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Voyage of the Odyssey - Papua New Guinea : February 2001 - August 2001

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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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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August 7, 2001
'The Toxicant Build-up'
"The terms toxicants and toxins both refer to toxic substances. But toxins are natural products such as the ones found in poisonous mushrooms, or in a snakes' venom. Toxicants are man-made products, artificial products introduced into the environment due to human activity; examples are industrial waste products and pesticides."
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August 3, 2001
'The Chambered Nautilus'
"A relative of the octopus, squid and cuttlefish, the Chambered Nautilus is an ancient cephalopod. Represented by only a single genus, the chambered nautilus is an animal that has inspired poets and naturalists since olden times. "
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July 31, 2001
'500 Days'
"It has been 500 days since the Research Vessel Odyssey departed San Diego, California on its three-year global expedition, The Voyage of the Odyssey. Hear the reflections of some of the Odyssey crew."
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July 26, 2001
'The Impact of Introduced Species'
"The rapid transfer of alien species has reached catastrophic proportions in many of the world's seas, oceans, rivers, lakes and waterways. Sometimes a species of plant or parasite will be inadvertently growing on the shells of cultured shellfish, while other species are intentionally released into waterways to grow and be harvested."
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July 24, 2001
'Papua New Guinea Takes a Stand Against Whaling'
"It is the first day of the 53rd annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC). Global tension is mounting as member nations gather in London, England to discuss the future of the whales of the world. It is highly likely that the resolutions of this years meeting will spell disaster for the great whales."
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July 20, 2001
'Marine Mammal Forum'
"The Odyssey crew have spent the last few days in Port Moresby, where the Ocean Alliance together with The Papua New Guinea National Museum and Art Gallery and the United States Embassy hosted a two day Marine Mammal Forum. The aim of the forum was to bring together fisheries officials, policy and decision makers and environmental management groups to discuss the status of marine mammal protection in Papua New Guinea waters. Currently, only the dugong, a relative of the manatee, is protected by law."
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July 13, 2001
'Sea Stars'
"Today while visiting Krangket Island, we happened upon a narrow estuary that meandered out through the mangrove forests and into the sea. The locals told us that they never swim here because of the saltwater crocodiles, although none of them had actually seen one. We couldn’t believe what we saw, the late afternoon sunlight was filtering through the leaves, illuminating the most spectacular ensemble of sea stars only inches beneath the surface."
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July 9, 2001
'Working with Partners'
"The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has been active in Papua New Guinea for the last ten years in promoting conservation and the sustainable use of natural resources in the country. A particular emphasis is placed on empowering local communities to have the ability to manage their own natural resources."
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July 6, 2001
'Tree-Kangaroos'
"There are one hundred and eighty known species of mammals in Papua New Guinea. These include marine as well as terrestrial mammals, such as bats and rats. Also there are approximately sixty species of marsupial mammals, including the Tree-Kangaroo."
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July 3, 2001
'The Shell Trade'
"Renowned for the brilliance of their attractive, bright patterned colors and often their rarity, the temptation to purchase shells as souvenirs can be irresistible. An impulsive purchase can spell disaster for the local reef."
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June 28, 2001
'The Deadliest Predator in the Sea'
"If asked the question, ‘what is the deadliest predator in the sea?’- the response of most people would include animals that bite or sting. However, the deadliest predator in the sea does neither and is far more dangerous than any shark, sea snake, jelly or giant squid.."
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June 25, 2001
'The Mystery of Whale Strandings'
"Stranding events have been recorded and observed throughout history and have always been considered to be a natural phenomenon. In recent years, strandings resulting in a number of mortalities have affected a number of marine mammal populations. Studies are showing that perhaps not all strandings are as natural as we first thought and that human impact on the marine environment, such as pollution may be playing a significant role.
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June 20, 2001
'Anemone Fish'
"A fish that was quick to capture our attention today was the aggressive and highly territorial anemone fish. We encountered several different species, all appearing equally determined to drive us away from there domain with swift charges and retreats."
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June 18, 2001
'Saying 'No' to Logging'
"Yesterday, we had the opportunity to visit the home of a group of traditional landowners near Madang called the Dipida Clan. Thirty-five years ago, when logging in Papua New Guinea, first emerged, the leader of this clan, Kiatik Batet, had the foresight to protect their precious forests from international loggers.
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June 14, 2001
'Local Students Learning to Make a Difference'
"Yesterday we spoke with over two hundred, Grade 9 and 10 students from Tusbab High School in the township of Madang. Many had spent World Environment Day collecting plastics and other unwanted refuse carelessly discarded by thoughtless individuals and which later wreaks havoc on marine life."
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June 12, 2001
'Sperm Whale Socialization'
"Sperm whales are cosmopolitan animals. They inhabit the blue waters of all of the world's oceans and are well known as the most social of all the great whales."
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June 8, 2001
'The Dive Cycle of the Sperm Whale'
"While the whale is at the surface, it recovers for about 10 to 15 minutes after a dive, blowing heavily every 10 to 15 seconds. When the oxygen stores in the blood and muscle tissue are replenished, there is sufficient oxygen to allow the whale to hold its breath for the next 40 to 50 minutes. Sperm whales repeat this cycle with varying intervals, throughout the day and night".
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June 6, 2001
'The Diving Physiology of the Sperm Whale'
"In order to exploit the food sources of deeper waters, whales have to stay submerged at great depth for extended periods of time. Sperm whales are masters of this discipline as they may dive to depths of 2000 meters, holding their breath for an extraordinary, 1.5 hours. So how do they accomplish this?"
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June 1, 2001
'Journey's End: Madang'
"Last night while motoring slowly along, the total power outage I had feared finally came. We had stopped the engine to listen for whales, but found that when we tried to start it again that the starting batteries were so low they wouldn't turn it over."
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May 28, 2001
'Shark Finning'
"This is Roger Payne speaking to you from the Odyssey about one of the most appalling fishing practices now being pursued. Called shark finning, it is the fishery that collects the fins of sharks so they can be used to make Shark fin soup. This fishery has become almost unbelievably lucrative owing to the high prices shark fins command in cities like Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong, where a bowl of shark fin soup can cost $90."
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May 25, 2001
'Being Prepared for Problems That Arise'
"We have been experiencing multiple problems with Odyssey's electrical system and could lose at any moment 90% of our power. But we're well prepared, and all of life's basic needs would still be provided for. Events like this are normal on boats. One expects that all of the problems that can occur will occur, eventually, on any boat. They are not really avoidable."
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May 23, 2001
'Fireworks, Biopsying, and Sir Hugo Again'
"We are now operating in the straits between a group of islands on the western end of New Britain where the sea is rough because we are at the start of the Southeast monsoon. We are seeing our first boats since I have been aboard, and it was at first surprising to learn that there is someone else using these sea lanes, in this remote and beautiful part of the world. The names of the islands are wonderful too: Tolokiwa and Umboi. There are sperm whales here and we have been working with them in spite of the roughness of the weather."
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May 21, 2001
'Killing Off the Competition'
"The pattern that has emerged from the vast majority of fisheries studies in every major fishery from all over the world is that rather than predators, like whales, being the problem, it is almost always human fishing practices that cause the big depletions of fish stocks. Which makes sense... after all, whales have occupied these waters for millions of years, maintaining themselves at populations which have always allowed plenty of fish to survive and reproduce."
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May 20, 2001
'Far Away Places'
"When I awoke this morning we were out at sea again, making our way West through mirror calm seas, searching for whales within an area in which we found them last week."
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May 16, 2001
'Malaguna High School'
"Beneath the smoking caldera of Tuvurvur in the town of Rabaul, lies Malaguna High school, the only school to have survived the 1994 eruption that killed five people and rendered the rest of the town uninhabitable. On many days, the school lies directly in the path of the great columns of ash, spewing almost constantly from the crater. The children have learned to adapt to a life where being blanketed with a fine but irritating layer of ash, can be a daily occurrence for weeks on end."
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May 15, 2001
'Witnessing Violence'
"Since boarding the Odyssey yesterday I have been a witness to spectacular eruptions of ash and steam from Mount Tuvurvur, one of a pair of active volcanoes (the other called Vulcan) that flank the entrance to Rabaul harbor, a valuable deep-water port-and itself a flooded volcanic crater."
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May 11, 2001
'Cetacean Diversity'
"The past two days of searching for sperm whales has seen the array devoid of the constant clicks to which we have become accustomed in Papua New Guinea. This is not to say that the seas have been silent. Quite the contrary, early this morning just after sunrise, the clicks, whistles and squeals of dolphins filled the Odyssey."
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May 10, 2001
'The Dispersal of Reef Fishes'
"As we proceed in collecting data from sperm whales, we continue to weave and dodge a virtual minefield of forest debris. Heavy logging in much of Papua New Guinea has meant branches, logs, even entire trees, some the length of the Odyssey have washed into the sea. As we drifted by a particularly large tree trunk the other day, we took the opportunity to peer into the water beneath."
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May 7, 2001
'The Mating Patterns of Squid'
"Cephalopods include the octopuses, cuttlefishes, squids, and the most ancient of this family, the chambered nautiluses. When translated literally cephalopod means 'headfoot' for that is exactly what these creatures are. There are over 700 known species of cephalopods worldwide, all with varying body types and lifestyles."
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May 4, 2001
'Surveying the Solomon Sea'
"As we depart Madang harbor, the faint but familiar sound of pilot whales drift into the pilothouse through the array speakers. We are heading south toward Vitiaz Strait and into the waters of the Solomon Sea."
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April 24, 2001
'Hornbills'
"There are striking parallels in the abundance of life, in both the oceanic and terrestrial habitats in this region of the world. Southeast Asia is home to a remarkable array of bird species, in fact, the most diverse on Earth. With some 700 species occurring here in Papua New Guinea, it is no wonder this region is a mecca for bird watcher."
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April 24, 2001
'Using Media to Make a Difference'
"Captain and Expedition Leader, Iain Kerr along with some members of the Odyssey crew, were recent visitors to the Papua New Guinea National Museum in Port Moresby. We were invited to deliver a multi-media presentation to an audience that included Government Ministers, Ambassadors and Embassy Officials and members of the public."
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April 17, 2001
'Acoustic Clues to Sperm Whale Ecology'
"So there is a wide array of uses that researchers have for these 'clicks'. For instance we use clicks to track the whales, which is very basic in this voyage and in any sperm whale ecological research. We listen to the clicks passively and track them via a directional hydrophone. We can look for dive times and surface intervals, by looking at click patterns, by looking at when do the whales click and when do they stop clicking, which indicates that they are surfacing."
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April 13, 2001
'Butterflies'
"Papua New Guinea is a paradise for many thousands of insect species, having more than its far share of things that bite and sting. In addition to the poisonous wasps and the sometimes-bothersome ants, this region is endowed with may species of butterfly, most notably the exquisite birdwing variety."
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April 9, 2001
'Spectacled Flying Fox of Madang'
"Bats are the most visible mammals in Papua New Guinea and play an integral role in the health of the country's forests. They assist in the maintenance of local environments through the dispersal of fruit tree seeds and the control of insect populations."
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April 5, 2001
'Barracuda'
"Barracudas endure a fearsome reputation, renowned as being a veracious predator they are quite capable of cutting a large parrotfish in two with a single bite."
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April 2, 2001
'PNG Video Report'
"We have been in the territorial waters of Papua New Guinea now for six weeks, during that time we have spent a total of thirty-five days looking for whales with great success. Following is a video compilation of some of our experiences so far."
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March 28, 2001
'Anchored in the Flooded Caldera of Garove'
"Captain Iain Kerr and Genevieve Johnson spent time with staff and students of Garove Primary School. They discussed whales and the marine environment and although most students were vaguely familiar with whales, they were surprised to hear about the number and variety that are present in Papua New Guinea waters. Charlie, one of the teachers told us stories of large whales entering the caldera at night, the sound of their blows echoing and bouncing off the steep cliffs."
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March 26, 2001
'A Year into the Voyage'
"It's hard to believe that the Odyssey has been at sea for over a year, and what a year it has been. The Odyssey crew has done an amazing job, with every aspect of the voyage meeting or surpassing our initial goals."
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March 21, 2001
'Rabaul'
"We have just completed a valuable two and a half-week survey of the Bismarck and Solomon Seas. This unique environment evidently supports an abundance of marine mammals. This proved to be an incredible trip with a daily bonanza of whale and dolphin sightings."
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March 18, 2001
'The Acoustic Realm of the Sperm Whale - Part II'
"One would be hard pressed to encounter a more impressive animal than the adult male sperm whale, by any measure it is a most magnificent animal. The largest predator in the sea, he may reach lengths of over 60 ft (18m), he has nothing to fear and is the undisputed king of his ocean home."
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March 15, 2001
'The Acoustic Realm of the Sperm Whale: Part I'
"We have been surveying a relatively unknown area in terms of whale and dolphin species, and have been thrilled to encounter several groups of sperm whales. Some have been in tight clusters of eight to ten animals, others spread out in small groups of three and four, as well as several individuals in loose associations. It has been particularly interesting to collect acoustic recordings, or vocalizations from these diverse groups, differing in compositions of abundance, sex and age."
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March 12, 2001
'Tiworaworakakulu'
"Although Papua New Guinea is a nation made up of six hundred islands and many people make their living from the sea, very few Papua New Guineans realize that there are great whales in the waters of 'PNG'. They may be familiar with some of the smaller inshore dolphins or dugongs, but they are very surprised to learn that there are big whales."
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March 9, 2001
Surveying Whales in Papua New Guinea
"There are major knowledge gaps within the waters of Papua New Guinea. For instance, in this voyage we will be going from coastal areas with spectacular reefs to oceanic basants to migratory passages to deep-sea trenches. The deepest part that I have seen on the chart is over 8300 meters and to have that in such close proximity to an active volcanic island makes the region very special. You can expect to see a great variety of oceanic marine life - cetaceans but other species like swordfish and marlin"
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March 7, 2001
A School Visit in New Ireland Province
"A recurring pattern has clearly emerged among the local communities and the education systems we have encountered. The demise of many marine environments and the potential threats to its inhabitants can be partially attributed to the lack of resources and educational materials, which consequently lead to a lack of public awareness throughout these communities."
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March 2, 2001
Kavieng Arrival
"We have arrived in port after a long and challenging ocean passage from Tarawa. Interestingly, the monsoon we encountered that caused us to delay our arrival, has subsequently headed south, eventually forming a class two cyclone over Northern Australia."
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February 28, 2001
Encountering a Sei Whale
"I had the sunrise watch this morning. The sky was clear and the water calm, and I had a feeling that the day might bring something special. It was Rebecca who first saw the blow-on her early afternoon watch. She described it as tall and thin-obviously the blow of a large, baleen whale, specifically a rorqual."
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February 23, 2001
Coconut Crab
"The coconut crab is, in fact, the largest in the hermit crab family. Having no need to carry a portable dwelling, this hermit has developed a permanent hard plated shell, which can grow to an astonishing three feet across."
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February 20, 2001
Monsoon
"We are currently anchored on the leeward side of a small and remote atoll approximately two hundred miles east of New Ireland Province, Papua New Guinea. This departure from our route was an unscheduled stop, however, the course of events that have occurred over the last 36 hours have taken us on this unexpected detour."
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