I arrived in lovely Scituate, Massachusetts today to work with NOAA and the National Marine Sanctuaries for a week on their two-week research project.
The mission: describe underwater behavior of humpback whales.
The method: attach digital recording tags (DTAGs) to humpback whales to record audio, pitch, roll, heading and depth and Crittercams to record video.
The location: Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary and Jeffreys Ledge.
The boats: the R/V Nancy Foster and her two RHIBS: the Balena and the Luna, the R/V Auk, the S/V Song of the Whale.
The obstacle: not so simple a task.
DTAGs are amazing little devices that attach to a whale with suction cups, and provided they aren’t knocked off can provide hours of valuable data (more information).To get one on however requires some skilled driving in a RHIB (rigid-hulled inflatable boat) and some skilled use of a giant pole with the tag on the end. The same goes for attaching the Crittercams, which can actually show us what goes on when these whales are underwater, and from their point of view (more information). Aside from tagging, we will also be doing some prey mapping to better understand the feeding behavior as well. That part will be done with the help of the Auk, the vessel I will be working on. Tomorrow I get to help calibrate the echosounder and learn about how it works, so more on that soon!
Image taken from Google Maps