R/V Odyssey Update 7/94

Whale Conservation Institute (wci@vmsvax.simmons.edu)
Mon, 22 Jul 1994 10:34:09

R/V  ODYSSEY
Galapagos  Cruise 1994
 
 For 12 months between March 5, 1993 and March 31, 1994, the
R/V Odyssey  studied the cetaceans of the Galapagos Islands.
Seventeen cruises totaling more than 19,000 miles were completed
around the Galapagos waters in this time.  Visiting scientists,
Ecuadorian students, naturalist guides and staff from the Charles
Darwin Research Station and the Galapagos National Park Service
worked with the program.  Primary emphasis was placed on sperm
whale data collection, but all cetacean species encountered were
studied.  Cetacean sightings during the Galapagos cruises included
bottlenose dolphins, BrydeUs  whales, common dolphins, CuvierUs
beaked whales, false killer whales, humpbacks, orcas, pilot whales,
RissoUs dolphins, sperm whales, blue whales, spotted dolphins and
striped dolphins.
 
The Whale Conservation Institute  pioneered most of the
techniques used on these cruises  that not only allow scientists to
comprehensively  study cetacean populations, but that also cause no
harm to the animals. These benign techniques, used now by many
marine biologists worldwide, include identification of individuals by
natural markings, size measurement and age approximation by aerial
photographs, tracking of whale locations by land based transit and
sex determination by behavioral clues and degree of markings.
 
After each of the 17 research cruises, a report of results and
activities was shared with the Charles Darwin Research Station, the
Galapagos National Park Service, and the Ecuadorian Navy.
 
A brief summary of our activities in the field follows.
 
1. Electrocardiography:  Dr. Jorge Reynolds, director of the Whale
Heart Satellite Tracking program in Colombia, succeeded in
obtaining the first EKGs ever made on sperm whales while aboard
the R/V Odyssey.  He used passive transmission and radio frequency
darts to detect the electrical activity  of the whaleUs heart and
transmit the information to a receiver.  Ten and five minutes of
cardiac activity were received .  Dr. Reynolds also got the first ever
ultrasound of a sperm whale by manipulating Odyssey sonar data.
 
2.  Satellite Tagging: The deployment of satellite monitored radio
transmitters on sperm whales was attempted on two occasions
under the direction of Dr. Bruce Mate and his scientific team from
Oregon State University. Despite  setbacks, some interesting
findings are being reviewed by Dr. Mate and his team.
 
3. R WhalecamS:   This package attached by suction cups
incorporated an image intensified camera: a Hi-8 Recorder, 2
microphones, a temperature, depth, velocity and light recorder, an
underwater locator beacon, and a VHF beacon.  We had hoped to get a
whaleUs eye view of his dinner!  Four attachments were attempted
without the electronics package and 4 attachments were attempted
with the entire Whalecam unit.  None of the deployments remained on
a whale long enough to obtain the desired results; the equipment has
been refined.
 
4. Toxicology: New analysis techniques, developed at the Woods
Hole Oceanographic Institute, have made it possible to analyze for
genetics and for toxin presence and levels. Some of the laboratory
analysis of the collected samples will take more than three months
and will be done simultaneously in Sweden, Colombia and the United
States.
 
5.  Sightings: Records of all marine mammals sighted during our
cruises were made.  Information including position, species, group
size, group composition and behavior was collected whenever
possible.  At least 1221 initial sightings were recorded.  When
sperm whales were located, they were followed visually and
acoustically, day and night, for as long as possible and detailed
notes were taken continuously.
 
6.  Photo Identification and Length Photographs: Photographs were
taken to identify individual sperm whales and well as other species
such as orcas, BrydeUs whales, bottlenose dolphins and common
dolphins.  Photographs were also taken to estimate the size of
individual sperm whales.  A total of approximately 350 rolls of 36
exposure film were used.
 
7.  Acoustic Sampling:  Acoustic monitoring was performed
continuously at sea (barring technical problems) using a towed array
of hydrophone elements and a directional hydrophone.  Cetaceans
were routinely located and followed using this acoustic listening
equipment. A total of 48 analog and DAT tapes of cetacean
vocalizations were recorded.
 
8.  Genetic Sampling:  Thirty nine sloughed skin samples of sperm
whales  and 17 skin/blubber biopsies obtained by biopsy darts,
including two from blue whales, were collected to identify
individuals using genetic fingerprinting techniques, as well to
assess the relations within and among groups and populations.
 
9.  Fecal Sampling: Some squid beaks, parasites and other remains
were collected from the feces of sperm whales using a dip net.  The
species to which these beaks belong will help to determine the diet
of the sperm whales in the Galapagos.
 
10.  Necropsies: Two necropsies were performed during the year
by the Odyssey  scientists.  The first was a bottlenose dolphin found
by a local fisherman.  The second was a CuvierUs beaked whale found
in the open ocean by R/V Odyssey.  Samples were collected for
further analysis and detailed reports were shared with the Charles
Darwin Research Station and the Galapagos National Park Service.
 
11.  Environmental and Oceanographic Monitoring: Environmental
conditions were recorded every two hours (approximately 2060
samples)  This information included cloud cover, wind speed and
direction, sea state, swell amplitude (wave size), visibility, water
color, surface water temperature, air temperature, depth, and
vertical water visibility.  Vertical salinity, temperature, depth and
oxygen profiles were recorded by lowering an oceanographic probe to
300 meters.
 
Between and during cruises, the Odyssey  was host to many
groups of students, local government officials and visiting
scientists. A film crew from the Japanese public broadcasting
system NHK also used the Odyssey  for filming education
documentaries.  The Odyssey  also assisted in other areas of
international cooperation. We helped  in the search for a lost  tourist
boat and in transporting and assisting a joint  team from the Charles
Darwin Research Station and Galapagos National Park Service  to
eradicate an introduced species of fire ants on Marchena Island.   The
Odyssey  also reported to the proper authorities illegal activities
seen in the Galapagos  related to the harvesting of protected
resources.  Education based on scientific research is one of the
hallmarks of WCI;  we continue to strive for  that goal.
 
At this point, the Odyssey  is on her way to the Sea of Cortez,
after being refined even more for her next project: the filming in the
Eastern Pacific of  Whale.  Details on this project and the OdysseyUs
future plans can be found in adjoining articles.
-Compiled by Bernard Brennan and Karen Baker