Posted by: Cynthia Matzke
Midday coordinates: 35.56.263 139.39.169
Log: 2,000 nautical miles traveled
There are many ways to count days while at sea. Days out, by month, or even a countdown to land is often justified. Since we departed Long Beach on June 29, we are marking today as our one month anniversary at sea on this voyage. People wonder if our time out here is flying by… but several crew respond “not really.” Maybe because we are near the equator and due to the shape of the earth time actually moves slightly slower than at the poles, but more likely it’s because of our whacky work schedule, where day and night watches blend, and days of week completely lose their significance. Days become distinct by what we find, and prevailing weather patterns.
Another significant milestone for today is we logged over 2,000 nautical miles traveled. We are definitely in an upswing phase, basking in the calm weather and sunshine as we get to do our work. Today had many high points.
Around 3 pm, we were pulling up the Tucker trawl at Station 4 and BAM! A huge splash about 75 yards off the port stern caught our attention, followed by the sight of huge animals flying through the air. More splashing and excited screaming from crew ensued, and we witnessed a “fly-by” from a pod of about 7 beaked whales – looking a lot like Blainville’s Beaked Whales (Mesoplodon densirostris). Each animals jumped clear out of the water at least once to check us out.
Whales evolved from terrestrial ancestors who returned to the sea, and have two distinct sets of ocular muscles, so they see well both above AND below water. Leaps from the water provide a good view of the goings-on topside. Saying they’re curious is not a matter of being anthropomorphic, and it is also likely no coincidence that the two times we got visitations from these cetaceans, we had interesting items dragging in the water: the sea anchor (a large orange object they circled), and today we had the manta in tow.
After completing the trawls for Station 4, we found ourselves at the start of a windrow, which created a long strip of accumulated plastics and random discarded objects. Charlie and the Drone Gals set up on the bow, and the guys of Team Dingy was ready to make a rapid response to retrieve what the drone spots from the air.
We saw another single breach in the distance, the creature flashing a white underbelly before splashing back in, likely a great white or mako which are known for such aerials, (definitely not a whaley kind of a breach). The guys also got a visit in the dingy, from a shark identified as a blue. We concluded based on all the sightings as well as windrow, that we are likely in a high production zone of the gyre.
The late afternoon brought another adventure – a buoy with pole extending about 6 vertical feet. Captain Charlie decided to use this opportunity and the fair weather to deploy the purse seine net, as there were likely fish congregating around it that could be captured and analyzed. It should be noted, this is no easy task for professional fishermen.
In a production that took several hours and each and every one of us in multiple roles, we managed to successfully deploy the purse seine net and capture 26 small fish – many of which Jesus got to sample and dissect, some preserved. By the time the last rays of daylight beamed down, there were back pats and high fives all around for a job well orchestrated considering this was a bold first attempt. Exhaustion is setting in for each of us in turn and we are glad to stay in place for the next few hours. We can confirm, with high degree of certainty for all on board, is this has been a truly epic day.