Session 2- Getting things started with a bang!

So the ladies of Session 2 have arrived and settled in nicely to the Five Finger Lighthouse. While it feels a bit like déjà vu to be explaining how a theodolite works and where to leave data notebooks at the end of the day, I do have to admit that things are off to a smooth start. The ladies arrived on the afternoon of Wednesday the 18th filled with enthusiasm and charm….just in time to witness the teary departure of our Session I interns.

Logistically it is a good system to send the preceding group off on the vessel that the subsequent group arrives on, but emotionally it’s a bit of a roller coaster. As Ryan’s previous blog post divulged… I loved my Session I interns. There may have been a few bumps getting things off the ground, but by the time they left we were a well-oiled sampling machine. I learned a lot from them, and I feel confident that they learned a lot from me as well. I miss them everyday, and whether I want to admit it or not, I’m still humming Pocohantas.

In any case there was no time for sentimentality as just as Norma, Kate, Nicole, and Ryan were hugged kissed and sent on their way just as Laura, Meghan, Venus, and Cristina stepped off the boat wide eyed and wonderful into the warm arms of the Rapunzel Project. While it may have taken me a deep breath to get things started, these ladies were filled with vim and vigor! No point in wasting any time- when 4 intelligent capable enthusiastic interns step off the boat, that’s a sign it’s time to get started.

On day one with Session 2 training was in full swing. The girls were learning the mechanics of working with the theodolite by 9am (after a breakfast of waffles of course), and were performing mock surveys with data computers in hand by the afternoon. Day two we picked up where we left off with the details of our sampling protocol (each survey consists of two 15-minute sector sweeps on either the east of the west side of the island, consecutive surveys will address the same two sectors in an effort to capture changes in dispersion, density, and potentially abundance.). We also moved out hydrophone equipment off of Noble Stead for the afternoon and set up our equipment at the kitchen table to really get a handle of how the whole thing worked (another trick learned during Session 1). Saturday morning (Day 3) was spent practicing ‘real’ surveys from the tower, and getting our feet wet on Noble Stead for the first time (ok, we may have done a little whale watching too).

Sunday… we took Sunday off. Oh Day Off how I love thee. We spent the morning tidepooling which turned into an afternoon kayak, a curry dinner, and then for the third time since the ladies arrived at the lighthouse we watched killer whales from the helicopter pad.

It turned out to be too much for Meghan and I. The perfect sunset, the glass calm water, the sound of porpoise, and sea lions, humpbacks and killer whales… it nearly demanded a paddle. We have 3 kayaks on the island. Meghan and I had skipped the earlier trip out and decided sunset was the perfect time to make up for it.

There were no boats, just a group of young women in Frederick Sound- some on land and some on the water- listening to the breath of whales. From the kayaks Meghan and I were surrounded not by the sight, but by the sounds, of living southeast Alaska. I think it’s safe to say it was an amazing experience for all of us.

Even Vista, whale research dog and self –proclaimed protector of the lighthouse seemed to be enjoying herself as she traced the perimeter of the helicopter pad chasing the silhouettes of sea lions.

Tomorrow? Our first full day of sampling. Pray the weather holds.

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