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MED 09: Tracking Noise, and Whales, in the Western Mediterranean

July 27 to September 9, 2009
During MED 09 (short for Mediterranean 2009), researchers on board the research vessel will be updating a blog about their ongoing activities and research as they work to understand the effects of sound on beaked whales and other marine mammals. Researchers want to understand how whales change their behavior when they hear different sounds, both natural and man-made.

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Blog Entries

Sep 5, 2009 3:41 PM
End MED-09
Today marks the end of operations for MED-09 after over 5,000 nautical miles covered across the western Mediterranean Sea. We could not try to tag animals today since we needed to leave the operational area by evening, but we attempted to run some additional visual and acoustic surveys to add to the biological data already obtained. The seas were not friendly, however, and as we got further

Sep 4, 2009 4:33 PM
Found the calm, not the whales
We started the day in the northern part of our area where we have had almost all of our beaked whale sightings, but there was enough swell and wind that we headed south in search of better seas. We found enough lee from the island as we headed down to have workable weather by mid-morning. We covered over 80 miles along and across canyons and seamounts we had previously not searched that looked

Sep 3, 2009 10:59 AM
Where Did They Go?
Today was a bit of a puzzle. Due to heavier winds and swell around our favored locations, we started our day well south of where we have had the most luck in this area. The conditions were better than expected and the heavier seas were further to the north. Consequently, we adapted our search plan to proceed to the area where we found multiple groups yesterday. Conditions ranged from

Sep 2, 2009 2:35 PM
Close again -- then sudden winds
Today we were tantalizingly close again and had an excellent, four-hour focal follow of an adult male and adult female Cuvier's beaked whale (seen here from the tag boat during one of several close approaches). Note the prominent scars marking the male (top), which are thought to result mainly from fights with other males, and the absence of these scars on the female (bottom). The higher winds

Sep 1, 2009 5:38 PM
Flat Seas -- Many Beaked Whales
The sea was glassy calm for several hours this morning - perfect conditions for our visual team. The wind picked up a little bit throughout the day and shifted more to the south where the islands provide us less shelter, but it remained workable throughout the day. We again spotted quite a few fin whales and had the intermittent groups of dolphins, including some that were harassing a group of

Aug 31, 2009 5:32 PM
Fins, Brief Winds, and then Ziphius
The weather was good for the most part today as we worked through an area where Cuvier's beaked whales had been seen from ferries and a few sightings from other researchers. We covered a lot of water during the day and found a lot more marine mammals than the area covered yesterday.Our first sighting was a group of three fin whales and throughout the day we would have more than 20 sightings of

Aug 30, 2009 3:16 PM
Searching...
Today was spent searching widely across our new operating area -- in search of suitable wind and sea conditions and, once we found those, in search of beaked whales. The day dawned rougher and windier than we expected from the forecasts, but we had a clear picture of where to find better seas. By mid-morning we worked into relatively calm winds and workable swell conditions and began running

Aug 29, 2009 1:16 PM
Sperm Whale Central
We were all very happy today to be back on effort and for much of the day in very calm seas. After a short pit stop at dawn to restock with some supplies we began searching for marine mammals in our new operating area. Shortly thereafter we spotted a mother-calf pair of Cuvier's beaked whales. This was encouraging since the area where we are now has not been systematically surveyed and,

Aug 28, 2009 1:19 PM
Eavesdropping
We have been steaming for 48 hours now and are nearing our final operational area. The winds were a bit lighter for part of the day today as we moved further away from the north African coastline, but as got into quite deep water we did not see a great deal of marine life. Several sperm whales, dolphin groups, and a sea turtle were spotted throughout the day, however, as we came through these

Aug 27, 2009 10:13 AM
MED-09 Oceanographic Measurements
Today was the first of two days transit to our new operating area in the Tyrrhenian Sea. We continued both visual and acoustic observations while traveling and were quite interested in what we might see or hear because the areas we are passing through have not been well-studied. Some dolphin groups were detected, but not much else. We had reasonable seas and the wind was just 10-12 knots, but

Aug 26, 2009 4:58 PM
Still Rolling
The winds gradually came down from the gales of last night throughout the day, but the swell from the sustained strong (Beaufort 7) winds remained prohibitively high for us. Our visual observers went on watch several times as we looked for pilot whales. We did find some, but with the seas and the fact that most of the sub-groups had small calves, we did not attempt to attach acoustic tags. As

Aug 26, 2009 1:13 AM
Rough
The wind blew steady all day today from the west at 20-25 knots with gusts to 30, building heavy swell. The combination of Beaufort 6-7 winds and resulting seas was way beyond what our visual or tag team could work in for any species and they were not placed on effort at any point today. We did continue to monitor acoustically, while holding on, and covered some interesting-looking areas. But

Aug 24, 2009 1:55 PM
Hot Spot
Our read of the weather was right on today. We had excellent conditions in the morning, workable weather in the middle of the day, and strong winds by mid-afternoon. As has been the case every day we have been in beaked whale areas with suitable sea conditions, we saw many animals today. If you look closely at the picture here you can see the three different sizes of binoculars we use to

Aug 23, 2009 2:44 PM
Chances early...then more of the same
Today dawned much calmer than expected and we were on animals both visually and acoustically quickly. We searched around our first beaked whale acoustic detection and soon thereafter had a visual sighting. We also crossed paths with a large group of common dolphins (50 animals or more), saw some large Risso's dolphins riding on the bow of a nearby large ship, heard pilot whales, and saw a

Aug 22, 2009 1:54 PM
Ditto
Today was a repeat of yesterday -- if anything a little worse. We had steady 15 knot winds for most of the day picking up to near 20 later on. We surveyed for pilot whales until afternoon when it became too strong to search for anything visually. As yesterday, we continue to search acoustically and some beaked whale clicks were detected during the day in areas where we had sighted them before.

Aug 21, 2009 4:48 PM
Blown Out
Despite the favorable predictions, the weather front we expected tomorrow seemed to arrive a day early. We experienced winds around 15 knots for most of the day with regular whitecaps - conditions that are inconsistent with spotting beaked whales visually. We continued in survey mode focusing on areas where we might expect pilot whales; the weather would have allowed us to work with them for

Aug 20, 2009 5:13 PM
Many Beaked Whales (most with calves)
We had another very good day today in terms of wind and sea conditions. We consequently found many cetaceans, including our primary species of interest. We worked mostly in the deep axis of the same canyon area and detected many groups of Cuvier's beaked whales throughout a very long and full day of activity. Acoustic surveys begin at 0500, visuals come on at dawn, and both teams operated

Aug 19, 2009 6:13 PM
Calmer Seas -- Many Animals
Today dawned calmer with light seas and winds between just 5-10 knots for most of the day dropping to almost zero by late afternoon and evening. These are the conditions we need to reliably sight and tag beaked whales. Throughout the day we sighted many cetaceans, including hundreds of common, striped, and Risso's dolphins, pilot whales, and about 8-10 different groups of Cuvier's beaked whales

Aug 18, 2009 3:45 PM
Unscheduled Stop -- Bumpy Seas
Last night we ran an all-night passive acoustic survey on our way back toward the Spanish coast through the dark. We needed to make a brief, unplanned return to enable some medical assessments and crew-changes. Safety comes first and everyone is well and on the ship ready for action. Nevertheless, it took much of the day away from our efforts to tag beaked whales, though we did return into

Aug 17, 2009 3:29 PM
Beaked Whales Near Sunset
Our first full day on effort for the second leg dawned windier than hoped. Seas were light, but the 10-15 knot winds made things difficult for the visual teams who came on at first light. Acoustics had a large amount of dolphin activity again before dawn but did not pick up any beaked whales while scanning. We ran a slightly westerly track across promising areas for deep-diving whales in order

Aug 16, 2009 5:11 PM
Drills, Waves, and By-catch
Today was the first operational day of the second leg of MED -09. Some gear had been adjusted or repaired and new personnel were in certain key roles, so we began the day deploying and testing the hardware and software needed for the very challenging task of finding, following, tagging, and safely exposing beaked whales to sound. We remained vigilant throughout these drills for animals either

Aug 15, 2009 8:16 AM
Port Call
The past two days we made our scheduled port call in Málaga, Spain for supplies and to transfer several of the scientific crew. Those on the first leg of the project were glad to stretch their legs ashore for a short time in between the bustle of debriefing those arriving to ensure consistency in protocols and data collection. It was a festive time in the city; our brief time there happened to

Aug 14, 2009 1:15 AM
Tantalizing
The forecast last night was for winds around 12 knots this morning, but it dawned very calm. The whales we stopped working with at 9 last night were near a main concentration of beaked whales seen last year. To get the best odds of being with whales this morning, we conducted an acoustic survey of much of last year's concentration from midnight to 0700 when there starts being enough light for the

Aug 13, 2009 1:55 AM
the mystery clicks
Today dawned calmer than predicted. In our efforts to find workable seas over the past few days, we have moved out of the area surveyed for whales last year. This morning we started heading back to the hot spots in the areas surveyed last year and during the earlier parts of this cruise, listening and watching for whales, with a course that we hoped would cover favorable habitat for beaked whales

Aug 12, 2009 2:36 AM
Not so much wind, but waves remain
After the winds of yesterday, it was a relief today to have winds mostly around 10 knots or less. But swells and waves remained from yesterday, creating difficulties for the visual observers. The acoustic monitoring worked well, and we set a course outside of our normal survey tracks in order to get the best weather conditions we could find for beaked whales. Twice during the day, acoustics got