First-day-of-a-leg record!, ODYSSEY Gulf Blog (year 3), Day 48, July 11, 2012

Day 48, Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Dear Family and Friends,
Over the past three years of Gulf voyages we have switched out members on each leg and launched with different teams. Each team has its own distinct identity and leaves an indelible mark in our memory and some live on in Odyssey lore and we reminisce about the many trips past. The last leg’s team was characterized by a pleasant nature and a spirit of volunteerism and set a Odyssey Gulf record for most biopsies on a leg and daily average. This team is different and I am still learning its personality, but today we certainly made our mark.
It’s only been one day at sea, but I would describe this team as flexible and highly energetic. The team has been up early and folks were ready for their watches as much as an hour before then had to go up! They were ahead of the curve in effort and raring to go. We were with whales so often I was swapping roles left and right. 5 different people collected data and 6 different people worked the net and everyone but me, Johnny and Bob were on the mast or the pilothouse spotting whales, arrows and buoys. We also caught fish, collected water and tried for squid. No go yet on the squid. It was a remarkably flexible and productive group on their first day and what a day it was.
It started early with Johnny waking me at 7 am that whales were spotted close. Having not made it to sleep until 2 am – this day started early for me.  Alas, that whale was not seen again, but Johnny worked the helm keeping us near whales and then Captain Bob took over and brought us right to them.  Bob after all is our secret weapon!
About 10:30 am, I made our first whale call of the day. Conor and Jai were up on the mast and Jai had spotted a whale, his first.  We would then be on whales for the next two and a half hours and by 1 pm we had 5 biopsies in the boat!  The whales were clicking all over the array like popcorn. The next few hours passed by in a wink.
About 4:30 pm I made my last whale call of the day. Conor and Louis Hall were on the mast and Conor had spotted whales dead ahead. Captain Bob again led us to them as our team scrambled into place and over the next 4 hours we collected another 3 biopsies.
All told, approximately 6 and half hours on deck on whales and 8 biopsies collected. That my friends is a first-day-of-a-leg record! 8 biopsies on the first day at depth!  Great teamwork by an energetic group!
There were treats to the day too. At times there were whales everywhere and whales are simply eye candy. We say several juveniles including one that swam right under me aside the pilot house., We say one whale lob tailing in an impressive display of power and strength. Lob tailing is when the whale turns vertical in the water with its tail up in the air, kind of like when we do hand stands on the bottom of the pool.  The whale then slaps it tail over and over on the top of the water with a loud splash.  It is a really impressive sight to see and hear. I think the first year there was one lob tailing a few miles from the boat and we could hear the impact of each splash.
The day ended quite late with dinner after nine. But, we all gathered at the aft table and ate another of Sandy’s tasty meals over some quiet conversation. I pity the cook that follows after Sandy on this boat.  That will be some big shoes er plates to fill.
I have attached pictures of a juvenile with its mother, the whale with its tail vertical about to slam it on the surface of the sea and the team looking for whales.  No sunset photo today as we were all occupied with finding the last arrow with the 8th biopsy well past sunset. Lou Falank spotted it and we collected in and the day ended well. In the team picture Johnny is on the whale boom, Jai is in the white t-shirt and green sneakers, Conor is in the gray t-shirt and sitting on the doghouse, Lou Falank is crouched down in the bowsprit. Ike is in the cap. Not seen are Mukhaye who was in the crow’s nest, Louis Hall who was on the aft platform, Hugh who was on the pilothouse, Sandy who was in the lab and Captain Bob and me who were in the pilothouse.  It’s a fine team!

Now, I need to rest my weary bones because if I know Johnny, he’ll be
trying to wake me even earlier tomorrow!
Good night.
John
P.S.  If you want to see our location on Google Maps we are at:
28.511N, 89.100W
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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