Researchers from our Southern Right Whale Program, our partners at Instituto de Conservación de Ballenas and the Southern Right Whale Health Monitoring Program will be presenting five abstracts (listed below) at an International Whaling Commission meeting that will be held on Aug 5-6, 2014 in Puerto Madryn, Argentina. Read More
It’s been an extremely productive summer in the Gulf of Mexico with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society joining us on the RV Odyssey to study the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Ocean Alliance CEO Iain Kerr describes what we’ve seen and learned in the Gulf this summer through multiple research techniques and tools, with new footage of the Operation Toxic Gulf crew at work:
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:
There were originally six buildings on the Tarr and Wonson Paint Manufactory site, the new home of Ocean Alliance in Gloucester, MA. Buildings D and F were condemned by the city and were taken down (when we have raised the money they will be put back up with the original facade). Building E is finished and now houses our offices. The restoration of the chimney is complete so we are now focusing our efforts on what we call Buildings A and B (the two remaining brick buildings). Read More
In this new video from Operation Toxic Gulf 2014, Scientific Manager Andy Rogan explains the research goals of the campaign on the RV Odyssey in our fifth year following up on the Deepwater Horizon disaster, our second partnered with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Roger Payne joins the crew to help with the biopsy process:
A listing of scientific papers by the Wise Laboratory of Environmental and Genetic Toxicology from our Gulf expeditions so far can be seen here.
Our main objective in the Gulf of Mexico is to obtain biopsy samples from sperm whales to determine how the Deepwater Horizon disaster is affecting these animals at the top of the food web. Each year since the spill we’ve collected approximately 50 sperm whale biopsies from the Gulf, the last two years thanks to support from Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. From 2000-2005 the Voyage of the Odyssey collected biopsies from sperm whales around the world, so we’re able to compare the samples from the Gulf with the rest of our samples. So far, our partners at the Wise Laboratory of Environmental and Genetic Toxicology at the University of Southern Maine have published two studies in scientific journals from our Gulf sperm whale samples. They are:
Concentrations of the Genotoxic Metals, Chromium and Nickel, in Whales, Tar Balls, Oil Slicks, and Released Oil from the Gulf of Mexico in the Immediate Aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Crisis: Is Genotoxic Metal Exposure Part of the Deepwater Horizon Legacy? (Environmental Science and Technology)
In addition to these studies are the thousands of photos and the data collected that illustrate what an important habitat the Gulf of Mexico is for whales and dolphins. It is our goal to bring these animals to the forefront of people’s attention when they think of the Gulf, rather than the oil rigs that dot their landscape.
Last winter Eva Hidalgo Pla collected data for Ocean Alliance on the M/Y Steve Irwin in the Southern Ocean during Operation Relentless, Sea Shepherd Australia’s ongoing campaign to protect whales from Japanese whalers. We are pleased that Eva has been able to join the RV Odyssey for her first Operation Toxic Gulf campaign this summer. In this new video Eva explains why long-term science is just as important as on-the-spot activism in protecting the wild world:
The chimney of our headquarters, the historic Tarr and Wonson Paint Manufactory, has stood as as a beacon signaling home for Gloucester’s fishermen for over 130 years. In the fall of 2013 it was determined that the chimney structure was cracked and unsound, so the fundraising drive began to restore this icon of Gloucester’s waterfront. Thanks to the Citizens of Gloucester Community Preservation Act we were able to secure a grant to restore the chimney for generations to come. Masons from Numerosi Masonry of Gloucester have been hard at work high above the waterfront and recently Ocean Alliance CEO Iain Kerr climbed up to take a look at the finished work and the view:
Watch a short history of the Paint Factory narrated by Roger Payne and Lisa Harrow here and learn how bottom paint for boats was invented.
When the RV Odyssey embarked on her five-year journey The Voyage of the Odyssey from 2000-2005 to study the health of the world’s oceans, the first mate was a young naturalist the crew had met leading kayaking tours in Alaska named Josh Jones. Fourteen years later Josh finds himself back on the Odyssey, this time as a researcher from Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s Acoustic Lab, with the task of training the Operation Toxic Gulf crew on the new acoustic gear that allows us to listen to and track whales. In this new video Josh explains the goal of his work listening to whales:
A Message from Roger Payne on the RV Odyssey at the Deepwater Horizon Site:
July 14, 2014
This evening we had a celebration over the fact that we got our 50th biopsy today. The goal from the start has been to get a minimum of 50 biopsies and with two more trips to go we anticipate that we’ll be well over that mark. We celebrated with a key lime pie made by Marc Rosenberg, our cook. It was all delicious: the pie, the sunset, the sense of accomplishment, the breeze, the billowy evening clouds. The celebration took place as we headed for our annual visit to the site of the Deepwater Horizon—the drilling platform where 11 people died during the 2010 BP oil blowout. Read More
Part two of Roger Payne’s blog from Operation Toxic Gulf 2014:
July 12, 2014
We are here to find out how those whales are reacting to the oil that got released during the oil blowout from Deepwater Horizon, and the dispersants that were sprayed on the oil to sink it out of sight (and out of mind) but that seem to be worse poisons than the oil itself. This is the fifth year of our research, and what we are already finding out is disturbing. Read More
Ocean Alliance President Dr. Roger Payne is currently on the RV Odyssey in the Gulf of Mexico for Operation Toxic Gulf, our joint campaign with Sea Shepherd USA, to study the effects of the Deepwater Horizon disaster on the whales of the Gulf. Here he gives an account of the man-made world in which the Gulf wildlife must coexist:
Friday July 11, 2014
I am writing this from 80 miles out in the Gulf of Mexico where you might safely imagine that so far from land there ought to be just us and the sperm whales in the perfectly mirror calm seas that have surrounded our boat Odyssey (Ocean Alliance’s research vessel) all day. However, what surrounds us way out here, so far from land, feels more like another major waterfront with traffic coming and going as it services a line of oil rigs that stretches like beads on a chain to the horizon.
There is only one rig in sight with a drilling tower on it so most of them must already be attached to successful wells that are producing oil and gas. Some of the rigs are flaring off clouds of burning gas… just throwing it away. If you or I bought enough gas to create a display like that in our back yards we’d be broke in a few hours. But what the hell, it’s the oil world here, where people are big, and oil is plentiful, and money and crude are flowing, so who gives a damn about that, or the future, or the planet, or whether we’re acidifying the seas, or little niceties like quality of life, or whether the rest of earth’s creatures can survive our ever-so-natural rapacity?
The rigs are massive, multi-story platforms mounted on top of up to four giant, vertical cylinders, tens of feet in diameter that provide the flotation to keep the multi-storied decks high above the biggest storm waves. At least that’s the idea; but who knows whether they will prove to be high enough to survive the waves of future global warming storms?
These stadium-sized structures are covered with lights of several colors, most are white but many are red and green. From a distance they look like rockets on launch pads awaiting a countdown, or like giant Christmas trees. You might assume that these ship-sized floating structures must be anchored to the bottom, and although many are, I suspect that in areas where the bottom is more than a mile down that some aren’t. In such deep water a technique called dynamic anchoring is sometimes used—I suppose that GPS signals are used now but years ago dynamic anchoring involved placing pingers around a rig that gave off loud, precisely timed pings. By measuring the elapsed time between the arrival at a microphone on the rig of the pings from several pingers a computer calculated how far the rig had drifted from directly above the well head and turned on motors to drive propellers that could swim the rig back to where it belonged. Dynamically anchored rigs dance around on a tiny imaginary dance floor that’s located a mile or more above the sea floor.
And far beneath us in this silver sea, the sperm whales move quietly, as they fossick about between the oil platforms that are the destinations for the myriad boats that attend them, as well as the sports fishing boats that would never come out this far unless the oil rig flotilla was present—but which do come out now because even though its a long trip, once you’ve covered the miles I guess it seems a lot like home, even though it’s way way out of sight of land. But the fishing’s better because there are fish that congregate beneath the rigs.
The RV Odyssey is equipped with a video camera in the bow which allows us to observe the behaviors of the animals we study and capture some great footage. We’ve seen many different species during Operation Toxic Gulf 2014, but the focus of our work is the sperm whale–the largest toothed predator on Earth. Read More
Ocean Alliance has had a busy spring. The research vessel Odyssey is having a successful campaign in the Gulf of Mexico with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, and reconstruction has started on brick buildings A, B and the chimney of our headquarters–the Paint Factory. Our plan remains to put our robotics lab upstairs in building A, but our robotics program is outpacing the readiness of the building. Antonio Bertone to the rescue. Read More
The Operation Toxic Gulf crew have been fed well since Marc Rosenberg arrived in Key West. A chef in England, Marc is volunteering his time to be a part of our joint campaign with Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in the Gulf of Mexico and we’re lucky to have him (his food is amazing). In this video Marc talks about what has surprised him the most about working in the Gulf:
Andy Rogan, Scientific Manager:
I had been up the mast for around an hour and a half before something in the periphery of my vision caught my eye. I turned quickly, but whatever I saw had quickly disappeared beneath the waves. I continued looking in the general direction, quite far off of our port bow, and sure enough, a couple minutes later a large dark shape cut through the water heading straight at us! I couldn’t identify the species immediately. But what I did know was that I had never seen it before, and that it was special. Read More
We are halfway to our goal of raising enough funds to put in a floating dock at our headquarters, the Paint Factory in Gloucester. If we’re going to reach our goal of celebrating staff-member Kim’s birthday on the dock this month we need to step up the pace. Read More
Guest Post by RV Odyssey First Mate Dan Haefner:
On the 20th of June, Pensacola was the recipient of yet another present from the Gulf of Mexico–a 1000-plus pound tar mat washed up in Fort Pickens National Park. Tar balls wash up pretty much everyday along the coast between Pensacola Beach and Ft. Pickens, but sometimes a large mat is uncovered by waves. Read More