Tuesday, February 10, 2015
“That is a lot of jellyfish,” I say nervously. I’m standing barefoot on the dive platform of a ship, a pair of long, blue flippers in my hand. The surface of the ocean before me appears full of purple jellyfish, each about the size of a tennis ball.
Tuesday, January 20, 2015
It’s early morning onboard the small research boat Coda, and we already are a few miles offshore. Coda is a “RHIB,” a rigid-hulled inflatable boat. It looks like any other RHIB, with the addition of a giant metal Pinocchio nose- Coda’s professionally MacGyvered bowsprit (which is the bit sticking off the front of a boat) is an elevated, caged platform. This modified bowsprit design is used the world over in small-boat field research; it generally keeps researchers from falling overboard while sampling whales.
Tuesday, January 06, 2015
Whales live in a world full of sound. The ocean was a noisy place even before humans started making a ruckus underwater with boat engines, blasting, construction, drilling, and seismic air gun noise; surf smashes against the beach, underwater volcanoes erupt, wind kicks up foamy white-capped waves, fish grunt, shrimp snap, dolphins click and whistle, and the list goes on. In the midst of all this racket, male humpback whales are trying to stage a romantic serenade.
Tuesday, November 04, 2014
93 humans have also gathered in Peregian Beach, preparing for a huge coordinated season of research studying humpback whales in a project called BRAHSS (Behavioural Response of Australian Humpback Whales to Seismic Surveys).
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Kangaroo crossing signs dot the roadways, but it’s a myth that water drains the other way around. I’m in Queensland, Australia, on the northeastern coast of the continent. My name is Karen Backe, and I’m an educator with the Aquarium of the Pacific. I flew from Los Angeles to Sydney and traveled 15 hours north by land along the coast. Along the way, by bus and train, I met up with more and more whale researchers. We were easy to spot if you knew what to look for – hiking backpacks, whale tail necklaces, t-shirts that read things like “What genius decided to call them ‘killer whales’ instead of ‘sea pandas’?” and an air of excitement – we were all headed for Peregian Beach, and a project called BRAHSS.