Subject: JJ - Rescued Whale Loses Transmitte (fwd)

Mike Williamson (
Tue, 14 Apr 1998 10:51:56 -0400 (EDT)


---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed,  8 Apr 98 13:50:00 GMT 
Subject: Rescued Whale Loses Transmitte

Rescued Whale Loses Transmitters

 Associated Press Writer
   SAN DIEGO (AP) -- J.J. is truly on her own now.
   The gray whale, rescued as a sick newborn and raised in
captivity, has lost both of her transmitters since being released
into the Pacific Ocean on Tuesday.
   Researchers believe the transmitter packs -- which fit like a
saddle and had been bolted to her blubber -- fell off while she was
foraging the ocean floor for food.
   The only way to track her now is by looking for a color-coded
tag, a thin strand implanted near her blow hole, through a
telephoto lens.
   "I am disappointed," said biologist Pam Yochem of the
Hubbs-Sea World Research Institute. "It will be difficult to find
her without the transmitters, but we'd rather know that she did
well her first few days and lose the transmitters than implant her
with transmitters that were invasive and posed a risk."
   J.J. was found rolling in the surf near Los Angeles in January
1997. Sick and near death,the baby whale was taken to Sea World in
San Diego, where marine biologists nursed her back to health. When
released, she was a healthy 19,000 pounds and 31 feet long.
   The transmitter packs were designed to last 18 months and float
and give a signal if detached. The first was found Wednesday, the
second late Thursday, both within 15 miles of where J.J. was
   Yochem said adult gray whales are sometimes fitted with
transmitters under the skin, but J.J.'s blubber was only 3 inches
thick. The transmitters were attached instead with toggle bolts
similar to those used to hang objects on sheetrock walls. In this
case, though, the bolts were made of a synthetic material used in
human implants.
   "This was an experiment to see if these toggles would work.
They didn't," Yochem said.
   Researchers who had followed J.J. by boat until Thursday night
had no plans to resume tracking her.
   "She seems to be adapting well to her environment," researcher
Ann Bowles said. "She is navigating choppy water and successfully
avoiding boats, kayakers, piers and other things she's not been
exposed to before."
   Sonobouys, military devices used to track submarines, also had
picked up popping sounds from J.J. Bowles said that was significant
because researchers have theorized that gray whales emit the sounds
to navigate.
   "She didn't use those sounds while living in her tank," Bowles
said. "The fact that she's using them in the ocean indicates to us
that they are for navigation. That's an important finding."
   Yochem said that the knowledge gained from raising her from
infancy has provided much data for future study.
   "Nobody knows how this is going to turn out and J.J. still has
a lot of challenges ahead of her," Yochem said. "But based on
what I've seen the past couple days, I'm optimistic."