Shallow dives, sleepiness, and sunsets.

After a late night last night, I rolled out of bed at 6:30 am to make it up for a 7 am mid-level platform watch. I was just about to pop a bagel in the toaster to bring up with me when I heard whales on the array (equipment we have in the water behind the boats to track their clicks and sounds.) YES FINALLY. After a day of looking at whitecaps yesterday, it was a relief to start off the morning with whales already in the area. The sun haven’t even fully risen yet. Talk about rise and shine.

The rest of the boat was awake pretty quickly as we all assumed the position(s). Johnny and Bailey were up on the bowsprit with crossbows in hand, ready for when we came up alongside of the whales. Sandy had extra arrows and the data collection log, while Dr. Bob and Tania had those fancy DSLR cameras ready. Steve, Kait, and Ian were keeping an eye out for whale blows so that we could keep track of where they were and I was wrestling between two video cameras that both wanted to die on me. And this is how the day went, precisely: Someone spots a whale blow and shouts out the location by referring to the boat as a clock, say: blow at 3 o’clock, 200 yards. The bow is always 12 o’clock and then it travels around the boat clockwise. So, 3 o’clock is on the starboard side, midway. Get it? Starboard’s the right side of the boat for all ye landlubbers. The person with the sighting holds out their arm to point Captain Bob so that he can obtain a visual while the rest of us work to also confirm. Sometimes it can be difficult to keep people watching aft (back) if we see whales up near the front.

Whales!

Mother and juevenile sperm whales.

Anyway, so the day went like this: someone calls out a sighting of whale blows, we all confirm and Captain Bob steers the Odyssey toward the walls. We continue to communicate where they’re swimming towards (port or starboard) through walkie talkies. Ian and Kait spent most of the day up on the mid-level platform also helping. We’d come up on a whale or two, they’d take a couple breaths and then dive. Most of the time it was a shallow dive, but we’d lose sight of them. We spent about 5 hours this morning from 7am to noon chasing whales and only got one biopsy. WOO. It was a super long morning to say the least. I had been told that when we’re “on whales” the time flies, but we started so early that it felt a lot later than noon when we took a break.

Ian

Ian at mid-level.

The weather started out comfortable for the morning and soon enough we were having really low visibility. Then it started absolutely downpouring on us so hard it hurt when the droplets hit you. Once again, Dr. Wise, Johnny, Matt, Dr. Bob, and myself were outside in the rain for a good rinse off. Ian came out with shampoo and the guys took legitimate showers. Biodegradable, of course. That’s about the time I really loathe having relatively long and very curly hair. I’d never get through a full shower routine of rinse, shampoo, rinse, condition, spend 10 minutes working out knots in hair, rinse. There is no shampoo-rinse-repeat for me. Regardless, it’s never a bad thing to get a good rinse down thanks to Mother Nature cause it helps conserve the fresh water on board for us girls to take real showers. And by real showers I simply mean Navy showers. I never thought I’d long for a “real” shower that I can stand under, be warm, and not have to turn off the water after each step.

Sandy put out PB&J for all of us around noon and we rotated down to the galley to make lunch. Matt, Johnny, Steve, and Captain Bob worked to get the whale boom out onto the side of the boat just in case we came across whales later on. Bailey stayed up on the bowsprit with the crossbow for awhile until we all kind of abandoned our positions. I went up to relieve Kait on the mid-level platform at some point around 1 or so. Steve followed around 1:30 and then around 1:45 Johnny told us we could come back down if we wanted. Good thing because the skies had cleared and the sun came out. Between the sandwich I had, the sun, and my overall lack of sleep, I was starting to snooze up there. That was bad news because closing your eyes while being tossed around in the air can really upset the stomach. I came down, grabbed my iTouch, and laid claim to the nap seat in the salon. It literally took seconds for me to curl up with the communal stuffed whale we have and pass out. I remember putting Dave Matthews Band on to fall asleep to, but don’t even remember the first song. When I woke up, he had long been done singing.

Whale Boom

Bailey on the whale boom.

It was ridiculously hot when I woke up and I could hear Johnny and Matt outside running back and forth along the starboard side of the boat talking excitedly. Well, not really running since that’s not allowed, but they were rushing with speed, let’s say. I went up into the pilothouse and it stunk of fish. Turns out the boys were trying to coax some Mahi Mahi into eating their bait so they could be our dinner, but that didn’t work out. They did manage to catch some really interesting looking fish that would have been ideal for some huge salt water aquarium somewhere. Instead, they were cut up for research as samples. Sorry fish.

I don’t even really remember what I did from that time until about 4:30 pm when Kait called Steve down from the mid-level platform. I felt bad seeing Kait go back up since she had been up there a good portion of our morning whale-tracking, and since the original schedule had me on at 5, I just went up a half hour early with her. Climbing up there is progressively getting easier because I’m getting a little more confident in my footing and hand placements. I also still have Bailey’s mantra in the back of my head — “It’d be silly to let go.” Good thing because the boat was rolling a bit as I was at the top of the climb getting ready to swing out over and into the landing. Definitely doubted my hand placement at that moment. (Sorry Ma, I’m sure that makes you feel real comfortable reading it. I’m alive, obviously.) Made it up there and sat until 7 pm talking with Kait. It was ridiculously hot, but I can’t complain since Kait likes to sing funny songs aloud with me and talk in general. We saw a lot of jellyfish floating along in the water, but not much else in the time we were up there.

Sunset watch on the mid-level.

Came down to watch the sunset and Sandy had made the biggest pot of pasta I’ve ever seen in my life. Captain Bob turned off the boat and we all went out to the aft deck to eat dinner together. He, of course, had another trivia question for us: There’s a balance scale that has two buckets of water on each balance, both filled to the brim. In one you place a 1 lb piece of wood. In the other, a 3 lb piece of wood. What’s going to happen? Which one will weigh more or will they still weigh they same? We had a good debate over this for a couple minutes, but most of us ended up getting it right. Johnny told us a good riddle that left us all stumped, too. Well, those of us that haven’t heard it before. The poor have it, the rich don’t need it, it’s greater than God, more even than the devil, and if you eat it, you’ll die. What is it?

Let me know if you figure those out! And I’ll let you know if we get some more whale biopsies tomorrow. Or maybe even some dolphins.

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