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WHALES & DOLPHINS OF THE WORLD

During the Voyage of the Odyssey expedition, the crew encounter many different species of whales and dolphins in their research. The following are some education reports of their experiences.


June 7, 2004
'Fishing for a Scapegoat - Are Whales Competing with Fish for Dwindling Fish Stocks?'
"Most people assume that whales are saved because of the worldwide moratorium that has been in place since 1986. They are unaware that: 1) whaling continues today; 2) it is on the increase; and 3) that the whalers are currently killing four species of large whales."
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May 6, 2004
'A 'Killer' Visit'
"At 10 am this morning, the wind speed picked up, the whitecaps steadily increased in size and number and the swells moved to the north with greater energy. At 11 am, Chris called down from observation watch - 'I see several blows off the port bow at 2,000 meters.'"
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April 25, 2004
'Passage Through the Arabian Sea'
"The Odyssey crew left the Maldives last week after two months of research. We are currently embarking on a 1200-mile passage across the Arabian Sea in the northern Indian Ocean before sailing 600 miles down the Gulf of Aden to Djibouti - a tiny country the size of Massachusetts nestled between Somalia and Eritrea at the base of the Red Sea."
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April 16, 2004
'Unraveling the mystery of Killer whale ecology in Antarctica'
"Bob Pitman, a marine biologist from Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, California, recently joined us for our last research leg in the Maldives. Spending up to eight months a year at sea studying sea birds, sea turtles, flying fish and marine mammals. Recently, his interests have moved toward researching killer whales in Antarctica."
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April 7, 2004
'Killer Whales - Encountering Transients'
"Yesterday during lunch, we turned off the engine in order to drift and enjoy the calm, sunny conditions. As soon as the engine was cut, we detected dolphin clicks and whistles on the acoustic array (underwater microphone). Moments later, we sighted a group 500 meters ahead. Suddenly the dolphins erupted from the surface of the sea leaping clear of the water and 'running' at top speed. Something was chasing them. Bob turned to me and said - 'we have killer whales.'"
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March 30, 2004
'Whale & Dolphin Diversity in the Maldives
"During most research legs, we focus our effort on sperm whales. This research leg we will survey closer to the reef in order to document smaller cetaceans and beaked whales."
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March 24, 2004
'The Science of the Voyage - Collecting Biopsy Samples from Sperm Whales'
"This is Roger Payne speaking to you from the Ocean Alliance's whale research vessel Odyssey. Today, we go behind the scenes and examine how we find and track sperm whales, take tissue biopsies from sperm whales and see how that data is processed with at the Wood's Hole Oceanographic Institution."
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November 7, 2003
'Whales in Mauritius'
"Within 30 minutes of leaving Port Louis, we deployed our acoustic array - an underwater microphone we use to find and track whales. Less than 3 miles from shore, in over 2,000 meters of water we had our first acoustic detection. One whale became three, then five and then twelve - we were surrounded. We tracked the whales in slow circles all night - the channel lights marking the entrance to Port Louis were in constant view."
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October 18, 2003
'Mysticetes and Odontocetes'
"As we began our 1600 nautical mile passage from the Maldives in the Northeast to Mauritius in the Southwest, the crew sighted sperm whales, risso's and pan-tropical spotted dolphins. As the education director aboard the Odyssey, I am often asked - "how many species of cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) are there?"
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September 18, 2003
'Longman's Beaked Whale Sighted by the Odyssey Crew'
"While researching in the Maldives in February, 2003, the Odyssey crew sighted and photographed a group of beaked whales. Today, we can confirm that they were Longman's beaked whales. Among beaked whales, the Longman's beaked whale (Indopacetus pacificus) is one of the least known species, and is known from little more than skeletal remains and a few sightings at sea."
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July 8, 2003
'Perspectives - Researching Whales in Sri Lanka'
"The secrets of the riches of our seas were initially unravelled during the Tulip expedition of the early 80's. The Odyssey is only the second research team to do a comprehensive study on the marine mammals of our waters and I am proud to be a part of the team."
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June 30, 2003
'A Renewed Hope for Whales - The 2003 International Whaling Commission Meeting'
"The annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) has concluded for another year. The crew was ecstatic to learn that those working for the protection of the great whales 'for all time', achieved a narrow victory over the loathsome representatives of whaling nations that eagerly anticipate a return to the commercial slaughter."
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June 27, 2003
'The Dolphin Fishery'
"Until recently, the desperate plight of the world's dolphins and porpoises has gone relatively unnoticed, even though an estimated 300,000 small cetaceans are killed annually. Their mortality is rising at an alarming rate with fisherman specifically targeting dolphins."
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June 20, 2003
'Save the Dolphins'
"Few people are aware of the hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions of small whales, known as dolphins and porpoises, that are killed every year in frightening numbers as a direct result of entanglement in fishing gear. In fact considerably more dolphins are killed today than all the great whales that were killed at the height of the mechanized commercial hunts that brought many species to the brink of extinction."
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June 13, 2003
'Pygmy Killer Whales and Sperm Whales'
"One of the most exciting and rewarding aspects of a long-term, oceanic expedition is that the crew is never quite sure of what events each day will bring. We have learned to always expect the unexpected."
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June 5, 2003
'A Rare Whale Encounter'
"The Bryde’s whale is one of the smaller baleen species, averaging around 50 feet in length. Although it has been established that there are at least two distinct forms, an offshore, partly migratory species and an inshore resident species."
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June 2, 2003
'How do dolphins avoid high speed collisions with each other?'
"The other day, we had a group of about 200 Pantropical spotted dolphins (Stenella attenuata) approach and bow ride. None of us ever tires of watching groups of dolphins cavorting and rolling as they travel with the Odyssey. Bowriding dolphins also always afford a great opportunity to make acoustic recordings of their clicks and whistles."
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May 16, 2003
'Mating Risso's Dolphins'
"The animals appeared to be milling in a tight group, between abrupt bursts of speed just beneath the surface. We assumed they were probably chasing a school of fish and decided to take a closer look."
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May 12, 2003
'Blue Whales in the Basses'
"To see a Blue whale at sea is something most of us can only dream about. To see more than one in a lifetime is a rarity reserved for a fortunate few. To be in a boat surrounded by 5 or 6 blue whales is an experience so profoundly moving."
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May 9, 2003
'In Awe of Whales'
"Yesterday morning at 12.30 am, we detected the familiar clicking of another group of sperm whales. The echolocation clicks of these animals are fast becoming the theme of our research in Sri Lanka - an area that contains one of the largest concentrations of sperm whales we have seen since the 'Voyage of the Odyssey' began over three years ago."
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April 25, 2003
'Sperm Whales and Elephants'
"It is difficult to imagine two mammals with more different habitats, however, there are striking parallels between the lives of these aquatic carnivores and terrestrial herbivores."
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April 18, 2003
'Whales in the Gulf of Mannar'
"The Odyssey crew departed Colombo and headed north late yesterday afternoon with great anticipation and high hopes of finding whales. Early this morning we passed over the edge of the continental shelf into the deep waters of the Gulf of Mannar. Almost immediately, Mark, our first mate, heard the clicks of sperm whales through our acoustic array."
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March 11, 2003
'Pseudorcas'
"It is always a thrill to see any cetacean species in the wild for the first time. Today, after more than three years of the voyage, the Odyssey crew spent a couple of hours with a dozen Pseudorcas, also known as false killer whales."
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March 7, 2003
'Whales and the Food Chain'
"From the clear waters of the equatorial Indian Ocean to the cold, turbid waters of the Northern Atlantic, I have had the opportunity to study whales in two different environments. Here aboard the Odyssey, our focus is on studying the sperm whale, toothed whales that prey primarily on squid. At first glance, these two places appear as though they could not be more different. They literally lie on opposite sides of the planet at vastly different latitudes. However, similarities exist between these two areas."
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February 28, 2003
'One of the World's Least Known Whales - Longman's Beaked Whale'
"We were invited today to view and photograph the skeletal remains of a beaked whale that was found on January 17, 2000 near Keyodhoo Atoll in the north of the archipelago. A group of fisherman found the whale carcass drifting close to shore and towed it to a nearby island. Fortunately, a team from the Marine Research Center (MRC) were present and able to identify the animal as a beaked whale, however, they did not recognize the species."
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February 23, 2003
'The Ironies of Watching Whales'
"Being in the Maldives, where local peoples rely all but entirely on the ocean for animal protein, it is striking to me to see how much less gear there is in these waters than in my home waters in Massachusetts (USA). What a welcome relief to find parts of this world where the whales can still swim freely, and the humans can still catch fish and where the ecosystem still prospers."
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February 3, 2003
'A Bryde's Whale Sighting'
"The Bryde's whale is an enigma. Compared to many other species such as humpbacks, grays and southern right whales, favourites of the whale watch industry, the Bryde's whale is rarely seen. Even when it is observed at sea, it is often misidentified."
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January 28, 2003
'Deep Divers and the Bends'
"Sperm Whale are very deep divers. People often ask us how these air breathing mammals can dive to such great depths for extended periods of time without suffering from decompression sickness, also known as the 'bends.'"
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December 30, 2002
'Bowriding Humpback Whales'
"Days like today remind all of us onboard why we joined the Voyage of the Odyssey - to witness and study events at sea that most people on the planet will never get to experience in their lifetimes."
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November 24, 2002
'Experiences with Humpback Whales'
"I was thrilled to see humpback whales in the Seychelles. Hearing the whale singing live underneath the boat and spotting the blow of the tiny calf next to its mother was incredible. Even last night we heard the faint sound of a humpback whale on the acoustic array, the underwater microphone we tow behind the Odyssey."
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November 6, 2002
'Working in Productive Waters'
"Over the past few days, we have encountered several groups of whales, both large and small, and as I write this we have an energetic group of Bottlenose dolphins riding the Odyssey's bow wave - their shrieks and whistles resonating throughout the pilothouse via the speakers that broadcast everything our underwater microphones hear."
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October 30, 2002
'Surrounded by Whales and Dolphins'
"We are currently working in deep ocean water north of Mahe island, between Denis and Bird islands. The fast flowing current between these two islands combined with the upwelling of nutrients along the steeply rising wall of the bank, makes this an ideal feeding area for sperm whales and a number of other marine species."
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October 15, 2002
'The Ocean's Elaborate Composers'
"It is hard to believe that we have towed our underwater microphone across more than 37,000 miles of the Pacific and Indian Ocean's without ever hearing the haunting, mournful song of the male humpback whale. Until today that is!"
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October 3, 2002
'Indentifying Cetcean Species'
"It seems as though the weather may finally have taken a turn for the better. With clear skies and a relatively calm sea, we spent several days this week tracking a large group of sperm whales. Although our research is focused primarily on data collection from that species, we do in fact collect data from every kind of cetacean (whale, dolphin and porpoise) we encounter."
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July 12, 2002
'Sperm Whales & Orcas'
"Our thoughts drifted back to the sperm whales we had left only hours ago. Sperm whales are sometimes attacked and killed by Orcas, although the size of mature sperm whale bulls, and the communal defence by healthy groups of females or young males usually keep them safe from predation. We hope they are still moving quickly and that they are now too far away to be detected by the orcas."
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July 9, 2002
'A Mystery Skull'
"We located the skull yesterday morning. It certainly did not belong to any species of baleen whale, nor was it a sperm whale or any small species of Odontocete (toothed whale) such as a dolphin. But the size and shape of the skull, and the single pair of tooth sockets situated at the tip of the mandible (lower jaw), indicated that the bones belonged to some species of Beaked 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 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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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 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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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January 23 & 24, 2001
Whale Lengends of Kiribati: Part I & Part II
"I-Kiribati tradition has always been strongly linked to the ocean environment. Historically, whales played a vital role in not only the survival of the people, but their legends and beliefs."
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January 4, 2001
Guided by Dolphins
"Tarawa came into view just after sunrise this morning. Upon entering the central lagoon of the atoll, an escort of bow riding Spinner dolphins marked our arrival."
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November 8, 2000
Beaked Whales
Beaked whales are mysterious, elusive animals that are notoriously skittish and shy of boats. Usually the best that one hopes for is a passing glance at a beaked whale.
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