EWS Update #1 (12/15/97)

12/01/97 - 12/15/97

New England Aquarium

Surveys For Right Whales

EWS Reports

(Page sponsored and maintained by WhaleNet)

Team Right Whale has reformed on the storm battered shores of Amelia Island. After 15 days in place we've managed to get 10 surveys completed... about half of those were flown with the surface of the sea shredded by winds of Beaufort Force 4 and 5 (12 - 24 mph). We've had sightings on 3 of the days when conditions were better (12/3, 12/4, and 12/8). All sightings were of single animals but there was a mother and calf reported by a harbor pilot on 12/10, near Savannah. This is good. Not only does it herald the arrival of new calves, it indicates that mariners up and down the coast are well informed and interested... so many thanks to the Savannah harbor pilots.

As for whales headed our way, the GA-DNR found 4 right whales (no calves) on 12/11, frolicking together off Sapelo Island, GA. That's the last day anyone was able to survey. I'm not sure if the current gale is the work of the mischievous El Nino but it's had us pinned down for the last 4 days. And it's doubtful that we'll get off the ground tomorrow. It does give us a chance to catch up on data entry, holiday shopping, etc..... unless we get washed away. Our field station is a little beach house on tall pilings, perched against the sea at the north end of Fernandina Beach. A lane of sand and a line of concrete riprap on which a single dune has formed is all that keeps these northeast swells from washing the legs out from under this place. As it is, they pile into the riprap and explode, shaking the house which already rocks in the wind like a boat. Really, the water in our toilet bowl sloshes in a full gale. A local TV news crew stopped out front to shoot the scene for a piece on beach erosion. They asked if we were upset? How can you be angry at the ocean and the wind? This is not an assault. It's the power of the sea juxtaposed with the frittering folly of man and his ill-placed stickbuilt structures. Still, I think I'll move my truck from underneath the house...

For more EWS information and a chart of our sightings please see our website, created with the generous support of Michael Williamson and Whalenet: http://whale.wheelock.edu

The page should be complete by 12/18. After that, these updates will come more frequently.

Hope everyone is safe and warm for the holidays-- Chris Slay. New England Aquarium / Right Whale Research cslay@ibm.net