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John Atkinson

Dispatch from Patagonia: 2015 Southern Right Whale Survey

By | Ocean Alliance News | No Comments

We received the following dispatch from John Atkinson on Friday, September 11.  John has been the primary aerial photographer for our annual survey of Southern Right Whales since 1988, and has participated in numerous expeditions and documentaries worldwide.

Hi all, John Atkinson here, writing to you from Peninsula Valdez in Patagonia, Argentina, We have now finished our 2015 annual aerial survey of the southern Right whales that gather in nearby waters to mate and give birth to their calves. This is an ongoing survey that was started by Dr. Roger Payne back in 1970.

Our survey was a tremendous success. This year we flew with a new pilot, Peter Dominguez, and he deserves a big shout out for getting us up and over the whales and back on the ground safely. Also, thanks to everyone in the offices and all of the volunteers in Gloucester at the Ocean Alliance and at the Institute de Conservacion de las Ballenas in Buenos Aires for all of the advance preparations and organization.

In the photo above is a whale that we photographed, and if you look closely, you can see the baby alongside the mother.

In the photo below is our aerial survey team, which includes, from the left, Dr. Mariano Sironi, myself, our pilot Peter and Marcos Ricciardi. Not included here is our other member of this year’s aerial team, Alejandro Fernandez. Thanks again to everyone for keeping us safe and for loving the whales as much as we do.

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In closing, I want to say that today, September 11th, is Mariano’s birthday so Feliz Cumpleanos (Happy birthday in Spanish) Mariano!!

Southern Right Whale Aerial Survey Results

By | oct14, Southern Right Whale Program | No Comments

BLOG 3 – 17 September 2014

The Right Whale Program Research Update from the Field in Patagonia

The research season with the southern right whales at Península Valdés is progressing with good news. John Atkinson and I completed the 44th annual right whale photo-identification survey with a record number of whales seen: 757, most of which were mothers with their newborn calves. The first day we completed the survey of the northern bay, Golfo San José, and the second day we did Golfo Nuevo, the southern bay. This year there is a suprisingly large difference in the number of whales in each gulf, with nearly three times more whales in Golfo Nuevo than in San José. Read More

1978 Whale Film Featuring Roger Payne and Sylvia Earle Found in England

By | mar14, Ocean Alliance News, Roger Payne | No Comments

Recently Iain Kerr was contacted by a senior radio producer at the BBC Natural History Unit in Bristol England named Sarah Blunt. She had been contacted by a gentleman named Harry Espley who lives an hour or so south of Liverpool in a town called Tattenhall.

Humpbacks--The Gentle GiantsHarry had come by an original copy of a 16mm film made by Anglia TV in 1978.  The film, “World of Survival: Humpbacks–the Gentle Giants” was one of the first whale films ever made. It featured Ocean Alliance President Roger Payne, Katie Payne and Sylvia Earle, and was shot by Al Giddings and Chuck Nicklin.  When Al (who later shot the IMAX film “Whales” with Roger) got into the water with Sylvia and Chuck to shoot the underwater segments of the film they had no idea if they would become a whale snack.

Roger remembers, “This was my first time working with the unequaled cameraman Al Giddings and Her Deepness Sylvia Earle.  It was a great expedition into the unknown for all. This was an early example of photographers working with scientists.  Al Giddings saw details of humpback whale behavior that no one had seen before.”

Harry explained he used to play the film at local events to inspire and engage people with the world of whales. When he had reached the point where the film had been sitting for a few years he contacted Sarah, who in turn contacted Iain with news of the find.  Iain asked John Atkinson, our problem solver, to work with Harry to ship the film to the Gloucester.

World of Survival: Humpbacks--The Gentle GiantsWe are very excited to have this film and deeply grateful to Harry for saving this small piece of whale history (and to Sarah for introducing Harry to us). The goal now is to get the film digitized so that it can be played again and seen by a larger audience of whale lovers.

We are looking for someone who can help us transfer the 16 mm film to a digital form either through a grant or contribution. If you or someone you know works for a company with these capabilities please contact Iain Kerr at kerr@whale.org. We look forward to sharing this film with you!

 

PATRICK STEWART HAS A MESSAGE FOR YOU

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Dear Friends,

From space the Earth is blue. That’s because the seas cover 71% of it.

Ours should be called planet “Ocean,” not planet “Earth.”

Patrick &  CrewOf the thousands of organizations working to save nature, only a small fraction focuses on the sea. A group tackling one of the most unglamorous but dire issues for ocean life – pollution – is Ocean Alliance, which is why I have supported their work for the past 22 years. It is Ocean Alliance that made the first global survey of how polluted the oceans have become. Their work shows that human activities now threaten not just life on land but ocean life as well. Ship strikes, captivity, entanglements, commercial whaling – all of these are threats to healthy whale populations and deserve our attention, but it is pollution that could lead to extinction.

Knowledge is the basis of all intelligent action, so Ocean Alliance takes the time to learn enough about the creatures it protects to make sure that its actions, whatever they may be, will be what is most needed and most effective. Ocean Alliance doesn’t strike at the branches of global problems; it strikes at the roots.

I hope you will join me in supporting this little-known group, for times are tough, and it is now up to individuals like you and me to help organizations like Ocean Alliance continue their critically important work.

My very best wishes for the holiday season.

And thank you.

Patrick Stewart

 

YET ANOTHER THREAT TO WHALES – GULL ATTACKS

By | Ocean Alliance News, Southern Right Whale Program, Whales | No Comments

BLOG 4 – 1 September 2013 – at the Research Station in Península Valdés

Gull Attack on Right Whale We spent the day recording behavioral data from the cliffs. Vicky records the behavior of right whale mothers and calves, and their respiration rate as a way to estimate their body condition. I began our annual monitoring of the frequency of gull attacks on the whales. Kelp gulls have learned to feed on the skin and blubber of live whales at Península Valdés. The gulls land and peck on the back of the whales, opening lesions and affecting the whales’ behavior. Read More

THE FINGERPRINTS OF THE RIGHT WHALE – CALLOSITIES

By | Ocean Alliance News, Southern Right Whale Program, Whales | No Comments

BLOG 3 – 30 August 2013 – from Península Valdés

Guanacos in Patagonia - Photo by Iain KerrWe spent a good part of this week at technical meetings and running errands in Puerto Madryn, the city nearest to Península Valdés. It is now 6:30 PM on a calm afternoon. As I write this, I am sitting in the truck in the middle of nowhere, looking at the endless shrubland around me, while a family of guanacos (the South American camels) walks slowly among the thorny bushes. We drove to this particular spot because it is one of the few “high” places where we can get cell phone signal to connect to the outside world, send and receive messages, make phone calls… and wait for a friend. Read More

THE OLD MAN AND THE WHALE

By | Southern Right Whale Program, Whales | No Comments

The Old Man and the WhaleAs the Right Whale team arrives in Patagonia for our 43rd field season we wanted to share with you a unique opportunity to learn more about Península Valdés – the people, the setting and the whales. The Old Man and the Whale is a small treasure of a book that will transport you to our whale camp, written by a man who knows it well. John Atkinson has been traveling to Patagonia from Canada every year for over 21 years, for the sole purpose of hanging out of an airplane to take aerial photos of the whales. He has immersed himself in the culture, so it only made sense for him as a full-time writer to write a story about a place he loves. Read More