Thursday, October 06, 2011
Earlier this week the Aquarium had the unique opportunity to spend some time with Cascadia researchers as they went out on the Christopher (our main whale watching boat) to talk about some of the research they’re conducting right now.
Tuesday morning I met up with John Calambokidis from Cascadia Research Collective. With him was Megan, a researcher I’ve worked with and met a couple of times, although she actually just left Cascadia to work in Washington D.C. to help with blue whale ship strike issues. Normally when we meet up with a guest we let them know where to park, where to meet us, etc. Tuesday was definitely different. John and Megan didn’t drive to the Aquarium; they came over on their small boat that they go out tagging on. I met them at the dock to help them tie up and they unloaded their gear on to the Christopher. Shortly after that we boarded the boat and were soon underway.
The first thing we did upon entering the water was go and look for a tag they had deployed on a whale the previous day. These tags are very important for helping Cascadia to learn about how blue whales respond to ships as they pass by. Trying to find the tag once it’s fallen off the whale is somewhat of an interesting task. Typically the tags can stay on for as long as 24 hours. Since it had been about 24 hours, they figured it should be floating in the water somewhere. Can you imagine, we have this little tag and we now have to go find it in this big open ocean? It took us 10 minutes. The way they look for the fallen tags is somewhat like a game of hot and cold. They use a big antenna they hold up and start to point in different directions. When they’ve pointed in the direction of the tag, they hear a beeping sound and head in that direction. Depending on how high they are with the antenna, they might be able to pick up the tag 10-12 miles away or even more.
Once we found the tag, crew on the Christopher snagged it out of the water using a net and then we got a very detailed explanation of how important that tag was and the information it held. You can even watch the video with explanation we posted yesterday to hear all of the details.
We finished off the last part of the trip watching four blue whales move graciously around the boat. I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of seeing these incredible animals! If you’re interested in seeing blue whales, there are still a few around. We’re at the end of the season and it won’t be long before they’re gone for the winter and won’t return until next summer. If you’re interested in hearing more from John Calambokidis on his blue whale research and how the Aquarium is playing a role in that, he’ll be one of our guest lectures on November 17, 2011. Make sure and grab a ticket!
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