Returning to Whale Camp
BLOG 1 – 3 September 2014
Greetings from Patagonia! We are just starting the 44th field research season of the Right Whale Program at Península Valdés, Argentina. Diego Taboada, José Carracedo and I drove from Buenos Aires down to Patagonia. The 17-hour drive took us from the great city to the isolated beauty of Whale Camp, the research station on the shores of Golfo San José. Not only were the whales waiting for us… an amazing group of young guanacos also greeted us at night! A very beautiful sight.
It takes a few days to clean the house and get things started here. Our generator decided that it needed some serious servicing and did not start, so we didn’t have power for a couple days until we went to town. We cleaned all windows, that were covered with salt and sand. And especially, we cleaned after the mice, which had a wonderful time in the kitchen during the months we humans were away!
In the coming weeks we will do the 44th annual aerial photo-identification survey of the southern right whales of Península Valdés to keep the long-term database updated. We will monitor the frequency of gull attacks on the whales with the help of volunteer research assistants, will do behavioral observations from cliff-top points, and post-mortem examinations of the whales that die and strand on the beaches, in cooperation with veterinarians and biologists from the Southern Right Whale Health Monitoring Program. So far, only 8 calves and 1 adult died this season, which is a relative low number compared to previous seasons.
We had much rain yesterday: it rained for 15 hours non-stop! So, the weather is not cooperating for now, but I hope things will get sunnier in the coming days so we can do a good aerial survey. I also hope to see some of our long-term friends… whales that we have known for many years, and that might be swimming in the bays as I write this.
We will share more news and photos during the coming weeks. This is my twentieth field season studying the southern right whales of Península Valdés with Ocean Alliance and Instituto de Conservación de Ballenas, so I am especially grateful for all the wonderful experiences I have had in the past 20 years working with an amazing group of people that I can now call my extended family. Thank you!
Dr. Mariano Sironi
Scientific Director of the Instituto de Conservación de Ballenas in Argentina