10-Hour Whale Survey! Our Longest Survey of the Year.

Post by Jake Levenson, Global Program Officer for Whales, IFAW Headquarters Office

Well it's 11:45 PM and I'm barely able to keep my eyes open. But, it's been an incredible day. Before signing off for the night, I want to share some of today's highlights.

The weather was excellent for photo identification work, which is a rarity for this region. Mostly we alternate between fog and rain, so when the weather cooperates we had to take full advantage of every minute of daylight!. No rest for us today -- in fact, I didn't remove my rubber boots and survival suit until an hour ago. A long, but very successful day.

And, really, a very successful day. We photographed more than 12 whales around Piltun Lagoon, including two mother-calf pairs, and traveled more than 23 kilometers south of our camp during our photo-id survey. Here are a few photographs from today's survey:




After a long day on the water, all we wanted was to rest once we hit shore. But, first, we have to deal with the boat.

Working out of an abandoned Russian light-keeper's hut has it's challenges. For example, up until a few years ago we always left our boat tied to a stake at the lagoon's edge. This worked wonderfully -- and saved us an awful lot of trouble -- until the night when someone stole our boat! Who would steal an inflatable raft from a remote research station?

Now, we go to a lot of trouble every day to ensure that no more of our gear goes missing. This means that we can't rest until the boat is safe. When we get back after a long day of whale surveys, we attach small wheels to the bottom of the raft (no easy task in the lagoon mud), rinse the inside out with some seawater and then carry the boat up the side of the sand path, next to the dune. This is not a tiny boat, and it is not easy to carry. In fact, to be honest, it's a real pain. Especially after a long day like today. Here are a few pictures of us draining and moving the boat:



The littlest one (in the yellow jacket) is Glusha. Well, that's her nickname, and I'm not entirely sure how to spell it, so Glusha is who she will be in this blog (until I learn the proper spelling). Glusha has become my Russian language tutor. Today, I learned the word for moon: luna. And, indeed, it is a beautiful luna tonight. Unfortunately, as always, the moon is shadowed by the flaming stack of the Sakhalin 2 oil platform.

Two more pictures before I sign off for the night. It was such a long day that I had to get a couple pictures of everyone as we headed home. I hopped off the boat on a nearby sand bar and snapped this picture of our team on our way back from our longest survey day yet. This should give you a good idea of how close the whales are to all the oil drilling in this area: that is the Sakhalin 2 oil platform in the background.



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