Tagging Whales in the Antarctic Seas

Back in Beaufort
by -- June 22nd, 2010

Another great cruise, happy to be home

Well, I guess we did it again…we collected an unbelievable data set, we saw lots of things that few people get to see, and we had a blast doing it!!  The superlatives do not do justice to the experiences we had in Antarctica, so I won’t go through them again.  We’re glad all of the folks reading along could see and hear about our adventure.  Everyone’s back home, trying to pick up where we left off six weeks ago, and I can say for those of us in North Carolina, the nearly 80 degree temperature increase is shocking!!!

I thought I would just quickly summarize what we were able to accomplish.  We tagged 10 humpback whales with our digital acoustic tags, for a total of almost 200 hours of on-whale data.  We tagged an additional 3 whales with National Geographic CritterCams, and preliminary analyses of these data show some amazing behavior, both between a mother-calf pair as well as a whale lunging through a krill swarm!  We are all indebted to our tracking expertise this year, I could actually sleep nights while those tags were out!  Our visual survey team recorded hundreds of humpback whale sightings as well as seeing many minke and killer whales and even one southern right whale.  Additionally, the visual survey team logged thousands of sightings of other krill predators, e.g., crabeater seals, terns, penguins.  Meng Zhou and his team from UMass Boston learned some fascinating things about the physics of the waters we worked in along the peninsula, and they are working to integrate those observations into our understanding of the krill aggregations we observed.  The prey mapping team logged hundreds of hours of acoustic data to describe and quantify the krill aggregations.  Our data visualization efforts continue to impress me as we forged into new methods of analyzing our various streams of data.  New this year to our team were our two National Geographic representatives, who fit right in and contributed nicely to our efforts.  Finally, we were again lucky to have the incredible technical and ship crew from Raytheon Polar Services and Edison Chouest Offshore, respectively; they kept us safe and made our project run effectively and efficiently.

For my part, I am again humbled and impressed by the professionalism and energy of the team we had.  In testament to them, despite being away from home, friends and family for so long, I have heard from every corner of the team since the end of the cruise as they work to finish the job by analyzing and publishing the cool data we collected.  Thanks to all of you.

To the whales of the Antarctic peninsula…if we haven’t tagged you yet, we’ll be back!

Now I need to go fishing with my two boys, and give their amazing mother a well deserved break…

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