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Monday, March 12, 2007

Heading south again

Posted by: Jambo / 7:05 PM

It's March so I will once again be heading to Argentina for a couple weeks of playing amateur marine biologist. Long time 3WN readers will be familiar with my odd hobby of dolphin tagging and research but anyone interested in the details can click here to read the extended series of posts I did from the field last year, complete with photos. I think I will try to do the same this year, posting periodic updates on the project and then trying to fill in with some photos when I get home. I'm not going to make any promises though since we are working out of a much smaller town than we did last year and I'm not sure what sort of internet access I will have. We're heading about 200 miles south of where we were in previous years to a town that is big enough to show up on maps but not big enough to be listed in any of the Argentina guide books I have looked at. What little I have found about it on the web indicates that it's one claim to fame is that it is a popular destination for shark fishing, which isn't really what I wanted to hear. We'll be doing all of our wrestling with thrashing dolphins in fairly shallow water not too far from land while I assume that the shark fishing is well off shore, but still... We are going to be in the northern part of Patagonia, not quite far enough south to see penguins but there should be a fair number of sea lions though I think it might be the wrong season to see the Southern Right Whales that breed in the area.

To make reading easier I will do it like last year and just append each new post on the bottom of this one so anyone who wants to follow our progress can just bookmark this page. Clicking on either the time stamp at the top of this or the comments link at the bottom will give you a permanent link to save. Don't expect anything for a week or so as I leave Sunday night and have an overnight flight, a connecting flight and then a long bus ride just to get to our field station, so I don't imagine we'll even get out on the water until Tuesday or Wednesday.

Our goal, like last year, is to put satellite tags on five different dolphins and track their movements over a period of months. As I mentioned in the post linked above these are a species called the Franciscana dolphin that are much smaller than the bottlenose dolphins most people are familiar with here in the states. The one pictured here is a calf but just about full grown.

Here is our team from last year, most of whom will be returning. I'm somewhere in the middle there.

Update 3-9-07

Updates are going to be harder than I thought. Internet access is a good 45 minute walk from where I am staying, even without the wind and rain we have had the whole time I have been here, and the open times are pretty limited. I may end up making fewer updates than I would like and try to fill in when I get home. Maybe then I will post more pictures to make up for it.

In the meantime, we have not been out on the water yet as it has been way too rough. We spend quite a bit of time sitting in front of the fireplace at our hotel (and I use the term hotel pretty loosely). I have however had time to catch up with many old friends as well as meet some very nice people along the way, including a monk who invited several of us to have coffee with him when we visited his church (which was all of 20 x 20 feet on a deserted and windswept point on a rocky beach.)

At dinner last night:

Me, taking a plate of meat passed to me: Carpe, what is this?

Carpe: I do not know how to say in English. Is rodent, like rat or mouse but bigger.

No, it did not taste like chicken.

Update 3-11-07

Another day, another dolphin

Finaly got out on the water Saturday and Sunday. It was clear and fairly warm (high 60s I´d guess) with not too much wind. We caught one dolphin yesterday and another one today. I wasn´t in the water for either one but helped get one untangled hanging over the bow of the boat before pulling it into the boat for its radio tag. I managed to not get bit this time but did get raked by the teeth trying to get the net out of it´s mouth. That drew more blood but let me avoid the string of profanity that went along with the bite last year. They were both females and the first was over 150 cm making her the biggest one we have caught and maybe the toughest to handle. The second was only 135 cm and much calmer.

Dinner update

All right maybe it does taste like chicken

Friday night dinner consisted of the rodent dish again tho aparently I was the only one who didn´t know it. We were passed plates with a couple types of meat on them which to me looked like chicken and maybe lamb. I was hungry and ate quite a bit of both before someone mentioned the R word. I thought they were putting me on but later got confirmation. Oh well. Last night we had a traditional Argentina barbeque that actually did have lamb and chicken (I watched them cook it--I´ll post a photo when I get home.) It was fantastic. I was pretty worn out tho and turned in before 1:00am, pretty early for these parts.

Update 3-13-07

It's a frickin' Orca!

Best weather day we have had. No wind, a little overcast, and fairly warm. With no wind the water is flat calm and we can see anything that breaks the surface within about a quarter mile of the boat. This is great since fransiscanas have very short fins (about 6 inches) which makes them very hard to spot with even the smallest amount of shop on the water. We've only been out an hour or so when someone on my boat spots a couple fins way off in the distance. When they break the surface a second time the biologist who heads up the American contingent says "I think they're Tursiops (bottlenose dolphins)" since they are obviously bigger than fransiscana fins and there are some tursiops who frequent the coast of Argentina. But then the next surfacing he shouts, "It's a frickin' orca!" Everyone on the boat is ecstatic and it's fun to see even a jaded field biologist get excited about a sighting. We drive towards them to get a few pictures and we are positively giddy. Even Pablo, who has seen them a number of times in his decade in the area is excited. It turns out to be a pair, a male and a female, which you can tell apart by their dorsal fins. Males have a tall straight fin while females have much shorter curved fins. Watching these guys swim for about 20 minutes may have been the coolest thing I have ever seen.

about 50 feet from our boat, they paid no attention to us at all

this is the female

initial sighting (it's unclear if that other boat even noticed them as it sped on by)

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Hey Jambo, who knew way back when in that tiny Binnewies Hall dorm room watching MTV, and you showing me that dolphin program flyer, well 20-some years later and you're still going. Which, by the way, is longer than my marriage lasted, so kudos to you! But we all know, dolphins are probably easier to be around. I love you buddy, but keep the pictures of the Argentinians coming!
your farm girl pal

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:51 PM  

I wish I was going with you. It just was to long to be away from work. Be safe and take some peanut butter to the gang. Stover

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:51 AM  

I took the time to check your progress and nothing, zip, nada?

Back to for me.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:49 AM  


By Blogger Joseph, at 9:27 AM  

Hey Jambo, we got a call here at work and all they said was, "eeeeeee...eeeeeeee...eeeeeeeee. I think it was for you. Then again I guess it could have been a fax machine.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:15 AM  

I guess it is MR. James now tough guy Rat eater. When you get home people will move to the other side of the street tough guy comming through. I wish I was there I would ask for seconds. Have fun and be safe. Stover

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:56 PM  

An acquired taste... perhaps??? I guess I'll stick with my Florida dolphins- the surroundings are friendlier

By Blogger BETH, at 10:18 AM  

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