A dream fulfilled, ODYSSEY Gulf Blog (year 3), Day 22, Friday, June 15, 2012

Day 22, Friday, June 15, 2012
Dear Family and Friends,
I was in my usual seat in the salon writing and working and waiting for whales. I heard the call on the radio and was in a bit of disbelief about it, but my feet are trained to react on their own so I moved quickly while sorting through the message:  “Some sort of whale! 100 yards ahead!”. That was a new sort of call. That is was Johnny just made it all the weirder as he has logged a crazy number of hours over 8 months of observing whales. He knows better than to be that vague.
But, precisely because it was him and he knows the routine so well, by the time my feet landed in the pilothouse, I shouted “whales! and hurry they are close!”. I was not sure where or what they are, but the excitement in his voice told me all I needed to know. This moment would be at least unusual.
I heard no team response so I paused at the door and shouted “hurry it up”. Matt was hot on my heels with the crossbows. By the time we reached the foredeck, Johnny was down. There they were a group of three beaked whales!
Beaked whales are strange looking whales that are secretive and poorly understood. The global voyage saw them only once, maybe twice in 5 years. We had never seen them here, though they have been reported in the Gulf. It is a truly a rare opportunity. Yet, there they were.
Johnny was beside himself with excitement and pleasure. He had been wishing to see beaked whales for some time now and there they were. They dove straight down deep shortly after the team started to emerge. Perhaps because they heard the sound of Matt’s arrow miss and strike the water. Perhaps, because they saw us gawking at them. Perhaps, because it was just their time to dive.   The time was short, but we got to see them and snap a picture and Johnny’s wish of a voyage came true after 8 months of time away on this boat.  He was the only one blessed with the chance to really observe all three whales, a calf, a mother and probably a grandmother. The rest of us mostly focused on the grandmother as she was so close to the boat. It was a really special moment for our entire effort, but especially for him.
Congratulations O’s on a dream fulfilled. It just goes to show that there are times when after working hard and diligently for a long time and dedicating yourself to an effort – life gives you a gift rewards you. Today was one of those days. You certainly have earned it! Thanks for sharing it with us.
We came near one sperm whale, but no biopsy.  The weather was clearly degrading fast. Mid-afternoon, I called Carolyne off the mast and stopped the searching. It was too rough.  I told the crew to get us into Pensacola as fast as they could because it was only going to get worse and it was time to get out of harm’s way. They cranked it into gear and off we went crashing over the waves and leaning heavily to port.
Morning will see us safely in port before the really bad weather arrives. Thus, my next email will be when the weather lets us back out to sea. As this leg ends, we say goodbye to Tania and Carolyne and thank them for their hard work. The next leg will bring new team members.
I have attached a couple of picture of the beaked whale that we think was a grandmother. I wish you all a good weekend!
The only problem now – the boat is leaning heavily to port and the bathroom is on starboard. It’s going to be a long night.
Good night.
John
P.S. As I can finally send this email we are safely in Pensacola
harbor nearing the dock.
If you want to see our location on Google Maps we are at:
29.609N, 87.883W
just paste in the coordinates and click search
If you want to read the previous days of these messages- they are
posted at www.usm.maine.edu/toxicology/gulf and click on “read logs
here”.

John Pierce Wise, Sr., Ph.D.

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