Meet the Crew of 60 South! (Written on Jan 06, 2014)
Under a midnight lume we continued to make our way steadily SW, with our ETA to the ice edge being 2D 4H (2 Days 4 Hours)! Luckily, we have been able to run the gauntlet of the two bands of lows, through a nice gap between systems. The Antforecaster, Tina, has kindly provided a custom-forecast for where we are and where we wish to travel and as well, she has provided perfect weather too! Well done Tina! Thanks a million!
As the morning wore on, the pre-dawn light at 0222 was more like daylight than the actual time. Welcome to summer in the Antarctic!
With so many personnel ashore that are making this voyage happen and with thanks to all thus far, and especially Micah, our Daughter-Number-One whom is allowing you to follow our journey – perhaps it is time for you to Meet the Crew of 60 South!
Captain Curt-of-the-Whale Song and Third Mate, me, have been dreaming of this voyage since 1990. Bobbing in Nova, our 5.8 m Zodiac north of the Dampier Archipelago, we began a photo-id project monitoring predominantly southbound humpback whales, as they migrated close to the coast. The whales were travelling to and from their “bedroom” in the Kimberley along the corridors of the Humpback Highway to their “kitchen” in the Antarctic. Given the mission the whales appeared to be on to return southward to feed after a season of breeding in the tropics, for a few years we have wanted to visit the kitchen ourselves! Building WhaleSong, the sailing catamaran from western red cedar and sailing 30,000nm over 10.5 years brought an understanding of the whales’ calving grounds and migration paths and patterns along the west coast of Western Australia. Converting a tuna long-liner into an expedition vessel, WhaleSong II, this vessel helped reveal many offshore secrets – indeed places in the NW with 15 species of cetaceans. But being fibreglass, we were reticent to take it south to the Antarctic. Since 2000, we searched for a suitable vessel – luckily we found Whale Song and she is the one. Twenty-eight metres overall and 220 tons, she is a strong little, steel-hulled ship. You can feel her saying “I know I can, I know I can” like the Little Tug That Could from a famous child’s story.
After twenty years of dreaming and searching for a boat and the where-with-all, here we are about to open the fridge door and see what all the fuss is about for these whales! Curt and I have both been south before, Curt with the AWE (Australian Whale Expedition) in 2010 and myself in 1993 on an IWC/IDCR trip.
Curt and Mich have brought together this excellent team to investigate the feeding strategies of humpback whales and blue whales using various techniques from Whale Song in the Antarctic to the south of Australia.
Dale, First Mate, is our “old salt”. He has sailed around the world three times and has a wealth of nautical and marine knowledge as well as remarkably remembering all the yacht names, harbours, ports and anchorages in every country he has visited. He is a veritable walking sailing guide! Dale brings attention to detail regarding maintenance of our good ship, Whale Song. Dale loves to be at sea – a necessary common thread among our small, but well-oiled crew.
Simon, Second Mate, is young, enthusiastic and strong with much ocean yachting experience, charter vessel operation and ship-loading skills. As well as his Deck skills in Watch-keeping and Safety Maintenance, Simon is thirsty for the thrill of adventure and has thoroughly enjoyed the marine mammal component of our work, particularly assisting with filming.
Resty, Chief Engineer, our “middle salt” has been on board Whale Song since 2008. He knows the engines and generators inside-out and back-to-front and works tirelessly to keep the ship operating smoothly. The secret of his success – singing to the machinery! As well, Resty keeps our bellies full with mountains of delicious Filipino food!
Sam, our Deckhand has been part of the Whale Song family since the end of 2011, when he joined the ship in Darling Harbour, Sydney and commenced his now, well-honed polishing routines, among many new-found skills. Steel boats need lots of attention. Sam together with Resty and Simon are Whale Songs’ Rust-Busters! Sam enjoys our longer passages and of late, has been consulting ocean guides and planning far-flung sailing expeditions with his room-mate, Resty. Soon he will complete his Coxswains qualification with 2 years of boating experience under his belt.
Inday, our Research Assistant and IT “Go-to”, has brought CWR into the 21st Century with our re-vamped and re-launched website and now fb and twitter feeds. Passionate about sharks, Inday loves marine mammals and all things watery and with this position she has been able to successfully combine her penchant for filming, by making clips for the CWR Video Diaries, with scientific marine data collection.
Tas is our “young salt” on board. Learning to walk at sea and growing up aboard WhaleSong the sailing catamaran, Tas has travelled 44,000 nm in her fourteen years. Tas brings enthusiasm to the observing team and wonderful cooking skills to our galley and tummies! Our sous chef, Tas helps Resty each afternoon slicing and dicing, as well as producing scrummy desserts and treats, such as her signature crème brulee and todays’ special – “made-with-love” baklava.
Rob, on acoustics from Curtin University, (it sounds like I am introducing a band! – well, I am!) is a leading world authority regarding underwater acoustics. Rob specialises in acoustic modelling as well as categorising/identifying and tracking whale calls. Running the majority of the acoustic monitoring, Rob brings great insight to the valuable acoustic data set we are collecting for a National Database, as we begin the process of honing in on whales near the ice edge.
Russ, from University of Alaska Fairbanks/Alaska SeaLife Center is our telemetry specialist with many and varied tags for deployment on these southern humpback whales and blue whales. The LIMPET tag he developed has now been deployed on 20 species of cetaceans, 21 if you count the dwarf minke whale as a separate species (which was first tagged from WhaleSong this past winter). Russ brings a wealth of information regarding satellite tag development, configuration, deployment and worldwide field expertise. He is thoroughly at home at the 60 latitude!
Our small, but highly trained crew of Marine and Science members have settled in well while en “Transit” from Hobart to the ice edge and we await with joy and intrepidation, viewing the first icebergs but we also had another celebration to anticipate, the crossing of 60 South today!
Noon Observations Jan 06, 2014
Lat/Long: 590 47.5 S 1420 24.3 E
Dry Bulb Temp: 3.00C
Wet Bulb Temp: 2.60C
SST (Sea Surface Temp): 1.60C
COG (Course Over the Ground): 2060
SOG (Speed Over the Ground): 7.4 knots
Barometer: 998 Hp
Beaufort SS (Sea State): 4
WS (Wind Speed): 14-17 knots
WD (Wind Direction): W
Swell: SSW 1.5 m and NW 1 m
Wildlife: Wandering Albatross, Sooty Albatross, Sooty Shearwater, Broad-billed Prion and Cape petrel
WT: CPPN – 7.5
Antarctic Fact: Temperatures on the polar plateau range from -930C to -140C. The average wind speed is 20km/h compared to the 320km/h katabatic winds on the coast.
Antarctic Slang: 22 – when a local refers to the temperature they simply use the numbers, the minus is (always) implied.
To warm the adventurers after their observation watches on deck, Resty prepared hot, herbed roast chickens for lunch with steaming rice, roast potatoes, lettuce salad and warmed baguette and there was the promise of a treat from Tas’s galley!
At 1350 this afternoon, Whale Song crossed the 600S Latitude and thus dinner tonight was a 60 South Party! Baked salmon with a special secret sauce from Inday, Restys’ mounds of rice, potatoes and broiled asparagus to which Inday, Tas and I especially attended, in appropriate finery! Tas’s divine “Made-with-love” baklava for dessert, was a fine way to celebrate this passage!
On deck, the cetacean sightings are non-existent, it is desert out here. We are desperately hoping to find stacks of whales at the ice edge in the next few days. Needing to run from the huge Low-pressure system to the NW we had this on our mind, now however, where are the whales?
Inday and I were on deck for the visual observations from 1600-1700 and feeling it was a little cool, we huddled and hid behind the starboard smoke stack. Doing the calculations from the air temp of 2.10C combined with the Apparent wind speed of 20 knots, the number was 12.2. Note: the appropriate implication learned above. Yes, that’s right, we had minus 12.20C and yes it was chilly!
With Whale Song happiness of our passing 600S, we send you greetings!