Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Day 13: The search continues

Pilot whale
(Photo: T. A. Mooney
permit # 15530 to CRC)
Both yesterday and today we were forced to turn south after trying to steam north on the leeward side of the Big Island because of weather. Sea states of Beaufort 3 or 4 (breaking waves and whitecaps) make the ride uncomfortable for us on boat the boat, but more importantly, it makes spotting whales even more difficult (for more about the difficulty spotting whales, see here for a recent blog post by Alexis Rudd, a biologist who was helping us out last week).

Just before noon today our other research vessel sighted a group of pilot whales and we arrived shortly thereafter to attempt to attach another ECG tag to a large adult male. The whales were cooperative, but for some reason the tag didn't attach. We quickly brought the tag back on board but damage prevented another try, so we kept steaming south.

Attempt to attach the ECG tag to an unwitting pilot whale
(Photo: T. A. Mooney, permit # 15530 to CRC)

Our second and last encounter of the day was with more pilot whales. Their behavior was interesting so we deployed the towfish to record for around 15 minutes, and continued our search but were not rewarded for our efforts with any further sightings. With the challenges posed by the weather this field season the towfish has been a crucial acoustic tool, which allows us to get acoustic recordings of the animals even if we can't get close enough to tag them. Ideally, we can have data both from the towfish and the DTAGS. Wind looks like it will be a little better tomorrow, so hopefully we will have an easier job of spotting our targets.

(Photo: T. A. Mooney, permit # 15530 to CRC)

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