September 7, 2001

ORCAWALE 2001:  Weekly Report for 8/30/01 to 9/05/01

 Lisa T. Ballance


After a much delayed start to Leg 2, as reported last week, we departed from Portland at 0800 on 30 August.  The day-long steam down the Columbia River was sunny and full of beautiful Pacific northwest scenery – a trip most people pay big money for, and much appreciated by all on the David Starr Jordan.  At Astoria, we dropped our pilot, passed under the bridge, and left the green mountains behind for the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean.

 This week we have been in the northwest corner of the study area – and being where most of us see fronts and low pressure systems move onto the weather maps of forecasters at home, weather has been much on our minds.  We did indeed have one gale treat us to 40 knot winds, 15 foot seas, and torrential rains – an awesome sight, although perhaps better experienced on something other than a marine mammal survey.  But so far this leg, luck has been with us.  The gale shut us down only for half a day; by the morning of 3 September, winds had dropped to an unbelievable 12 knots and we were working in the lumpy seas left behind.  These too smoothed out and most of the week has been spent in conditions well below the dreaded Beaufort 5 (see average sea state report below!).

 Another of our concerns (at least a concern of one particular cruise leader, and probably one particular chief scientist as well) has been trackline miles.  Sea days lost to ship repair early in the cruise mean that we have more miles to survey with less time, but here too, fortune has smiled on us.  Without having to compromise time spent with animals, we are a day ahead of plan, plus we have been able to pick up two day’s worth of survey not completed during Leg 1 (and hoping to grab two day’s more in the near future).  Part of the reason for this “success” of course is the obvious – the outer edges of the study area have been referred to as the “Siberia lines” (JC) – with a reputation for veeeerrryyy few animals in general; this visit proves no exception.  Nevertheless, there are biological patches interspersed between these desert zones that keep our spirits up.  One of these was a veritable pile-o-whales – humpbacks and fins, seemingly feeding in an area that later yielded twice the normal bongo tow volume.  We launched both small boats and a load of scientists with expert coxswains who came back with biopsy samples and photos.

 A highlight of the week was the transit from 80 nm offshore right up to the beach in a single day.  This always anticipated run by marine biologists far and wide gives us a chance to record gradients of all kinds physical and biological.  Although the changes are predictable, we never tire of seeing them: from blue water to green; from fin whales to harbor porpoise, Leach’s Storm-Petrels to Common Murres;  the pile-up of animals along the shelf break.  We had 21 mammal sightings on this day, small boat operations for much of it, and overwhelmed but happy birders.

 Miscellaneous closing comments: Chico brings a salmon to the surface but it gets away (really!); RAR makes his first “097” sighting (for the uninitiated – this is the code used for a sighting of an “unidentified object, possible marine mammal”); Leigh gets stung by a bee; Josh is acting like an old salt of the sea and growing a beard to look the part; a Peregrine Falcon visits for two days and consumes a small flock of storm petrels leaving bits and pieces scattered below its various dining locales; Cornelia turns 30; two scientists clad in pink lace and black silk appear one night to retrieve the array.


                                 Trackline Avg

Date   Time    Lat      Long      Miles    Beauf

083101 0644 N45:47.21 W125:09.26  97.4nmi  4.0

       1930 N44:31.80 W126:07.97

090101 0654 N44:35.23 W126:19.23 108.8nmi  3.7

       1955 N45:08.42 W128:40.08

090201 0703 N45:16.56 W128:35.75  78.4nmi  5.2

       1531 N46:27.83 W128:19.68

090301 0703 N46:37.36 W129:15.96  95.4nmi  3.6

       1930 N47:15.67 W127:51.32

090401 0700 N47:40.98 W126:44.93  54.4nmi  4.1

       1948 N48:03.08 W125:56.67

090501 0659 N47:32.14 W126:00.99  55.5nmi  4.9

       1720 N47:12.87 W124:17.41

 Code                        Species     Tot#    

    21                    Risso's dolphin    2

  22        Pacific white-sided dolphin    5

   27       northern right whale dolphin    5

   40                    harbor porpoise    2

   44                    Dall's porpoise    6

   61              Cuvier's beaked whale    1

   63               Baird's beaked whale    1

   70               unidentified rorqual    2

   74                          fin whale    8

   76                     humpback whale    6

   77            unidentified delphinoid    3

                                   OTHER    1

                                    TOTAL   42


  Common dolphins       0

  Spotted/spinner       0

  Blue/humback wh.      3

  Other delphinids      2

  Other cetaceans      19


Biopsy (Juan Carlos Salinas and Erin LeBrecque)

Photo-ID (Annie Douglas, Leigh Torres and Laura Morse)

                                                                          Biopsy                                     Photo

Species                                    #Biopsies        Cumulative      #ID-Photos      Cumulative

                                                (this week)      Total               (this week)      Total


Physeter macrocephalus          0                      8                      0                      15

Balaenoptera musculus            0                      1                      0                      3

Balaenoptera physalus             7                      9                      4                      13

Megaptera novaeangliae         6                      7                      6                      7

Delphinus delphis                   0                      14                    0                      3

Lagenorhyncus obliquidens     5                      7                      0                      0

Lissodelphis borealis              7                      14                    0                      0

Phocoenoides dalli                  0                      1                      0                      0

Orcinus orca                            0                      0                      0         .           6

Eschrictius robustus                0                      2                      0                      5

             Total                           25                    63                    10                    53

Oceanography (Candice Hall and Josh Fluty)


Day                  #CTDs             #XBTs             #Bongos          Notes


30 Aug             0                      0                      0          sail down the Columbia River

 (no oceo ops)

31 Aug             1                      4                      1

1 September    1                      4                      1

2 September    1                      3                      0          gale force winds prevent Bongo

 and an XBT

3 September    0                      4                      1          lumpy seas left over from gale

 prevent CTD

4 September    1                      4                      1

5 September    1                      3                      0          tooooo shallow for Bongo



Seabirds (Michael Force and Cornelia Oedekoven)

 The primary theme in the seabird story this week is similar to previous weeks: the paucity of birds in the pelagic habitat compared with the high numbers found in neritic waters. Offshore (where we spent most of this week) was dominated primarily by 5 species: Long-tailed Jaeger, Arctic Tern, Red Phalarope, Black-footed Albatross and the occasional Buller's Shearwater. The latter species was much scarcer than last leg, even though we were surveying similar habitat. Near shore, we are often overwhelmed by high numbers of gulls, murres and shearwaters, often requiring two observers just to keep up with the data entry. Adding to the confusion is a bewildering array of hybrid gulls that defy classification. Coastal Oregon and Washington is the contact zone between two closely related gull "species", Glaucous-winged and Western, and their mate selection appears to be quite arbitrary. If even they can't tell each other apart, then we don't feel so bad if we can't either! A juvenile "Peale's" Peregrine Falcon hitched a ride with us for a night and a day, feasting on Leach's Storm-Petrels (4 in one day); during one not-so-elegant meal, it even swallowed the legs. A nonplussed Great Blue Heron flying past 65 NM from the beach didn't seem at all concerned about the obvious lack of shallows in which to wade.


 Acoustics (Shannon Rankin and Julie Oswald - Squeakly Report)

 In contrast with the eastern tropical Pacific, the acoustics team has been following in suit with the visual observation team.... dull dull dull CHAOS! We deployed one successful sonobouy on a quiet fin whale (the small boat was able to obtain both photos and biopsies from this animal). After a week of silence (or, rather, the sound of the glorious engines of the DSJ) that tested our sanity... Wednesdays' coastal approach brought us a frenzy of high frequency burst pulses and echolocation clicks.... Pacific white-sided dolphins, Northern right whale dolphins, and possibly Dall's porpoise sent us frantically trying to remember just what it is we are supposed to be doing out here....

Last modified: 12/24/2014