I haven’t posted in a week? Poor blogging, Selene!

Ok as promised, I wanted to post about what our day-to-day life has been like out here. Amazingly, today is our last day! I am on shore right now, making small adjustments to glider that we will pick up at noon. The rest of the team is out picking up the DASBRs and QUEphone. They will come in, we will unload gear, then go back out to get the glider.

After almost two weeks of going out everyday, we got the system down pretty well. We got stronger, and faster, and spirits remained high throughout!

Days start early – up around 5 am, for a 5:30 departure. 3 of the crew went out each day, because there wasn’t really room on the boat for 4 + all the gear, and that way we had a person on land who could give us instrument locations if we had trouble finding them.

Our main objective was to pick up all our floating/drifting recorders, and move them back up current (to the southwest) so they could drift over our moored instruments, and along the glider path, again over 24 hours.

Empty deck…soon those boxes will be filled with line!

We started each morning with an empty deck (except for a few empty tubs where line goes).

It took about 1:15 to transit out to where the instruments were floating. We had GPS coordinates for about where they were, and then half of them also had these really awesome dog trackers attached to the mast. When we were within 3 miles, the handheld receiver would point us in the direction of that “dog”. They are made for hunting, so if the floats didn’t move very fast it would alert us that our “dog” had “treed a quarry.” That was always good for a laugh. Then, using those to get to the general area, we could use relative positions of the others to find them. Some days lighting was better than others, but we always found them eventually.

Danielle demonstrating the art of pulling line. Selene demonstrating the art of putting your finger in a picture. Note: this was the CALMEST MOST BEAUTIFUL DAY ON THE WATER!!

Once we found an instrument, we marked its recovery location, and started to pull line. This was the fun part 🙂 the DASBRs have a surface float, and then 100 m of line down to a weight. Near the bottom of that is the two hydrophones, and depending on the type of DASBR, somewhere in there is the recording device and batteries. We all decided on our favorite and least favorite types of line to pull, and we’d share the work so it never seemed that bad! Each one took about 15 min to recover.

Every other day we recovered the QUEphone as well. It was drifting at 500 m, where the currents were slower, so it took two days to pass the HARPs. For that, Haru would text us when it surfaced, at about 8:00, then we would go grab it. Easy peasy.

After everything was loaded in the boat, we would head down to our deployment location.

Full boat! Let’s get this stuff back in the water.

We made minor adjustments to the deployment location each day, after looking at the currents from the day before. Everything stayed in formation as best as we hoped…which was awesome! The formation is critical to us being able to localize the animals we record. Heading to the deployment location took about 30 mins, where we would then drive from point to point making a rectangle. Letting the line out was super fun (compared to pulling it). If we had the QUEphone we would chuck it (gently of course) into the water, and head back in, another 1:30 transit.

First, in goes the float.
Then, let out the 100 m of line…
All the line is out, ready for the last part, the anchor weight!


While we were out there we did our part to collect mylar balloons we encountered (Please think twice about purchasing them…they don’t break down for a VERY LONG TIME and all that shiny plastic and string can look like a tasty treat to marine life). We also collected water samples in the vicinity of animals, for our the Cetacean Conservation and Genetics Lab at OSU, for an eDNA project Holger is working on with them.

Look at all these balloons…
Holger collecting a water sample behind a common dolphin.
Holger collecting a water sample behind a common dolphin.

We usually got back to the lab in early afternoon, again with an empty deck. Afternoons were filled with looking at instrument paths, planning for the next day, starting to look at data, discussing science, celebrating the good news for the Vaquita, and sometimes taking naps 🙂

Field updates – coming at you.

It’s Day 7, and I’ve got the morning off from going out on the boat, so I figured I could do a little blog updating. Jay, Holger, and Danielle are out on the small boat today, and Dave sadly left us to go back to Oregon yesterday.

An affogato, served atop the Harbor Reefs awesome table cloths.

Most important update – we HAVE drank/ate? affogato’s!! On Friday evening we walked into town for a fancy dinner out, to Two Harbors FINEST (and only) dining establishment, the Harbor Reef Restaurant. Jay was thoughtful enough to ask the waitress if she could make affogato’s for dessert, and once he explained what they were (espresso over ice cream) she said “No problem!” It was the perfect way to wrap up our first week here. (EDIT: I did not, in fact, have any of the affogato. I don’t like coffee. I was called out for this shortly after posting. I apologize for my deception)

Second most important update – we’ve got a QUEphone in the water!! (or maybe more important?)

On Thursday, Jay, Dave, and I went out at 6 with the plan of recovering 6 DASBRs, redeploying those and adding the final 2 DASBRs to the mix. (More info on DASBRs here. Drifting Acoustic Spar Buoy Recorder…I just learned a spar buoy is a long thin buoy. Fun facts!). After picking up the DASBRs, I went to prep the QUEphone for deployment, and guess what? I forgot the communication cable. I had the laptop, the battery, the spare battery, the serial cable for the computer, the alligator clips off the serial connector, but not the one connector that goes on the QUEphone’s 6-pin port. IDIOT!!!

Needless to say I was really kicking myself. BUT, Dave came to the rescue. He explained to me that of the 6 pins in the connector, its likely only one of them was needed for the communication, and using some electrical tape and a piece of wire from Jay’s toolbox, we might be able to do it. We contacted Haru (who designed the QUEphone) over the satellite phone, and he told us exactly which pin we needed to connect to. He was definitely worried about is doing this…and he emphasized how if we touch ANY OF THE OTHER PINS with the wire then we would fry the whole thing. Dave and I felt we could do it, very very carefully, and, well, the QUEphone is out there now soooo it worked!!

Dave's McGyver handy-work.
Dave’s McGyver handy-work.

Dave cradled the QUEphone while I ran the self tests, then we disconnected and it sunk, like we hoped! We found out it originally didn’t sink on our first day because it was too light. It sinks by deflating a buoyancy bladder, and the settings were incorrect for our environment, it was set to deflate to 110 cc, but we needed it to deflate to 55 cc. Once we had fixed that, away it went! Woo!! My embarrassment over my packing error quickly went away. (well maybe not completely, I’m still pretty ashamed….)

Holger excited to re-deploy the QUEphone yesterday. And Jay smiling in the background.
Holger excited to re-deploy the QUEphone yesterday. And Jay smiling in the background.

Since then, the grind has begun. Every morning, out at 5:30 (we start early to beat the wind that picks up in the afternoon), pull several hundred meters of line, let out several hundred meters of line, repeat. Every other day we pick up the QUEphone and drive it back south so it can drift north again.

Glider is also still flying pretty well. So we will continue on like this. Stay tuned for “AFFOGATO – A day in the life”

Day 4 already? How did that happen??

I’m happy to report ALL our instruments are now in the water and happily recording marine mammals in the Catalina Basin (lots I hope!).

Day 1 we did some testing at SWFSC, and got everything prepped for our transit out to the basin. Testing went as planned, and so we loaded the boat and had some time to kill at the harbor. Ate good seafood and hung out in the sun. I got sunburned already of course.

Science team science-ing at sunset on the way out of San Diego
Science team science-ing at sunset on the way out of San Diego

At about 7 pm we departed San Diego Bay for our overnight transit out to the basin. We decided (we?? it was Holger’s idea…) to get up and start deploying instruments as soon as we arrived on site, which was scheduled to be 4 AM. Yup. Moonlight deployment. That was a first, but fortunately the moon was full.

The currents in this area can be complicated, so we had come with somewhat of a plan, but knew we would have to play it by ear. So when we first arrived we deployed one of Jay Barlow’s floating drifters (DASBR) and watched its drift for about an hour. We deployed the first mini-HARP at its planned location, and then after assessing the drifting buoy, we went to deploy the second mini-HARP. Fortunately we deployed it right where we thought we would! That made things for the glider much easier. After getting both HARPs in, we picked up the first DASBR and drove back south to deploy a whole array of 4 DASBRs. This is how we will localize the animals, by using triangulation of calls recorded on the different instruments.

While this was going on, I got to work prepping the QUEphone, and this is where things finally started to NOT go perfectly as planned. The first QUEphone just would not sink! Weird…wanting an expensive piece of electronic equipment to sink, but that is exactly what we wanted. The QUEphone is designed to sink up to 2000 m, and drift along with the currents for 24 hours, then come back up to the surface and check in. Well, when it stays at the surface we can’t record anything, and that is not what we want. So we brought that one back on board. Lucky for us we brought a second QUEphone just in case. Unlucky for us, it also had issues, but it had communication issues. We tried deploying this one as well, waited a  while, and ended up recovering it when it too wouldn’t dive and was having iridium communication problems.

Holger, Q003, and sunrise.
Holger, Q003, and sunrise.
The QUEphone that wouldn't sink...
The QUEphone that wouldn’t sink…

And last, but certainly not least, we deployed my beloved glider, SG607, aka Will. Will got a new sticker before deployment, and this deployment went super smoothly! In large part due to the big swim step on the back of the boat where we could carefully lower the glider and hold it off while we did some final tests, and also with many thanks to Anatoli Erofeev, a glider pilot in CEOAS at OSU who has basically taught me everything I know about glider piloting that isn’t in the pilot binder (which is possibly more valuable when it comes to troubleshooting 🙂

Goodbye Will, collect lots of data for me please!
Goodbye Will, collect lots of data for me please! Photo credit: D. Harris
Will's new sticker. It's important to show the instruments you care about them with gifts.
Will’s new sticker. It’s important to show the instruments you care about them with gifts.


After all those (mostly) successful deployments, we headed to Wrigley Marine Science Center, where we will be based for the next two weeks. We arrived earlier than we had planned (thanks to our 4 am start…) but that was good because, well, we had A LOT of gear to unload and unpack.

Hmmm I'm not sure we have enough stuff
Hmmm I’m not sure we have enough stuff. Photo credit: H. Klinck.

So, this post is turning out to be more about Day 2 then Day 4 huh?

Well Day 3, a field team of Danielle, Jay, and Dave went out to move the 4 DASBRs back down south (They had drifted a perfect 12 km NE and needed to be reset) and deployed two more.

Day 4, Dave, Jay, and I went out and recovered/redeployed 6 DASBRs and deployed 2 more. PLUS we deployed the QUEphone – yay!!!! It worked, I’m stoked, but also very tired, and will write another post about this tomorrow.