We had some very high energy visitors to the RV Odyssey during Operation Toxic Gulf 2014–pantropical spotted dolphins riding our bow long enough that we could capture this video with our bowcam. These dolphins are 6 to 7 feet and are recognized by the dark “cape” on their backs. We can’t say for certain but they seem to be having a pretty good time:
During Operation Toxic Gulf 2014 we hope to introduce you to the many species of cetaceans found in the Gulf of Mexico despite the myriad of environmental challenges such as the Deepwater Horizon disaster, oil rigs, agricultural run-off, dead zones, shipping traffic noise and fishing debris. The Odyssey crew have encountered a wide variety of dolphin species in the Gulf, including these Atlantic spotted dolphins who came to enjoy a bowride. Our bowcam allows us to view animal behaviors underwater, so enjoy these dolphins in their natural habitat (the younger animals can be identified by their lack of spots):
To learn more about Atlantic spotted dolphins or to spend some time with them in the wild check out the Wild Dolphin Project run by our friend Dr. Denise Herzing.
You can be a part of Operation Toxic Gulf 2014 by supporting the crew through their Wishlist on Amazon. From food to gear to sunscreen, the crew needs provisions throughout the summer as they study the effects of the BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Work on the Odyssey continues twenty-four hours a day with watches throughout the night—that’s a lot of coffee (and tea for the Brits)!
The crew thanks you for your support!
The RV Odyssey has departed from Key West, Florida, and for this first leg of Operation Toxic Gulf 2014 the Odyssey is following the drop-off of the South Florida Continental Shelf where the depth goes from a few hundred feet to a few miles deep. These drop-offs are very biologically-productive areas, and as our goal is to find and sample sperm whales this is where we need to be. Read More
We track whales using a piece of equipment called an acoustic array. This is a line of underwater microphones called hydrophones that we drag behind the RV Odyssey to give us a bearing and approximate range to animals night and day, good and bad weather. The best-case scenario for us is to be with a group of whales when the sun rises so that we can work with them all day. Read More
At Ocean Alliance we are always looking for new ways to find and track marine mammals, by day and night. Currently, for at least twelve hours a day we’re shut down, but a new technology could open up a whole new realm of studying whales at night. Read More
Ocean Alliance has spent the last four summers in the Gulf of Mexico studying the effects of the Deepwater Horizon disaster on sperm whales with our partners—the Wise Laboratory at the University of Southern Maine and Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Now as BP declares that “active cleanup” has been concluded, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) has released a report compiling study after study showing that the Gulf is far from healthy. Read More
A word from Ocean Alliance CEO Iain Kerr about one of his favorite subjects–sperm whales, and their sounds:
We will often acoustically track sperm whales through the night in fair weather or foul in the hope that we’ll be with the whales when the sun rises and can spend the whole day working with them. When they do go quiet, it’s often in the one or two hours before dawn, and if we can’t hear them we can’t track them. Nothing is more frustrating than tracking them all night and then losing them in the hour before the sun rises. You don’t want to be the one on that watch.
This recording was made by Odyssey crew member Rik Walker on a good day in the Gulf of Mexico during Operation Toxic Gulf 2013:
All whales make sounds. The toothed whales tend to make sounds for echolocation purposes and it is now thought that many of the baleen whales do as well. Humpback whales are best known for their long complex often haunting sounds. The largest toothed predator on this planet is the sperm whale and this is a species Ocean Alliance has studied all over the world. Their position at the top of the oceans’ food web makes them a great bio-indicator for the health of the oceans. Sperm whales are relatively easy to track using a line of towed underwtater microphones (hydrophones). The arrival time of sounds at the different hydrophones can give us a bearing and often a range to the animal. In this particular recording there is one primary whale and at least two or three others in the background. Our belief is that these sounds are likely the animal searching and zeroing in on prey. As I listen to these sounds I can’t but wonder what is going on in the abyss.
Ocean Alliance believes that the greatest threat facing whales (& ultimately humanity) is ocean pollution. Based on that premise, OA has been focusing its efforts for the last 15 years looking at the concentrations and effects of pollutants in the world’s oceans. Ocean Alliance’s five-year global study, the Voyage of the Odyssey, collected the first ever baseline data on ocean pollution using sperm whales as an indicator species. This study continues to bear fruit, with the publication of a new paper in the Marine Pollution Bulletin by our science partners at the Wise Laboratory. Read More
From 2000 to 2005 Ocean Alliance sent the research vessel Odyssey around the world. We collected literally mountains of data, taking skin and blubber biopsies from sperm whales that we continue analyze. Just last month our scientific partners at the Wise Laboratory at the University of Southern Maine published a paper based on this data: “A Global Assessment of Oceanic Lead Pollution using Sperm Whales (Physeter macrocephalus) as an Indicator Species.” Read More
Reviewing footage from the Odyssey bowcam is kind of like opening gifts on your birthday. You never know what you’re going to get. Read More
As the President and founder of Ocean Alliance, Dr. Roger Payne has been a spokesperson for whales for most of his life. But he wants you to know that it’s not the obvious threats to whales — commercial whaling and ship strikes that will lead to their extinction, it’s pollution. Read More
The following is a summary of goals and accomplishments for the 2013 collaborative research expedition Operation Toxic Gulf carried out by Sea Shepherd Global and Ocean Alliance in the Gulf of Mexico (USA) aboard the Research Vessel Odyssey. While we continue to work closely with our scientific partner the Wise Laboratory at the University of Southern Maine, this year our campaign partner was Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Global. Read More
The RV Odyssey is preparing to leave on October 29th for a 21-day bioacoustic research trip into the Gulf of Mexico with a team from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography under the direction of Dr. John Hildebrand.
The Odyssey and crew will be working in familiar territory, they will be running down the deep water drop-off in the Gulf of Mexico where they have been working the last 4 summers in response to the Gulf Oil Spill in 2010.
The Scripps team will be deploying HARPS – acoustic monitoring devices on the floor of the ocean. They will also be picking up HARPS that the Odyssey deployed almost 10 months ago.
“I am interested in how sound is used by marine mammals and how sound can be used as a tool for assessment of marine mammal populations. Recent advancements in acoustic recording technology have allowed long-term and broad-band records of underwater sound to be collected. These recordings open new windows into the behavior and distribution of marine mammals (as well as other marine organisms such as fish).” -Dr. John Hildebrand
Photo 1. 4 large containers of equipment arrive at the Odyssey in Key West
Photo 2. Crew manhandling weights aboard Odyssey. 50 pound weights are used to drop acoustic packs to the sea floor. 80 are loaded aboard Odyssey – 4,000 pounds or 2 tons
Photo 3. Acoustic gear being loaded aboard Odyssey.
In this log from the Voyage of the Odyssey Genevieve Johnson wrote about the attempt to pin the cause of dwindling fish stocks on whales.
Dr. Seiji Ohsumi, Director of the Cetacean Research Institute (ICR), Japan’s major institute for whale studies, co-authored a paper entitled Estimation of total food consumption by cetaceans in the world’s oceans. This often quoted “scientific” source received no peer review. (How do I know this? Because if it had, it would have been torn to pieces by other scientists.) Nonetheless, it’s used as the “scientific” rationale for a new diplomatic offensive Japan is mounting which attempts to make the world regard whales as greedy competitors to humans for fish from the sea. On November 17, 2000, Dr Ohsumi said that the need for Japan to carry out “scientific” whaling was because:
- “Until recently, the question of ‘what and how much whales are eating’ has not been taken up as a subject for discussion, but we find it now necessary to deal with the issue.”
This is spectacular nonsense (I think that’s the appropriate technical term). Read More
This video is a final update from the 2013 campaign onboard the RV Odyssey and features Paul Watson, Dr. Roger Payne and Dr. Iain Kerr. Operation Toxic Gulf is a collaborative campaign between Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and Ocean Alliance.
This campaign has focused on Gulf sperm whales because they are at the top of the Gulf’s food chain and, as such, they can act as a bio-indicator of the health of the entire ecosystem. Ocean Alliance, its scientific partners and Sea Shepherd will be able to put any discoveries they make in the Gulf into a global context due to the fact that from 2000 to 2005 the RV Odyssey circumnavigated the globe collecting baseline data on the levels of pollutants and metals in sperm whales.
We hope to return to the Gulf in 2014 so this winter we will be fundraising and working with our scientific partners to analyze the data that we and the Wise Laboratory team have collected in the Gulf over the last four years. Since we are looking at the chronic effects as against the short-term effects of this disaster this analysis will take years.
Your support makes this all possible. Please bookmark our website, like us on Facebook and any financial support helps us move forward with research, education and capital investment. From the crew of Ocean Alliance, we thank you!Read our blog posts from the Gulf of Mexico
This spring I was deeply concerned that Ocean Alliance would not be able to return to the Gulf of Mexico to continue the work Dr. John Wise and I started in 2010 looking at the effects of the Deepwater Horizon disaster on marine mammals. Around that time I was talking with my good friend Alex Cornelissen (Shepherd Global Executive Officer) about another mutual concern and the Gulf came up in discussion. Less than a month later Alex told me that we would be returning to the Gulf with the full support of Sea Shepherd Global and so Operation Toxic Gulf was born. Read More
Here’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to help the whales and own a campaign shirt that is signed by Dr. Roger Payne, Erwin Vermeulen and Hillary Watson of Sea Shepherd and “Whale Wars,” and the Odyssey crew. Help a great cause and get a cool shirt. 2 XL shirts available, each auctioned separately. Place your bid for shirt #2 in the single thread on www.facebook.com/oceanalliance in $5 increments beginning with $25. Auction ends at 8:00 pm EST on Friday August 16th when the winner will be announced. Good luck!!
As the RV Odyssey battles 6 foot seas on its homeward passage to Key West this weekend we’d like to share the very last “Meet The Crew” video for Operation Toxic Gulf…
Introducing Lauren Paap, Ocean Alliance crew member aboard the Odyssey. Over the past year Lauren has been from Gloucester to Tahiti, and Operation Toxic Gulf will be her third campaign. Lauren is a Dutch-American who calls Boston home. Aboard the RV Odyssey she fills the role of marine coordinator, visiting galley cook (when others are too seasick to work) and all-around wonder woman – spending more time up the mast spotting whales than the other crew combined.
RV Odyssey Captain Bob Wallace has been with Ocean Alliance for over 20 years, has circumnavigated the globe three times, and has more whale stories than all the crew combined. In this video he shares the reasons why he does it.
Sunset from the porthole of the RV Odyssey…
Last night the crew on the RV Odyssey sailed out of the port of Pensacola for their final leg of the research phase for Operation Toxic Gulf. They would like to extend a huge THANK YOU to the Gulf Coast states that have hosted them over the summer and especially to the locals in Pensacola who have shown enormous support for their work.
Over the next week they look forward to sharing with you the last couple of Meet The Crew videos and some more photos from their voyage, stand by…
Introducing Hillary Watson, the cook aboard the RV Odyssey for Operation Toxic Gulf. Animal activism runs in the family – Hillary’s uncle is Sea Shepherd founder, Captain Paul Watson.
This Sunday, August 4, Open Books will host the final presentation of the summer from the Operation Toxic Gulf crew, who are currently wrapping up the last leg of their 2013 study. Representatives from Ocean Alliance and Sea Shepherd Conservation Society will present photographs and results of their work at the event, which begins at 7 p.m.
On Monday, August 5, the Ocean Alliance-Sea Shepherd team will open their boat, the Research Vessel Odyssey, for tours from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Palafox Marina. This will be the third and final time the public will be able to check out the ship. Like Sunday’s presentation, the ship tours are free, but donations are accepted. Read More
While you wait patiently for news of season six of “Whale Wars,” the Sea Shepherd crew continue to work for the oceans…
When the Antarctic whaling season ends, this is how a Sea Shepherd spends their summer break. Here’s an update from Erwin Vermeulen, veteran Sea Shepherd crew member, featured in Season 3 of Animal Planet’s “Whale Wars” and “Viking Shores,” while he spends the summer in the Gulf of Mexico as an Ocean Alliance partner on the RV Odyssey, defending sperm whales from one of their biggest threats: ocean pollution.[sws_divider_padding]
Tomorrow I will celebrate my one year anniversary as a Sea Shepherd crew member. Over the past 12 months I have sailed enough miles to circumnavigate the globe. I have been a part of defending two of the last remaining pristine wildernesses areas left on this planet: Antarctica, and The Kimberley region in Western Australia. I’ve seen the same humpbacks breaching against the blue mountains of icebergs while they’re feeding in Antarctica, breach against the red cliffs of the Kimberley coast while they socialize and calve in Western Australia.
But today I find myself somewhere quite different: The Gulf of Mexico.
The Gulf of Mexico could not be more opposite to Antarctica and the Kimberley, it’s a picture example of what it means to “industrialize” a body of water. Hundreds of oil rigs light up the horizon through the night and bright orange buoys scatter the surface attached to long lines that stretch their deadly tentacles 3 miles into the depths. In the Gulf we have sailed through oil slicks that we could smell before we could see them, casting their rainbow sheen over the horizon. Over a 100 miles from land we’ve picked up human trash in the form of styrofoam boxes, discarded fishing buoys, balloons celebrating birthdays and newborns and floating plastic versions of just about everything imaginable. Read More
This particular recording is taken from the 100 meter hydrophone array that is towed behind the RV Odyssey. A series of underwater microphones, more properly called hydrophones, are used to help the crew find their principle study species, the sperm whale. In this particular recording you can hear the propellers of a passing cargo ship almost 5 miles away passing the Odyssey in the Gulf of Mexico. Read More
Just before we head to the Gulf of Mexico, we are happy to announce our new website! We will be integrating new features in the upcoming months but most importantly we upgraded our site to be “responsive”; which really means our site will be easy to view on your smartphone and Ipads. Please add our new website to your favorites and stay tuned to fresh news from the Gulf!