Parley SnotBot Expedition 9: Gabon
There is no easy way to say this, but our first two days on the water in Gabon have not gone as well as we hoped. It has been incredibly windy, meaning it is hard to see blows, hard to collect blows, and hard to keep all of our equipment (chargers, inverters, etc) and crew dry. This is the nature of the job and we are here for 10 days, so I am sure that the weather will change for the better soon.
We have collected 6 samples in what only could be called extreme conditions. I had to fly lower than my usual 10 feet above the whale since the blows were laid flat by the wind – of course Mr. Miller got some spectacular shots of this and a baby humpback floating above its mother.
Christian has been travelling the globe when he is not making us lunch or dinner to save a few $$.
Christian’s photos are always spectacular, a minke whale off the Great Barrier reef and a humpback mother and calf (look carefully) off Tonga.
Back to Gabon, we did experience a brand-new challenge today. We came across an area of muddy fresh water that was sitting on top of the salt water, as you can see from the photo at the top of the blog, this was a pretty spectacular sight.The whales did not seem to care about the muddy water, but I realized that the crucial element of being at the right place at the right time (to collect snot) is based on being able to see the whale just below the surface during multiple blow breathing intervals. As they swam through the mud this was nigh on impossible. We could see the dive footprints better than ever before since they mixed up the fresh and the salt water producing a very dramatic color change, I’ll try to get you that photo in a follow up blog.
Last but not least in homage to our president and founder, Dr. Roger Payne, we did make a couple of short humpback whale recordings today. Roger will shudder when he hears them because the water was rough and there is a lot of boat and water noise in the recordings. That said, I can tell you there is nothing like putting on headphones and hearing a cacophony of whales singing right under your boat – I am not a mystical man, but this is a magical experience. I will
attach a short sound clip to an email following this, since it is 11 meg and the internet is pretty bad here.
Thank you again to all of our new friends in Gabon for helping us to make this trip a reality.