the transect zone at all time-they are hard to detect against the gray waters under the overcast skies. When a “big bird” such as a Buller’s Shearwater or a Long-tailed Jaeger finally enters the zone euphoria strikes!

Acoustics (Shannon Rankin’s Squeakly Report)

It is difficult to describe the symphony of sounds that we have heard during the past week.  It is like the sound of falling snow, and ship noise.  It is like the sound of an eagle soaring, and ship noise.  Like an autumn leaf gliding to the ground, and ship noise.  A complete double rainbow arching over desert buttes, and ship noise.  The sound of silence...and ship noise.   Actually, we started the week out with some great killer whale vocals on a sonobouy with poor reception (we still managed to get a few good squeaks before it completely gave out). And then the growing silence. On Wednesday, Shannon was able to hear a whopping 25 seconds of echolocation clicks from some northern right whale dolphins, and Megan is understandably bitter. Such is the life of an acoustician.

Last modified: 12/24/2014