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Voyage of the Odyssey - Australia: August 2001 - May 2002

Relive the experiences of the crew and scientists on this research leg.
Click on each image to see a larger photo and the written transcript of the log.

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May 13, 2002
'Australian Leg Report'
"Today, we look back and reflect upon the past 8 months in Australia as we head off to cross the Indian Ocean."
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May 9, 2002
'Quokkas'
"The other day, some of the crew made the trip out to Rottnest Island intent on searching for one or Australia's rarest marsupials-a miniature kangaroo most people have never heard of, but which has been well known to the local aboriginal inhabitants for centuries: the Quokka."
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May 6, 2002
'A Win for Whales - The Establishment of a Whale Sanctuary in PNG'
"We were with whales late yesterday afternoon when we received news that lifted our hearts and hopes in a way few of us have experienced in our lifetimes."
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May 2, 2002
'Sustainable Rock Lobsters'
"In terms of the world's natural marine resources, we are obviously close to, and probably exceeding, the maximum global catch that it is possible to sustain. Stocks are currently in decline along every coastline, yet there are ever more humans to feed. Regardless of what direction you look the future appears grim, although we learned today that there is hope with one well managed fishery in Western Australia."
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April 28, 2002
'Aerial Surveys'
"While in Fremantle, we met with Chris Burton, Director of the Western Whale Research Institute here in Australia. Whereas we make most of our observations from a boat, Chris does most of his data collection from an airplane. He flies monthly aerial surveys over south-western Australia in search of the elusive Blue whale."
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April 24, 2002
'Andrew's Beaked Whale'
"Andrew's beaked whales are only known from about 20 stranded specimens, all of which have come from southern Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand. Such a small number of specimens makes it impossible to get a clear idea of the overall distribution of this species. In fact, this is just the third record of A ndrew's Beaked Whale from Western Australia. The last occurred in 1961."
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April 19, 2002
'Great White Sharks'
"The reputation of Great White Sharks has been sorely damaged through misrepresentation by the media and popular writers. The star of film and literature, the mere mention of this shark's name elicits terror in most peoples' minds. Such irresponsible publicity is unwarranted and has led to a rapid increases in the number of Great White sharks killed around the globe with the result that Great White sharks have recently been added to the Convention for the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) list of endangered species. "
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April 15, 2002
'Scrimshaw'
"In Albany, Australia, we have met several interesting local people, among them, Gary Tonkin - an artist and scrimshander of exceptional ability, and a major force in his community. Gary is one of the people responsible for persuading the local government and Albany community into preserving the retired whaling station, and converting it into a whale museum."
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April 11, 2002
'Who is Watching Whom?'
"We were heading toward a sperm whale blow almost 1500 meters away, when at 400 meters off the starboard bow we spotted a hoard of pilot whales porpoising at top speed toward Odyssey. These animals were spread over 180 degrees and our estimates put their number at over 150 animals."
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April 2, 2002
'Selecting Seafood Wisely'
"More than 1 billion people now rely on fish as their main source of animal protein, making it the fifth largest agricultural commodity in the world. Once one of the cheapest animal meats, fish is now the most expensive, a direct reflection of its increasing scarcity."
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March 26, 2002
'Patagonian Toothfish'
"Large scale fishing for Patagonian Toothfish began in the early 1990's following the decline in fish stocks in many northern hemisphere fisheries. The high market value and decline of worldwide stocks, together with the remoteness of the fishing grounds and lack of surveillance has provided ideal circumstances for illegal fishing."
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March 21, 2002
'Shadowing the Whalers'
"In the late afternoon sun, we sailed through the heads into King George Sound, the harbor on which this town was settled in 1826. Strangely, our usually talkative crew, always excited to enter a new port for the first time, was collectively silent. We were preoccupied with thoughts of a time, not very long ago, when thousands of dead sperm whales were dragged through this very same narrow passage, the South Channel."
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March 18, 2002
'A Live Link-up to School Kids'
"This morning the Odyssey crew linked live via satellite to two groups of Grade 7 students (that s 12 year old s) from Ballerine and Glen Waverley Secondary Colleges in Melbourne, Australia. The students had gathered together at the Melbourne Zoo in order to participate in a pilot program 6 months in the planning that we have called Ocean Encounters."
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March 15, 2002
'Why are blue whales so big and so loud?'
"Roger Payne - why do baleen whales look like baleen whales? What are the forces that designed them to be so big, to carry tons of blubber on their bodies, and to emit the loudest, lowest sounds made by any animal on earth?"
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March 12, 2002
'Seeing Blue Whales'
"Roger Payne - The crew has been seeing blue whales - a small population feeding near our position off the west coast of Australia. The excitement they conveyed to me when telling about their encounters was palpable-their words tumbling over each other. I know how they felt, for I'll never forget the first blue whale I saw close up."
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March 4, 2002
'Streakers'
"The other day we came across an enormous group of dolphins. As they approached the Odyssey, their distinctive markings made it easy for us to identify them as striped dolphins. This was no small pod, these dolphins numbered close to 150 animals, although they have been known to run in groups numbering in the thousands."
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March 1, 2002
'Whales Abound'
"Heathcote Williams, author of 'Whale Nation' once said - "From space the planet is blue. From space, the planet is the territory , Not of humans, but of the whale.""
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February 25, 2002
'Townsend's Charts'
"Sperm whales roam the world's oceans ranging from the equatorial waters to the polar regions, yet we still do not know much more than the nineteenth century whalers did about their migration patterns."
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February 20, 2002
'Sheltering High Seas in the Abrolhos'
"We are currently heading toward the old sperm whaling grounds about 200 - 300 nautical miles northwest of the coastal town of Geraldton. Last night while travelling south of the Houtman Abrolhos islands, we decided to take shelter from the adverse weather conditions."
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February 15, 2002
'The Pied Cormorant'
"The Odyssey has anchored off the small coastal town of Geraldton overnight, seeking shelter from gale force winds and heavy seas. We are not alone out here, waking this morning to find the rocky harbor walls covered in Pied Cormorants."
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February 13, 2002
'True Blue or Pygmy Blue Whale?'
"Yesterday, we were 95 nautical miles west of Geraldton, Western Australia when we first sighted the blow. A single massively tall column of vapour reaching high into the late afternoon sky over two miles away. The animal producing this blow was definitely not a sperm whale."
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February 10, 2002
'Seasickness'
"Over the last couple of weeks, we have been experiencing a sizable swell that is not at all unusual for this time of the year in Western Australian waters. Unfortunately for several of the crew, this has meant succumbing to a condition that is the dread of any mariner - seasickness."
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February 6, 2002
'Diving Through Debris'
"Sadly, marine debris is causing much suffering to seals and sea lions around the world. Today we went to visit our friends at the Royal Melbourne Zoo, in Melbourne, Australian, where we were taken behind the scenes of the fur seal exhibit with one of their keepers, Adrian Howard. Adrian gave us a greater insight into the lives of these amazing marine mammals and the threats they face".
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February 3, 2002
'A Rare Stranding Event'
"The other day we received a phone call from our partners at the World Wildlife Fund in Sydney. They told us that apparently there had been a whale stranding on Leighton Beach less than five kilometres to the north of us in Fremantle. It was not known if the animal was alive or dead or even what species it was."
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January 27, 2002
'The Whalers of Albany'
"Paddy Hart and Chase Van Der Gaag worked as skippers and master gunners aboard the Cheynes Beach Whaling Stations catcher boats. Between them they spent almost 30 years chasing and dispatching sperm whales that were processed and sold to overseas markets. Today they share some of their past experiences with us."
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January 21, 2002
'The History of Whaling in Albany, Australia'
"For almost two centuries, whalers from around the globe came to the waters of King George Sound and the surrounding areas for the same reason to hunt right whales, humpback whales and sperm whales. The last working whaling station [in Australia] only closed in Albany in 1978. This vast natural harbor on the remote southern coast of Western Australia has a rich and sometimes violent maritime history."
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January 16, 2002
'The Jenner's of Western Australia'
"Curt and Micheline Jenner head the Australian Centre for Whale Research and are a husband and wife scientific team who have been working off the west Australian coast for thirteen years.The Jenner's spend half of the year with humpback whales off Exmouth in north-western Australia and the other half with the rare and illusive Pygmy Blue Whales of Rottnest Island to the south."
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January 11, 2002
'Haul-out'
"In order to continue a safe and successful expedition, it is neccesary to haul the boat out of the water. As with all boats, the Odyssey requires maintenance. The Voyage has so far taken us to some of the most remote places on earth in search of sperm whales, including the Galapagos Islands, Kiribati and Papau New Guinea."
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January 8, 2002
'Scientific Whaling in the Southern Ocean Sanctuary'
"When the crew returned to port and our first exposure to the news in nine days, we were intrigued and disturbed to learn that at the same time we had been at sea carrying out our benign research on sperm whales, a group of supposed "whale scientists" were conducting research in the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary in Eastern Antarctic waters.
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January 3, 2002
'A New Year with Whales'
"The group of 16 whales were tracked throughout the night and the crew were up at 6 am to start a day of data collection. The day dawned cold and wet, and although the wind had calmed down to 20 knots, there were many whitecaps and a lot of spray in the air."
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December 28, 2001
'Perspectives - From Ranchhand to Deckhand'
"Coming from Germany and still trying to improve my English, it was quite a challenge to learn just the basic boat terms, especially considering our international crew. When I first got on the boat I had to learn a completely new language. "
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December 24, 2001
'Perspectives - Cooking on the High Seas'
"I have now been at sea for two weeks and have certainly come to grips with the rigors of offshore cooking. Whilst underway I also participate in helm and observation watches. This keeps almost every hour of the day accounted for which is tiring but also very rewarding."
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December 17, 2001
'The Evolution of Whales'
"The earliest mammals appeared about 200 million years ago as air-breathing, land-dwelling creatures that were warm blooded, had hair, and nursed their young. About 50 million years ago, the earliest known true whales appeared, having apparently evolved from large, carnivorous land mammals right after the earliest ancestors of the first whales made the first tentative motions to reinvade the sea."
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December 11, 2001
'Perspectives - Odyssey Science Intern'
"Before working onboard the Odyssey as the Science Intern, I worked for Cape Anne Whale Watch, an organization based in Massachusetts that is affiliated with The Ocean Alliance. I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to experience working in such different parts of the world, with two species of whales that are totally different in so many ways."
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December 7, 2001
'Seeing With Sound - Echolocation'
"To try and understand the perceptual world of cetaceans, it is necessary to imagine changing your primary sense from sight to sound. In this case, 'sound' images rather than 'visual' images are stored in the brain. Your sense of those around you, where you are and who you are with, are all determined by the sounds of others, or the sounds that you make."
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December 4, 2001
'A Captain's Report - Weather Update'
"Besides the usual isolated thunderstorms, the arriving of the summer season (in the Southern Hemisphere) brings the occurrence of Tropical Cyclones. These storms are characteristic of all tropical areas of the world, and in the Southern Hemisphere, the cyclone season starts the beginning of November and finishes the end of April."
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November 30, 2001
'Intertidal Forests'
"Very little is actually known about mangroves and their forest ecosystem. We know that they are an integral component of the marine environment. However, the mangrove ecosystem is different from adjacent systems, such as coral reefs and the open ocean, but is critically linked to and totally dependant upon them."
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November 27, 2001
'Coralculture'
"We are now headed south around the remote coast of Western Australia toward Shark Bay. Before we departed, we spoke with Steve O'Grady, coordinator of an innovative marine initiative, the Darwin Coralculture Project. Steve developed the idea of creating artificial coral reefs after becoming increasingly concerned and frustrated by the demise of Darwin's reef systems."
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November 20, 2001
'Box Jellyfish'
"During the wet season, temperatures and humidity soar. You would assume that being a city on the ocean, locals would flock to the beaches. However, this is not the case as just offshore, the waters are teeming with the most toxic animal on the planet, the Box Jellyfish."
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November 15, 2001
'A Venomous Visitor'
"Yesterday, Odyssey First Mate, Joe Boreland, climbed into the dinghy and was surprised by the presence of a small snake, weaving its way up the leg of the engine in what appeared to be an effort to escape the sea. Initially, we assumed it was a curious sea snake, animals well known to be fatally toxic."
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November 9, 2001
'Not Enough Fish in the Sea'
"This is Genevieve Johnson speaking to you from Darwin Australia where we are currently anchored near several different types of boats. There are sailboats, tugboats, and naval vessels. However, by far the most numerous type are illegal fishing boats that have been caught fishing inside Australian territorial waters."
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November 6, 2001
'Surviving a Sudden Squall'
"Cyclones and storms are a normal part of life in Northern Australia where the 'wet' season has just begun. Most days are punctuated by afternoon squalls, although last night erupted into more than just another storm."
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November 2, 2001
'Ocean or 'Toxic Soup'?'
"Today, the contamination from persistent man-made chemicals is a pervasive global problem that urgently demands a global solution. These contaminants are found in all of the world's oceans..."
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October 30, 2001
'Welcoming New Crew'
"The importance of a strong crew cannot be underestimated. A cohesive and professional team is essential to a successful expedition. We ve recently welcomed four fantastic and experienced crew. We thought we d give you the opportunity to hear from each of them about why they have chosen to join the Voyage of the Odyssey .
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October 26, 2001
'Preparing a Sperm Whale Skeleton for Display'
"The other day we spoke with Jared Archibald, taxidermist and preparator at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, about the adult male sperm whale that stranded on a Darwin city beach seven years ago. In order to assist with public education about marine mammals and in particular, large cetacean species, the museum has spent the last few years preparing the skeleton for public display. Jared explains the process."
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October 23, 2001
'A Sperm Whale Stranding in Darwin'
"Seven years ago, a 50 foot adult male sperm whale, weighing approximately forty tons was washed ashore at Casuarina, one of the Darwin's most popular beaches. Although there is no coordinated network in place to deal with stranded animals of this magnitude, Australian Parks and Wildlife officials did their best to save the dying animal."
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October 19, 2001
'Sea Eagles'
"Darwin and its outlying areas are a haven for white-belied sea-eagles. These magnificent birds of prey are a part of a group of birds known as raptors. The other day, we had sea eagle scanning for fish in the waters of Darwin harbor from atop the Odyssey s main mast. "
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October 16, 2001
'The Shovelnose Ray'
"It's believed that rays are direct descendents of modern day sharks, which have evolved into a bizarre assortment of sizes and shapes that include guitar fishes, skates, electric and sting rays, eagle rays and the unique shovelnose ray.
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October 12, 2001
'Doctor's Gully'
"At Doctor's Gully, thousands of fish come to shore at high tide to feed. This unique aquatic phenomenon is an excellent opportunity to educate people about the fish species that inhabit the local marine environment. Staff discuss the natural history of various species, answer questions, as well as highlight potential and existing threats to the animals."
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October 8, 2001
'The Australian Pelican'
"One species among many we have observed in Kakadu who take advantage of this unique habitat are large groups of Australian Pelicans. The Australian Pelican is considerably larger than its northern brown cousin and occurs throughout the continent wherever it has easy access to large bodies of both salt and freshwater."
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October 4, 2001
'Kakadu and Uranium'
"The other day while exploring the unique wilderness of Kakadu National Park, we drove through an area of vast wetlands on the way to an Aboriginal rock art sight at Ubirr. It comes as a shock to many when they learn that this unique wilderness area is also the site of a controversial uranium mine."
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October 1, 2001
'The Aboriginal Rock Art of Kakadu'
"The park is extremely important to Aboriginal people, and many still occupy the region. Significant sites associated with the 'Dreaming' or creation of the land and animals, are particularly important to the Aboriginal communities."
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September 28, 2001
'The Wonders of Kakadu'
"Kakadu is one of a handful of World Heritage Areas that have been listed for both outstanding cultural and natural universal values. It's an exceptional example of ongoing geological and biological processes, and of human interaction with the natural environment."
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September 23, 2001
'A Baby Boom'
"This year in an amazing turnaround, Northern Right whales gave birth to a record high 30 calves compared to last years worrying tally of only one, a record low. The births are a much-welcomed boost to the population."
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September 21, 2001
'Cathedrals of the Outback'
"Unseen and unheard, these tiny creatures are one of the powerful forces that shape the bushland. Millions of them relentlessly go about their work, harvesting and eating grasses, leaf litter, wood and soil that they persistently chew, and from which they construct their nests."
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September 17, 2001
'Australian Flatback Turtle'
"Turtles have survived relatively unchanged for around 200 million years. Of the roughly 260 species known worldwide, 23 are found in Australia."
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September 13, 2001
'Australia's Ginger Dog'
"Since the arrival of Europeans, the Dingo, has endured a torrid history that continues today. It has been hailed as both a proud symbol of Australian outback fauna and a much-despised pest by some landowners, who have long believed 'the only good dingo is a dead dingo'."
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September 11, 2001
'Threats to Native Biodiversity'
"Since the beginning of the voyage, the Odyssey crew have born frustrated witness to the devastation brought about by the introduction of non-native species into countries from the Galapagos Islands to Papua New Guinea. Nowhere has the problem been as severe as it is in Australia.
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September 7, 2001
'Whales, the 'Wet' and the Outback'
"In the last year and a half, we have spoken to thousands of school children in a number of countries, but this was the first group we have visited whose lives are not directly tied to the sea, or so they thought..."
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September 5, 2001
'The Black Wallaroo'
"Today while visiting one of the many parks here in the 'top end', we were very fortunate to spot a Black Wallaroo. A wallaroo is generally larger than a wallaby and is closer in size to a smaller kangaroo. The distinction between a wallaroo and a kangaroo is predominantly due habitat."
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August 31, 2001
'Farming Native Species'
"The skin of the saltwater crocodile is the most highly valued crocodilian type in the world. In many countries, including Australia, programs involving the sustainable use of wild stocks are now in place."
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August 28, 2001
'Salties'
"They can grow to over 7 meters (23 feet) in length, that's more than three times the height of most people, they may weigh over a ton and possess jaws with a frightening crushing power of 3-5 tons per square inch. They are definitely a predator of which nightmares are made."
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August 24, 2001
'The Land 'Down Under''
"This morning the Odyssey sailed through the Dundas Strait and into the Port of Darwin, Australia, named after the great naturalist and explorer, Charles Darwin.'
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August 22, 2001
'R.O.V.- Remotely Operated Vehicle'
"We are very excited to have this addition to the scientific equipment on board the Odyssey and plan to bring you a whole new perspective of the world beneath our keel as the Odyssey circles the globe. The footage captured by our VideoRay ROV will compliment the surface imagery we currently capture on the Odyssey's Bow-cam, and will take us into places and situations that would be difficult if not impossible for a diver."
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August 20, 2001
'Donating Their Bodies to Science'
"It would appear that Japan has once again succeeded in blocking the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary with the help of Norway (the world's second largest whaling nation), and Japan's Caribbean 'buddies' who are keen to continue receiving the Overseas Development Aid (ODA) Japan gives them, and who show their gratitude by rubber-stamping Japan's minority positions on whaling."
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August 17, 2001
'Captain Bligh and the Torres Strait'
"As the Odyssey crew double their watch schedule, ensuring two persons are at the helm at all times to monitor the radar, depth sounder as well as keep a continuous visual check of the surrounding waters, we cannot help but marvel at the story of Captain Bligh. Bligh managed to successfully navigate these same perilous waters with no charts, let alone such modern navigational equipment as those the Odyssey carries onboard, when a dissatisfied crew cast him adrift in an open boat."
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August 16, 2001
'Saying Goodbye to PNG and the Pacific'
"Now it is time for the Odyssey and her crew to move on to the next phase of our five-year global voyage. One thousand miles of ocean and eight days of sailing the Coral Sea and Torres Strait lie ahead, beyond it, our next destination, Darwin, Australia. So after 17 months of research in the Pacific Ocean we say goodbye to both it and Papua New Guinea, while looking forward to new challenges and more whales in the Indian Ocean."
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August 9, 2001
'How Do Sperm Whales Produce Sound?'
"Sperm whales are highly acoustic animals that emit powerful, regular clicks almost continuously while they are underwater. In large males, up to one third of the entire body length is made up of the huge nose, the world's largest biological sound generator."
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