Saturday 30 August 2014

Tag Count 8

Another day on the water - another tag successfully deployed!

It was markedly windier on the water today - which meant even larger swells and more wind shear on the water's surface. White caps everywhere even on the lee-side of the island particularly in the morning. We again focussed our efforts in the calmer waters just offshore of Avarua, the main township on Rarotonga.

The local fishermen have been instrumental in providing us accurate and timely information regarding whale locations, sighting times, and direction of movement. Our successes are largely a result of the excellent and collaborative nature of the relationship Nan has established with the fishermen over the past 17 years. Thank you all so very much and particularly to Akura Fishing!

Perhaps the best news of the day came when we got back to Nan's house tonight - Alex checked the Argos satellite system and BOTH TAGS ARE TRANSMITTING WHALE LOCATIONS!

Federico gets in position for deployment of our second tag (August 29, 2014 - Rarotonga)

I am particularly thrilled by this news as it means everything is fundamentally working. We're getting the job done and we will have new movement/migration data from the Rarotonga humpback whale population to compare to previous years (2006-2007). I spent the after dinner hours modeling Earth's Main magnetic field, as well as its rock anomaly field, in the area immediately surrounding Rarotonga itself. By taking a closer look at the whales' movements in the waters around the island itself, rather than in open ocean far away from any coastlines, I hope to assess whether or not there are any systematic patterns in the whale movements in magnetic coordinate space(s). We'll also look at the geographic coordinates as well of course!

While I was running computer models on my computer (thank you Stefan Maus!), Federico was busy prepping another tag. Hopefully we'll hit the water early in the AM tomorrow with the forecasted lower winds and three more tags ready to be deployed. It's hard to pass on the excitement and enthusiasm we all have been carrying these past several days. We are making moments that we will all cherish for many years to come and every minute of my time here in Raro has been beyond enjoyable. It's a tremendous honor to be able to share these moments with you!

More to come tomorrow on the whale locations provided by Argos and some of the things I've learned about whale movement behavior in Rarotonga! Oh, and wouldn't it be swell if we deployed another tag or two. Here's hoping!

- Travis Horton

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