Greetings from sunny Rarotonga!
I have arrived in Raro and the team is now fully assembled. Alex and Frederico have been busy preparing the satellite tag deployment equipment, while Abigail and Alyssa worked late into the night editing recent drone+GoPro video for a presentation to an international drone company. Natalie has been an invaluable source of coordination and planning - she is always anticipating and prioritizing the key next steps to keep the team moving forward. Nan and I have spent the morning running errands (most importantly sourcing 100% acetone for disinfecting the tags, and getting food for the team back at HQ). Head quarters for this whole operation is Nan's house. It is bustling with activity - 7 of the team spent the night here last night after an epic day yesterday - and we are well on our way to deploying our first tag either later today or tomorrow!
In other important news - the opening of Marae Moana/Cook Islands Marine Park offices yesterday was a smashing success. Several local and international dignitaries attended the ceremony, including Prime Minister Henry Puna. Chairman and CEO of Conservation International, Peter Seligmann, made a massive show of support by funding two additional satellite tags (we are now up to 10, I think this all Alex brought, so a max for this year - but there's always next year!). Thank you so very much Henry and Peter for your support of Marae Moana and Cook Islands Whale Research. We couldn't do it without you!
And for those of you interested in what we're up to and media coverage of these activities: 60 Minutes (U.S.A.) replayed the Oct. 2013 episode with Nan - check it out at here! - just this past Sunday. Radio New Zealand National has contacted me about a possible interview, the U.S. Embassy in New Zealand is working up a press release (it might be out by now?), Cook Islands TV just pulled in the drive to do an interview, and the Cook Islands newspaper just showed up as well. Huge momentum and positivity on Happy Valley Road, CI!
I will post some photos tonight and provide an update on the actual humpback whales and tagging activities. I promise to mix in some science as well! Stay tuned....