Now, over fifty days later we’ve seen some of the densest aggregations of humpback whales ever recorded…
We are wrapping up our science as the cruise comes to an end. Our initial goals were far exceeded. When we heard we were sailing from late April to early June, we were concerned about there being whales around for us to study. Some of the crew from the previous leg were doubtful that we’d find the whales we needed to achieve our scientific goals. Now, over fifty days later we’ve seen some of the densest aggregations of humpback whales ever recorded and we’ve done our best to sample the marine ecosystem. Today, our final day of surveying, we steamed through the Gerlache Strait to estimate density of marine mammals and penguins. One of the more exciting things that we saw were spyhopping killer whales, checking us out like checked them out. Now that the science is done, we will use the final few days to pack up as best we can for both the trip home and to help plan for things to bring next year.
Just to give a quick summary of some of the data we’ve collected: 1) We’ve tagged whales in two different bays, Wilhelmina and Andvord, for a total of 11 tags on. Each of these tags was accompanied by fine scale prey mapping during the day and into the beginning of the night. A handful of these were accompanied by mesoscale surveys of prey and MOCNESS tows at night. 2) We’ve conducted density estimates and physical oceanographic surveys (ADCP for currents and CTD surveys for temperature, salinity, fluorescence and small zooplankton) in three bays, the two aforementioned and Charlotte Bay. 3) We’re collecting ADCP, CTD and density estimates for the Gerlache Strait today. 4) We’ve fed our data into 3d visualizations and a geodatabase for display and analysis that has helped us understand how these datasets interact. With some letters already submitted on unique sightings, we’ve by far exceeded our own expectations and now, we are left with much data to analyze and synthesize.
- The dTag on the whale has a special message for folks back home.
Ultimately, the trip home is an extremely emotional homecoming for me and others. We’ve all been awed by the Antarctic scenery, but personally I really miss my support network back home, especially my wife Lucie and family. Not having internet and easy phone access can be a refreshing break from the real world, but it also really cuts off your connection to loved ones and broader happenings. After two months, I’m very happy to be coming home and seeing the people I’ve missed; I’m ready to settle down, analyze data, and start planning for next year. To all of you reading, we’ll see you soon, and keep reading the blog for some of our journeys home! I’m looking forward to more interesting sights and adventures.