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- Abundance, Survival, Recruitment, and Realized Growth Rates of East Australia Humpback Whales
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Rollin' with the Big Dogs
The Great Barrier Reef is home to over 7,500 individual species. From seaweed to coral, shellfish to sea turtles, marine birds to marine mammals, the Great Barrier Reef is absolutely teaming with life. Approximately two million visitors travel from all corners of the earth to visit this dream destination yearly, and it goes without saying that it truly is one of the world’s seven natural wonders.
However, as our ninth day on the water rolls around you can’t help but wonder when exactly you’re going to witness any one of these numerous identified species. Truth of the matter is that only a select few of the species ever actually break the surface, offering only a partial glimpse to the majestic world below. A couple of hours, several dowsing’s, and a dose of disorientation later you may find yourself lucky enough to be sitting next to a Humpback whale (an all white whale if you’re EXTREMELY lucky), but not without that bit of struggle first.
It is the reef that people are coming to see, and each day thousands of people board their chosen double (often triple) decker catamarans and head out to experience the high seas in comfort and style. Cargo ships pass through their shipping lanes on the hour, and the occasional cruise ship can be viewed ferrying passengers into the harbor. This area is not for the faint of heart, and the faint of heart we are not.
For the last nine days the team has endured extreme hot, chilling cold and undeniably unforgiving seas. We have fought, and fought hard, for every bit of data collected, but it’s the challenge of unanswered questions that keeps us coming back for more. Today, as we moved through Beaufort seven waters (http://www.bom.gov.au/lam/glossary/beaufort.shtml) with our quaint 6.25m rigid inflatable towards distant blows surrounded by only open seas and silhouetted cargo ships, it became apparent that we three were in fact a very determined, passionate group of people.
Eight hours and 107 nautical miles later, we have only one animal to show for all our hard work, but it is in fact one more puzzle piece in a very important puzzle.
So, as we make our way (albeit and bit frustrated and exhausted) back into the harbor trumped by a convoy of double and triple story jet propelled aluminum luxury catamarans, it has become apparent that we may not be a big dog, but we’re rolling with the big dogs nonetheless :).