While I prepare for the Hobart we’re also working on an innovative plan for my mini 650 #433 (below) for next year – touch wood it works and stay tuned! …and some inspiration from Aymeric Chappellier’s mini photo below that !!
Click to enlarge. Photo by Robin Lindsey
This views expressed in this guest blog do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of People for Puget Sound.
As we approached the whale on Arroyo Beach that April morning, I was filled with anticipation. This was my first gray whale stranding with the NW Marine Mammal Stranding Network. Kristin Wilkinson, NOAA’s marine mammal stranding expert, told me, “Be prepared for the media – this is the fourth dead gray in two weeks.”
Kristin and orca researcher, Jeff Hogan, immediately began to assess the animal and take measurements. I noticed Jeff’s young son, dwarfed by the massive body, wide-eyed as if trying to take it all in. Why had the whale died on our Salish Sea shore? I could not ignore the gnawing feeling that somehow we had played a part.
The thin whale, a male measuring 37 feet, was estimated to be 3-6 years old (a gray whale’s lifespan is 50-70 years). The massive creature needed to be towed to a remote location where biologists could perform their work. As we left, Kristin began making calls, arranging the logistics for a move and necropsy. A volunteer from MaST* offered his boat and towed the body to a restricted island south of Tacoma.
Two days later, boats carrying biologists and volunteers from WDFW’s Marine Mammal Investigations Unit, Cascadia Research, NOAA Fisheries and other local stranding networks landed on the island. Crates of gear and coolers were shuttled onto shore and the business of unraveling a mystery was begun. Cascadia researcher Jessie Huggins was perched high atop the back of the whale cutting blubber samples. Dyanna Lambourn, WDFW biologist, examined vital organs amidst seeming miles of intestines. Others were collecting and labeling samples, entering data. It was an impressive sight.
Cascadia’s renowned cetacean researcher John Calambokidis explored the contents of the whale’s stomach. He noted there was a significant amount of algae with little evidence of food. Hereached his hand inside the whale and removed a piece of plastic. Then, a length of rope, a golf ball, a plastic bag, a piece of cloth. Another piece of plastic, more cloth. Duct tape. A towel. Electrical tape.Fishing line. More rope. Surgical glove. Plastic funnel. More plastic bags. A huge piece of fabric – it was half a pair of sweatpants. Work around us stopped and everyone gathered, stunned. Over twenty plastic bags in all were removed from the whale’s stomach. John shook his head. In 20 years examining over 200 whales, he said he had never seen anything like this.
Suddenly, I felt sick. I struggled not to cry. I couldn’t stop thinking of the nursery in San Ignacio
Lagoon where mother gray whales, named friendlies by locals, lifted their calves up beside our small
skiff. Some of those females still bore harpoon scars. The gentle grays were old enough to remember
whalers who once called them “devil fish” because they so fearlessly fought to protect their young. In
the lagoon, I was overwhelmed at the whales’ trust as we reached out to touch them. And now, I
thought, we have betrayed that trust. With our reckless obsession with plastic, our careless abandon
with trash and chemicals.
My emotions were swirling. I knew all about that monstrous mass of plastic floating in the
Pacific. Plastics break down into micro-particles, in some places far outnumbering per square inch the plankton that sea life depends on. These particles attract storm runoff containing flame-retardants and PCBs like a magnet – entering the food chain. The plastic toxins are ingested by marine mammals and stored in their blubber, contaminating our orcas and seals. Our Northwest orcas are the most toxic marine mammals in the world.
These plastics will contaminate our oceans for hundreds and hundreds of years. Plastic bottle
caps that fill the stomachs of sea birds. Plastic grocery bags, mistaken for food, that suffocate sea
turtles and other mammals. Plastic rings and box straps that strangle and mutilate. Plastic nets and
fishing gear that choke and drown. We have all read the statistics – countless marine mammals, sea
turtles and sea birds are impacted each year by our plastics and marine debris. Many thousands die.
And now, this beautiful, majestic whale was dead before me**. A whale who sieved the floor of Puget
Sound searching for food – but instead, found only our human trash and plastic bags.
I will never forget this young whale. We can honor him and wake up to the toll that plastics take
on our marine life by the simple act of choosing reusable bags. Like good stewards, we can change our
habits – and ensure that future generations can say they share this world with whales and seals and
Guest Blogger Robin Lindsey is a photographer and the co-founder of Seal Sitters MMSN. She is co-author with Brenda Peterson of the children’s book Leopard and Silkie – a story of the friendship of two seal pups and a boy who protects them. Please visit Seal Sitters website and blog for more information about the marine mammals of Puget Sound, pollution, volunteer opportunities and NOAA’s Marine Mammal Stranding Network.
While I do another Hobart race (unfortunately without Jon) he’s off nonstop from New Zealand to Perth. We’ll probably arrive about the same time as Linda and I complete our own Adelaide to Perth after the race If not a reunion in Esperance where Jon and I had such an incredible welcome at the yacht club when were there on “Perie Banou 2″ last year!
PS: He was confused below (it was “Froia 2″ I sailed and my S&S34 next year!)
15 December 2011
Now back in Auckland NZ after a two week stint in Perth to get my troublesome top fangs out. Colin’s teeth have been perfect. My top lot have been trouble from the start. Anyway Matthew will bang another lot back in when in Perth, towards end of January. (I hope). Needless to say Matthew is David’s age and mate. (Same age). At least he topped his school.
My run from Bora Bora to Auckland was as one might expect. Bulk off wind. Windy through the Cook Islands. Seems always in that region. In 1991 I was hove-to, in a tropical storm. (This same yacht).
To heave-to (My style). Is to have a high 3 rd reef in the mainsail. One has to persuade Western Australian Sail makers to put it high enough. (Except Dubbo of course – Hi Dubbo). Because the sail is hauled in, it probably needs the boom topping lift to help hold up the end of the boom.
Point the boat towards the wind, not abeam. Put on auto pilot , read a book. If no auto pilot, – most yachts will lie like this with helm tied. Abeam is dangerous and on the quarter very dangerous. Storm conditions wind astern one needs some sort of drogue. (A small jib tied with all 3 corners towed behind). Probably go bare poles. (i.e. Don,t want the boat to surf). 30 to 40 KTS down wind normal sea conditions SS39 SS34 with Aries self steeper runs like a charm. (With 3 reefs Mainsail only.)
Met Robin Knox Johnson in Durban a few years back. He reckoned he had never put on a storm tri, he has always had the 4th reef. More than a week out from Auckland fetched a SW Gale 30 to 40kts headwind so Hove-to. Moderated fairly soon to 30 knots and I slowly stooged in westerly direction for a day until the wind went south then south east. Then it was straight thru to Auckland. Tied up Westhaven Maria, they claim the largest Marina in the Southern hemisphere. Probably is. They have other large marinas NZ, plus Manly Brisbane is big. Africa and South America are not famous for their marinas. I should know – been there. (Done that).
Anyway Westhaven is nice. Water power and live aboard was $A22 per day. Cheapest so far. Owned by Auckland City Council. Near by is yachtsman corner. A couple of blocks all marine stuff, sail makers, chandlery, electrical. engineering etc. At one end of the marina near the bridge are four yacht clubs including RNZY Squadron. Built on land fill, Their problem is they do not own their own marinas, which is a source of income.
Coming into Auckland, close to midnight, I sailed right to near the secure customs yacht wharf, then lowered my sails and put engine in gear, very slow revs and parked the yacht. Slow because my top shaft (V Drive) had worked loose in the bearings again. In Auckland a mechanic has put new bearings in. He could not work out why it did it. I have two universal joints. As he put it “So do trucks”. But maybe the exit casing where the shaft goes thru not stable enough or flexible. Told me to take it easy.
The Customs & Quarantine. came down next morning. All was quick and easy because I picked up all their paper work in Tahiti and had it already filled in.
I guess I do not do anything like the flying Western Australian federal politicians do, or even Andrew Sanders. So one might think I seem to live aboard a yacht. I do, but it feels more like I live in aircraft terminals, Qantas Club and in Boeing and Airbus flying things.
In the last 5 months I Have made two Australian trans continental flights and 10 international flights, plus sailed from the British Virgin Islands, Caribbean to NZ via Panama (plus Bali Indonesia to MacKay Queensland in Bryan McMasters yacht). Hey Bryan congratulations Harbour Race win. – His other yacht. (Andrew and I were guests on the Balcony of the Maritime Museum, watching). Were so. (Kenny Ireland probably thought we were spying).
Sunday 4th Dec walking from marina to catch Cat type bus into town to use internet cafe. Raining cats and dogs. Was so. Big puddle across the road and only one narrow path. Gosh better hurry pass this bit or a passing car will drown me. Heard a car coming, cant help bad luck. But it went to the other side of the road and stopped. Lowered the window and said “I think you could do with a lift”. The car had RNZYS on the side of the car. So I asked him if he worked at Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron. Sure did, GM of RNZYS. Good friends of GM RFBYC- WA.
Paul Stratfold and Shiralee yacht is in Fiji, they are both back in WA working. My crew, (Brian Caldwell) Sydney – Hobart crew and Rio Race crew (well I do what they tell me to) has sailed his S&S 34 from Seattle USA to Bundaberg and his girl friend Linda two days behind him in a similar boat from USA, also to Bundaberg. Thanks to Richard Stainton and Maree everyone ends up in Bundaberg. As Paul and the Owen-Conway family can tell. Brian and Linda will be stealing my bedroom again. (They,ll be reading this). Brian was the youngest person under 21 to sail solo around the world until a certain David Dicks broke the record. You get that.
Brian has sailed with me in the last Hobart Race and the Cape to Rio Race. In 2009 after the Hobart and because neither brian or Linda had been across the South Coast Aussie, the three of us left Hobart in Perie Banou 11 explored the South Coast Tas. then the West coast incl. Port Davey, Bathurst Channel and Bathurst Harbour and an, inlet we went up until we went aground – great. Then we went onto Port Fairy, Portland and then Port Lincoln, Esperance. Albany and Fremantle. (More fun than my usual one or two stops).
My annual pilgrimage (sometimes more than once) to Bundaberg usually involves the Tilt Train or the Sunlander sleeper depending which end of Queensland I am coming from. The best part is Richard or Maree are are always on the platform waiting.
A low is due to pass over North Island Fri, so I will probably leave for Fremantle Sat. Maybe go straight thru.
Hear tell viewing great South Mole (ISAF). Specially the finishes. Good fun crowds. Congratulations Ian and all. I would like to have seen the windsurfers finishing’s. Probably because it is everything I cannot do. Ian Thorpe can swim. So can I, just not as fast.
It is thurs 15 Dec today. Rained all last night and today. Floods south. Would like to leave Sat – good weather but waiting for parts my Aries self steerer. They are are a bit worn and bit slack * (like me). But it still works extremely well. Even better in light airs. I think it best I replace some of those parts. Ordered and paid for, but they are not here. Made a mistake getting them sent Royal Mail. It would have cost $100 or more extra with DHL. That would now have been more sensible. Anyway I will hang on until next week in the hope. This is the 6th circumnavigation this unit [Aries Wind Vane Self Steering] has been used including David Dicks circumnavigation, plus 9 other crossing Great Australian Bight in my yacht for Hobarts and boats I have delivered. In calm conditions (now) I attach a Ray marine tiller auto pilot to the actual vane.
I wonder if they ever get a dry season in NZ.
Regards to all
Biologist Roger Payne played a key role in helping end the wholesale slaughter of whales. In this interview, he talks about the threats they continue to face
Roger Payne first came to prominence more than 40 years ago, when he and a colleague made the discovery that whales sing eerily beautiful songs as a way of communicating. Their 1970 recording of whale sounds, Songs of the Humpback Whale, helped to galvanize the global anti-whaling movement, which led most countries to scrap their whaling fleets.
Payne, the founder of the conservation group, Ocean Alliance, has continued his groundbreaking work on whales, including recent landmark studies showing how whales worldwide have high levels of pollutants — including DDT — in their bodies. He also is continuing a 40-year study of more than 2,000 right whales in Argentina, identifying individual whales by the markings on their heads.
In an interview with Yale Environment 360 contributor Christina Russo, Payne talked about current threats to the world’s whale populations, including the ongoing killing of whales by Japan and other nations — a practice he describes as inhumane. Payne also discussed the mystery of the songs sung by whales, whose haunting strains have the power, he says, to move people to tears.
Yale Environment 360: You’ve been studying whales for nearly half a century?
Roger Payne: Yes. I’ve been studying whales about 45 years.
e360: Do you ever come across educated, aware people who don’t realize that whaling is still taking place?
Payne: I would say most of them don’t realize it. And if they do realize that whaling is taking place, they are very pleased that there is a moratorium and that whaling is under control. And of course the truth of the matter is that whaling is completely under the control of the whalers — not the rest of the world. The rest of the world gets no chance to vote on it, even discuss it, set up any quotas or anything else. The whalers have won absolutely everything.
e360: When you first started studying whales in the 1960s, the chief threat to them was commercial whaling. About 33,000 great whales at that time were killed annually. The 1986 moratorium made a huge impact. But Norway, Iceland and Japan — among others — still whale. How many whales are killed now annually?
Payne: The numbers have been climbing steadily since the moratorium went into effect. At that time the total number killed was 185 whales. Two years ago it was 1,004.
e360: Japan is the chief whaling nation…
Payne: Yes, it controls it all. The other nations will tell you they are interested primarily in getting whale meat, but it’s perfectly clear that what they are looking for is foreign exchange, so they can buy all of the wonderful things that are made in Japan. Norway has some people who eat whales, and so does Iceland, but not enough to eat through the stocks that they get. What they are really trying to do is export to Japan.
The regulations of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) have two loopholes that you could fly a 747 through. One of them is: If you don’t like some restriction which has been passed — not just by a majority of the other nations in the commission, but by every other nation in the commission — all you have to do is to say, within 90 days, “I don’t like it, I’m not going to obey it.” And it is totally legal not to obey it. Japan didn’t do that when the IWC passed the “zero quota” moratorium. Instead, Japan waited a couple of years and said it was going to continue it’s “scientific research.”
And that is the second loophole in the commission. Basically, this means if a scientist says he needs whales to do studies on, then the country of which that scientist is a citizen can give the scientist permits to kill whales. It doesn’t have to wait for the International Whaling Commission to make up its mind and say whether or not that can happen.
e360: What kind of liberties does this scientific umbrella afford Japan?
Payne: They are killing the same whales. Taking almost exactly the same data they took when they were doing commercial whaling. They are selling these whales’ bodies to the same markets. And they are taking them from the same areas… And now it’s “science!” It is a total scam! It doesn’t fool anybody. They have produced only maybe one or two papers in the years since the whale moratorium took effect.
e360: Doesn’t the scientific clause allow the Japanese to whale — for example — certain species they might not be able to otherwise? Or calves?
Payne: Yes, and it is a very important distinction. If you say you are doing scientific whaling , you get to do anything you like. You can kill any whale. Of any species. Of any area. At any age. By any means. And you are doing it in the name of “science.”
e360: What are the methods to kill whales?
Payne: The main trouble is that in the wild it is impossible to kill a whale in a humane fashion. The normal technique is to fire a harpoon that weighs about 200 pounds into the back of a whale, and five seconds after it hits the whale, the tip on it explodes – and that is supposed to kill the whale instantly. However, in one of the worst cases, it took four hours and nine harpoons to kill the whale. During this time, the whale is pulling against the barbs on the harpoon in its flesh to a degree where it can actually pull a catcher boat, which is a very powerful speedboat.
The [method] that is now mostly used is a technique in the Antarctic that uses sonar. Not, however, to look at the whale underneath the water. They use it as a means of scaring the whales, because sonar is very loud. They did experiments and chose a frequency which kept whales so panicked, that they were at the surface for breaths more frequently than at other frequencies. So, they drive the whale along at the surface and then they fire into it.
Normally, they used to hit somewhere about the back of the head of a whale, so that the explosion of the harpoon might in fact do something. But, with small whale species — and the small one that is the basis of the industry now is the minke whale — the whale gets a lot of its meat damaged by an exploding harpoon. So, what they now do is they shoot farther back along the body, back near the tail. And there is a winch on board the catcher boat, which is able to winch the rear of the whale up into the air, leaving the whale’s head in the water. And the whale slowly — very slowly — drowns. And during the time that the whalers lift it up, they also put some electrodes into it and try to electrocute it. Heaven knows what the whale is suffering as a result of that sort of behavior.
e360: From 2000 to 2005, Ocean Alliance conducted a massive study in which your goal was to get a baseline survey of pollutants in whales. Can you explain those findings?
Payne: We came back with 955 samples from sperm whales. There were [a few] reasons we used sperm whales. One is, like humans, they live at the top of the food chain, so what is happening to them is happening to us — even if we don’t know it. And the other major reason is that they have a lot of fat, so they absorb some of the substances that we are most interested in — things called persistent organic pollutants. Along the way, we also started analyzing for metals, and some of the biggest shocks came from metals.
We found, for example, that the concentrations of aluminum and chromium are surprisingly very, very high. Our data showed that chromium levels present in sperm whales were previously only seen in workers who have had long, occupational exposure — 20 years of being in some factory in which chromium is being used. One of the ideas that came from this and has gained some traction is the possibility that these animals are getting chromium from the air, from breathing it in.
Another shock was that the highest concentrations of DDT were in whales right off of the Galapagos Islands, where there is no use, as far as we know, of DDT by big agriculture.
e360: What did that mean?
Payne: The most obvious thought would be that these were whales that had come in from elsewhere, where they had been exposed. But there are big surprises in things like DDT. For example there is more DDT in the air over Canada now than when Canada used DDT — and it hasn’t used it since the late ’60s. This stuff moves around, and it gets into the ocean. What it’s really showing is that whatever the food was that the whales in these areas were feeding on… it came from food chains that were badly contaminated with it.
Also, these substances concentrate as they move up food chains because any given animal in the ocean feeds at the sixth level of the food chain. All that means is that at the bottom of its food chain is all the plants, and those plants are single-celled diatoms. And they get eaten by little zooplankton, little single-celled animals. And they get eaten by other zooplankton, which might get eaten by krill, which might get eaten by a small fish. And the small fish may get eaten by a bigger fish. And then eventually the whale might be eating on that somewhat larger fish.
If you have that sort of situation, you get about 10 times the magnification of substances that the animal cannot metabolize. So they have to store them. There’s nothing they can do with them. If you have a six-step food chain you have a 10 to the 6th amplification — that is a million. So, if you were about to eat a pound of swordfish, and the swordfish had fed at the sixth level of the food chain, how many pounds of algae or diatoms did it take to make that one pound of swordfish? The answer is 10 to the 6th — a million pounds. A million pounds is 500 tons. 500 tons is 50 ten-ton truckloads. Load those trucks all up with diatoms, all dripping down onto the pavement, and then park them nose to tail — that will take about 18 blocks. Now tie your liver to one end of this row of trucks and detoxify the whole thing with your liver. And that’s what you do when you eat a pound of any fish that lives at the 6th level of any ocean food chain.
You do that enough and over enough years and you end up with a very serious load of these contaminants in your own body, and it causes all kinds of terrible health effects.
e360: Do you believe pollutants could actually bring about the extinction of the whale species or is that too dramatic?
Payne: Not only is it not dramatic, I think it is inevitable for many whale species. The reason is that many of these contaminant loads last longer in the whale than we believe the lifetime of the whale to be… [And] because whales are mammals, there is not only a build-up during the lifetime of the individuals, but there is also an increase as you go from generation to generation. When a mother nurses her offspring, she is actually dumping her lifetime’s accumulations of fat-soluble substances into her newborn babe. So the babe does not start life as a pristine creature. It starts life basically with a concentration [of contaminants] that is about the same of what its mother has. And then it goes through its own life and adds to it with the meals that it eats. Then it dumps that double load into its first infant. And it should slowly move along from generation to generation… until you don’t have reproduction working well at all.
But I’m concerned not just with whales, but also with the concentrations of these substances in people. For example, about a billion people in this world eat — as the principal source of animal protein — food from the sea. That means about a billion are in a position of getting these substances into their bodies and not being able to get rid of them. And I worry about the rest of the other species of marine mammals as well who have high diets of fish — seals, sea lions, and porpoises.
e360: I want to ask you about your study in Argentina, which [Ocean Alliance] describes as “the longest continuous study of any great whale based on known individuals.”
Payne: We have been studying right whales in Argentina starting in 1970. You can tell individual right whales apart by the patterns of the white markings on their head, there are no two alike. We now follow the fates of well over 2,000 right whales. We know who is the mother of whom; who is the half-brother, or sister, and who consorts with whom, and who avoids whom. We also can tell the ages of whales, and what differences occur as they get older, because we watch them as calves and then follow them through life.
e360: Do you have affection for any particular species of whale? Or an individual?
Payne:Oh, yes there is an individual I am very fond of. We call her Y-spot. She has a pattern on her back of a Y and a spot… She is a right whale in Argentina, and I missed her for about five years at one point. And then one day when I was watching whales from a cliff I saw a whale in the distance, and I couldn’t figure out who the Dickens it was. After maybe two and half hours of watching, I suddenly saw that this was… Oh my gosh, it was Y-spot. I can’t tell you how it felt. It would be like finding a long lost brother or something.
e360: Is there a singular moment for real triumph for you as a conservationist?
Payne: What has pleased me most is the reaction that people still have when they hear the sounds of whales. Nobody is prepared for it. Whales seem to be communicating in what I think of as emotional communication. If I was trying to make you joyous or sad or concerned or frightened or something like that, there might be ways of doing that — but I wouldn’t think of doing it in any way except by words. But in the case of whales, I think they are achieving those same sorts of things probably just as directly.
The songs of whales have a profound impact on many people. A lot of people weep when they hear them. And they can’t even tell you why they have wept, except they say it just seems so sad. And many times it does.
Semiletov said that while his research team has discovered more than 100 plumes, they estimate there to be “thousands” over the wider area, extending from the Russian mainland to the East Siberian Arctic Shelf.
“In a very small area, less than 10,000 square miles, we have counted more than 100 fountains, or torch-like structures, bubbling through the water column and injected directly into the atmosphere from the seabed,” Semiletov said. “We carried out checks at about 115 stationary points and discovered methane fields of a fantastic scale — I think on a scale not seen before. Some plumes were a kilometer or more wide and the emissions went directly into the atmosphere — the concentration was a hundred times higher than normal.”
The 131ft French VPLP designed trimaran “Banque Populaire V” skippered by Bruno Peyron’s brother Loick Peyron are due south of us in Adelaide today at 48 degrees latitude after setting a new record between France and Cape Leeuwin of 17 days!!! Almost incredible as when they did a 906 mile day when they set the record from New York to England a few years ago of three days…They are already two days ahead of Frank Cammas Jules Verne around the world speed record of 48-days!!! It might be a 45 day or under lap of the planet!!!