By Alishia Keller
Bandon High School ’19
This post is part of a series about the 2018 STEM research cruise taking place this week on board the R/V Oceanus. For an introduction to the cruise, read yesterday’s post by the cruise’s Principal Investigator Tracy Crews. Today’s post is from a student’s perspective:
We woke and gathered in the dining area for breakfast before heading up to the flying bridge to observe marine mammals. There were patches of bait balls (groups of small fish) followed by flocks of gulls. Though we saw a few individual humpback whales, they were typically seen in pods of three or four.
During our whale observations, we witnessed a whale lunge feeding. This is when a whale lunges out of the water, exposing its enlarged buccal cavity which expands like an accordion to accommodate a large amount of water and the krill on which it feeds.
Seeing consistent whale activity led us to deploy the CTD to collect oceanographic data, and a plankton tow to observe the abundance of food available. Afterwards, we continued to observe the humpback whales. Though we saw many whales, not many flukes were visible, which made it difficult to photograph and identify the individual whales.
Right before lunch we gave up due to increasing winds which made observations difficult, so we headed North to Astoria Canyon off the Columbia River to conduct a series of CTDs. During the deepest deployment, we attached bags of Styrofoam cups decorated by our group, as well as students from some of their classrooms. The cups were sent to over 700 meters depth causing them to shrink to half their original size due to the high pressure.
After recovering the CTD and cups, our group gathered to eat ice cream and enjoy the magnificent sunset in the West, mirrored by the full red moon to the East. Our last research effort for the night was another plankton tow which yielded more krill, lantern fish, a baby octopus, and many other cool critters.
Alishia Keller is a senior at Bandon High School in Coos County, Oregon. After high school she plans to go to college to study ecology and sustainability.