By Tracy Crews
What was Day One on the R/V Oceanus like for the students, teachers, and researchers on board?
Knot tying, safety at sea, deploying and retrieving scientific instruments, interpreting data, conducting effort surveys, and photo identification of whales….
…these are just a few things that teachers and students on board OSU’s research vessel Oceanus put into practice yesterday on the first day of a three day research cruise off the Oregon coast. Before even leaving the dock, participants started their training, learning about shipboard technology and donning survival suits during safety drills. Crossing the bar, we spotted the first marine mammals of the day: a few gray whales and California sea lions. During this cruise, teachers and students will get an in depth look at how researchers identify, track, and study marine mammals in Oregon waters and beyond, and how baththymetry and oceanographic conditions influence the distribution of these animals.
As the first day of the cruise progressed and we passed over Stonewall Bank, we spotted a small pod of humpback whales. As we transmitted south, we also encountered a pod of orcas. The grande finale of the day came early sunset when a large group of humpback whales (approximately 50) was spotted near Heceta Bank. They were lunge feeding, opening their huge mouths and taking in water and, presumably, lots of food. A plankton tow confirmed the presence of krill, which is a favorite prey item for humpbacks.
With a final debriefing at 8:30 pm, teachers and students wandered off to their shared quarters excited but exhausted with a greater understanding of marine mammals and an appreciation for how hard researchers work. It was a great start to what we hope will be a successful experience for everyone!
Hear from others on board about what they thought about the first day of the cruise:
R/V Oceanus Day One: Hungry, Hungry Humpbacks from the GEMM Lab – OSU graduate students Florence Sullivan and Amanda Holdman describe the day with some great photos of whales contributed by Chief Scientist Leigh Torres.
Of Whale Poop and Shearwaters – Waldport High School teacher describes what is was like to watch humpbacks lunge feed, and what she learned about the color of whale poop.
What does it look like from the bow of the R/V Oceanus right now? Visit the webcam here: http://webcam.oregonstate.edu/oceanus
Tracy Crews is the PI for the “Shipboard Experiences on the R/V Oceanus” research cruise, the Marine Education Manager for Oregon Sea Grant at Hatfield Marine Science Center, and the STEM Programs Coordinator for the Oregon Coast STEM Hub.