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Bill & Dorothy McSweeny on the R/V Odyssey.
Photo: Chris Johnson

September 2, 2002
Reflections from the Odyssey
  Real Audio
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Log Transcript

This is Genevieve Johnson speaking to you from the Odyssey in the Amirantes Island group in the Seychelles.

The Ocean Alliance encourages its board members to periodically join the R.V. Odyssey. This allows them to experience first hand how their hard work back on land directly contributes to the success of our five-year, ocean going global expedition.

Bill and Dorothy McSweeny are two Ocean Alliance board members who joined the researchers aboard the Odyssey this past week as we surveyed the deep waters along the Amirantes bank. Bill and Dorothy reflect on their time onboard where they learned more about the scientific and educational programs.

Dorothy McSweeny:

This is Dorothy McSweeny speaking from the Odyssey.

As a Ocean Alliance Board member - I look forward to my infrequent opportunities to join the Odyssey on the high seas - literally getting my feet wet. The last time I boarded was 8 years ago when the Odyssey first visited the Galapagos Archipelago.

My role aboard the Odyssey is that of an observer, but I am watching the whales and the whale watchers and I feel the easy interaction of the team. The scientists, the educators, the captain and the crew all have their assigned tasks as we sail on this vast rolling Indian Ocean. They stand watch in shifts, scanning the horizon from masts and deck, and listening to the acoustic array in the pilot house for the elusive sperm whale. They apply the latest technologies to find these masters of the deep, but you have this certain feeling that the whales may or may not let you in on their special underworld world.

What an inconsequential matchstick we are bobbing above the unknown, hoping we will encounter these great creatures on their terms. A waiting game! Then the call - a blow starboard side at 3 o'clock - and the whole team springs into action. The off watch crew quickly they move to the decks with binoculars in hand, while the on watch team double check the GPS acoustic array and computers in the pilot house ensuring that the maximum amount of data is being collected.

Then we wait for further confirmation, quietly listening and looking. Are there whales? Only a brief visual sighting and then gone (not a squeak or a click on the acoustic array), but tantalizing us on and on. And the off watch team stands down for the moment, but always half watching. I am still watching the whale watchers wait for the whales, but with great admiration.

The crew of the Odyssey on research leg 1 of the Seychelles.
Photo: Chris Johnson

Bill McSweeny:

This is Bill McSweeny reporting from the Odyssey.

I am an older man now, more tubber than blubber, nearing three quarters of a century filled with my own memories. Whales live twice as long, l50 years and more. Do these wonderful animals, the largest mammals with the largest brains, have memories?

We know now that their click-click-click communicates between them, that in moments of joy some can sing, loudly, if not perfectly and there is even recent evidence that their songs have differing accents.

But memory? Do they remember the centuries, when they were hunted by strong-armed young men with harpoons or the terrible seasons of the cannon-harpoons half a century ago?

Do they now know the difference in the dedicated young scientists of this new generation, willing to forego so much to sail and swim and study with them on dangerous oceans across the world?

I think they do remember and know the difference. I watched the film when Chris Johnson cautiously photographed a sperm whale soaring past from the depths. It swam closer and closer and put its eye near the camera..

Whales can't wink, but surely this lady smiled.

She knew.

The young scientists are their friends. The old memories are replaced and hope lives again.

The whales will be saved.


  • Watch the footage of a Sperm Whale filmed by Chris Johnson on Papua New Guinea on REAL VIDEO
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Log by Bill & Dorothy McSweeny

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