Back(b)log: Quick fix

 

February 4, 2016

 

On a fine sunny day tucked away inside Isla Wager, I was left behind on Saoirse with Greg while the entire team went out to survey our first dead whale of the expedition. Although the balmy seaside afternoon surely called for a cold beer and a lawn chair, we elected instead to busy ourselves with some general repairs and soft scientific sampling.

Greg lent me some epoxy to fix my mildly crushed surfboard, and while it cured in the sun I threw on my wetsuit to survey Saoirse’s hull. Armed with a mask and a screwdriver, my mission was to find the hole where the pilothouse’s starboard drain comes out, and dig out whatever might be blocking it.

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Highly technical technician, photo by Greg Landreth

After a few dives it was fairly easy to clear out some poorly positioned barnacles from the innards of the ship’s superficial piping. It seems as if the drain’s valve might be somewhat rusted, seeing as even some forceful underwater whacks with the screwdriver weren’t enough to reopen the floodgates. Either way, we still got some good shots of the state of the hull—which is looking pretty all-right, actually. Only some slight typical slime and a handful of barnacles. Nothing major.

 

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The propeller, photo by Katie

If you haven’t heard it from our oceanographers yet, tell your friends you heard it here first: the water is WARM. Forget the historic diatribes of grim voyages through the cold and the wind and the rain. Super El Niño rules here in the Golfo de Penas, Chile—calm winds, 28ºC weather and 18ºC water!

All that glamour created extremely conducive conditions for the testing of a new scientific sampling method for aggregate pelagic invertebrates. Instead of wasting energy tossing around gangly plankton nets, we decided to up efficiency and directly go grab some little squat lobsters using the Swim-Jar Method.

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“ahhh!” photo by Katie

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Captured prisoners, give us the information!!! photo by Katie

Efficiency, I say!

Next month, these few Munida subrugosa I snatched will be analyzed in a laboratory for the presence of harmful red tide toxins. Baleen whales, such as the 337 mysteriously deceased ones of our study, are known to feed on swarms of these red squat lobsters. A potential presence of toxins in Munida in the region may provide a missing link in the events leading up to the whales’ death. Until then, all speculation is up to our imagination, and we may only ponder these little red creatures under the sun, and under the boat.

 

Until next time,

Katie

Aprendamos sobre el fenómeno ENOS…

Por S. A. García-Loyola y Franco A. Comanato

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Bajando los datos y preparando la estación meteorológica en la Glaciar Témpanos -foto por Katie McConnell

 

Con la expedición HF27 estamos tratamos de conseguir los datos y la información para tratar de entender o explicar el por qué de la gran mortalidad de cetáceos que ha estado ocurriendo en la zona patagónica de Chile. Como científicos debemos considerar todos los factores que podrían estar afectactando la dinámica ecosistémica de la zona y por ello es muy importante tomar en cuenta la influencia que estaría teniendo el actual evento El Niño, principalmente en relación a las altas temperaturas superficiales del mar que hemos estado registrando en los distintos canales y fiordos explorados (en ocasiones hasta 21 °C en superficie). Gran variedad de los efectos a distintas escalas de El Niño se desconocen, de hecho, el mismo fenómeno en sí no ha sido del todo comprendido por la ciencia, es por ello que procedemos a explicar, a modo de introducción, cómo se produce un evento de El Niño y los principales efectos que podría generar en los sitemas climáticos.

 

El fenómeno El Niño Oscilación del Sur (ENOS) es una perturbación del sistema climático, oceánico y atmosférico en la zona del Pacífico Ecuatorial. Se caracteriza por variaciones aperiódicas en la magnitud de los vientos alisios e importantes anomalías en la temperatura superficial del mar (TSM), nivel medio del mar (NMM) y en las presiones atmosféricas relacionadas con la Oscilación del Sur. El ENOS tiene una fase cálida conocida como El Niño, donde los vientos alisios se debilitan provocando una disminución en la intensidad de la surgencia ecuatorial y un subsecuente aumento de la TSM en el lado Este del Pacífico Ecuatorial, esto debido a la llegada de ondas Kelvin desde el lado Oeste. Por otra parte, la fase fría se conoce como La Niña y se caracteriza por presentar condiciones contrarias a la antes mencionada, es decir, se genera un aumento en la magnitud de los vientos alisios, una intensificación de la surgencia ecuatorial y con ello una disminución de la TSM producto del ascenso de aguas subsuperficiales de menor temperatura.

 

Durante El Niño, las ondas Kelvin se desplazan sobre el Pacífico Ecuatorial de Oeste a Este, las cuales pueden rebotar en la costa oriental del Ecuador formando ondas Rossby o seguir su desplazamiento por el continente americano como ondas Kelvin Atrapadas a la Costa. Estas ondas transportan aguas mucho más cálidas que lo habitual hacia cada extremo del Pacifico Oriental (norte-California y sur-Chile), provocando variaciones en las condiciones climáticas y oceanográficas típicas de cada zona; como por ejemplo, en Chile generalmente se genera un aumento significativo en el régimen de lluvias, una disminución de los vientos asociados al Anticiclón del Pacifico Sur y por ende, , llegada de especies u organísmos atípicos, menores intensidades en los eventos de surgencia costera (i.e., menor producción en pesquerías), entre otras.

 

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Figura 1. Anomalía de la TSM en el Pacífico ecuatorial,

diferencia fase cálida y fría del ENOS. (Extraído de NOAA)

 

Durante las últimas décadas este fenómeno ha sido bastante estudiado, pero aún no está claro cuáles son los mecanismos que gatillan el proceso para generar una fase cálida o fría, tampoco existe evidencia concreta en relación a los ciclos temporales de ocurrencia. Actualmente se acepta que el ENOS mantiene una variabilidad interanual, pero no estable, por ende puede ocurrir cada 3, 5 o 7 años aproximadamente. Es más, características como magnitud, frecuencia, duración y velocidad de desarrollo han variado en cada uno de los eventos que se han registrado a lo largo de la historia. Para poder cuantificar o medir la intensidad del ENOS existe el Índice Oceánico El Niño (ONI, por sus siglas en inglés), este índice se computa promediando tres meses de anomalías de TSM en la región Niño 3.4, entonces para determinar qué fase del evento se está desarrollando se consideran los períodods donde se sobrepase el umbral ±0.5 °C por un mínimo de 5 meses consecutivos. En definitiva, largos períodos con anomalías positivas los conocemos como El Niño y períodos con anomalías negativas como La Niña.

 

La comunidad científica a nivel internacional ha prestado principal atención al fenómeno que se ha estado desarrollando desde finales de 2014, cuando el índice ONI comenzó a ascender mostrando clara evidencia de que la TSM en la zona ecuatorial estaba aumentando y así fue como aproximadamente entre marzo/abril del 2015 se confirmó la presencia de la fase cálida del ENSO con una anomalía positiva por sobre el umbral +0.5°C y con una tendencia a aumentar.

 

De acuerdo con la Administración Nacional Oceánica y Atmosférica de Estados Unidos de América (NOAA, por sus siglas en inglés) todos los modelos predicen con un 90% de probabilidad que El Niño continuaría hasta el verano del 2015-2016, y un 85% de probabilidad que continuaría hasta otoño del 2016, alcanzando valores ONI con anomalías positivas cercanas a ±3°C (Figura 2), siendo mayor al Niño 97-98 (considerado como uno de los más fuertes registrados hasta la fecha).

 

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Figura 2. Índice ONI desde 1970; en rojo anomalías TSM positivas, en azul anomalías TSM negativas y en naranjo las proyecciones o pronósticos modelados por la NOAA.

 

Sin embargo, la sequía que mantenemos hace más de 5 años en Chile [http://www.cr2.cl/tag/megasequia/] no va poder ser remediada por la tan esperada lluvia como consecuencia del evento en cuestión, esto debido a que la intensidad y desarrollo de El Niño se ha presentado con un desfase en relación a nuestras estaciones climáticas y por ello la temporada de lluvias (junio, julio y agosto) ha sido bastante normal en comparación con años anteriores. Sin embargo, si las predicciones son correctas, un verano con fase cálida ENOS significaría contar con la presencia de eventos como “olas de calor” y un aumento en las temperaturas atmosféricas hasta de 2°C por sobre la media, y con ello el subsecuente aumento en la TSM como se ha estado registrando en esta expedición.

 

La Patagonia de Chile ha sido estudiada con frecuencia mediante grandes cruceros oceanográficos (e.g., CIMAR FIORDOS), pero las características geográficas hacen de los fiordos chilenos un área de compleja navegación no permitiendo una buena caracterización respecto a canales o senos de menor embergadura, lo que induce la existencia de más incógnitas que respuestas sobre los fenómenos que se dan en lugares específicos. Hoy en día, gracias a las expediciones realizadas en la Patagonia, se han podido describir parte de los parámetros fisicos principales de la oceanografía, tales como temperatura y salinidad del agua, variables que permiten identificar y definir las distintas masas de agua que circulan por estos estrechos canales. La gran variabilidad estacional es una de las características principales que afectan el lugar, con sus principales flujos de agua dulce en invierno debido al incremento en las precipitaciones y en verano por el derretimiento de la nieve/hielo y lluvias estivales. Esta diferencia provoca variaciones estacionales en la salinidad entre 10 a 20 unidades, encontrando salinidades superficiales y subsuperficiales de ~3 en invierno y hasta ~34 en verano. La temperatura no es una excepción y también mantiene una gran variabilidad en la superficie del mar, la cual depende de las diferencias en la radiación solar incidente, con temperaturas de ~9-10°C en invierno y ~15-18°C en verano.

 

Los valores antes mencionados corresponden a una condición normal (no-ENSO) en zonas aledañas al Golfo de Penas y/o fiordos locales. Escasos o nulos trabajos se han realiado sobre caracterizaciones oceanográficas y biogeoquímicas por los canales que hemos explorado, ni menos aún durante la fase cálida del ENSO, por ende, los resultados de esta expedición serán el “punta pie inicial” para una gran cantidad de estudios u otras expedidciones y será parte de nuestra misión aportar con el conocimiento e información que ya hemos recolectado en base a muestras y registros.

High and Dry…

HIgh and Dry

Another Sei Whale is beached high and dry in Caleta Buena, Estero Slight, Golfo Tres Montes, Chile Patagonia (c) Keri-Lee Pashuk 2016

Only a few hours before this photo was taken, this juvenile sei whale was alive, swimming in the waters of Estero Slight and Caleta Buena.
Late the previous evening, while the team was working sampling the young sei whale found dead and floating in the bay earlier in the day, we witnessed a spectacle that we never could have imagined.  A large group of orcas, first seen in the distance at the entrance to the bay, were getting closer, chasing and attacking two sei whales who were swimming into the bay, trying to get away from their attackers.
We dropped everything and ran along the beach at low tide to follow the dramatic events.  Filming with small cameras, grabbed hurriedly in the excitement, we ran along the beach, climbing over tree trunks and then climbing into the tree trunks as the drama taking place only meters in front of us took on a even more upsetting turn.
As the orca attacks became more aggressive, the sei whales seemed to become more frantic and then began to try to beach themselves, right next to where some of us were standing.  These attempts to beach happened several times before the whales swam away, back out the fiord, the orcas following them, swimming next to the whales, jumping on top of them, breaching and landing on them, seemingly biting at them, first four, then six then 10 orcas, relentlessly attacking the whales.  It was exactly what the fisherman had described to us just recently, a story we couldn’t quite grasp without seeing it for ourselves. As it got darker, we lost the view of the whales and the orcas and went back to continue our job of our sampling, finishing up just as the inky darkness of rain closed in.
We all went to sleep that night disturbed by what we had seen.

And it wasn’t over.  In the middle of the night, I awoke abruptly, some sort of “thunk” resonating through the hull, then lots of ghostlike noises, whistling, chirping.   Something was not right.
The next morning, we awoke to find another whale on the beach in the river in Caleta Buena.  A whale that only hours before was alive,  perhaps one of the whales that was swimming for its life the night before, persecuted by the orcas. And now it is high and dry like the hundreds of other whales we’ve counted here in this region.
It makes me wonder, how many of those hundreds of thousands of words I have taken in photos of the other whales tell this whales same story?
Keri
Fiordo Iceberg

Misterio en la Patagonia

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Subiendo el motor del dinghy -foto por Katie McConnell

La experiencia de vivir en un velero no es muy distinta a estar en una casa, solo que en constante viaje, buscando siempre un lugar donde poder anclar protegidos del viento y sin mucho espacio ni tiempo para caminar por las mañanas tras despertar. La embarcación se llama Saoirse y sus capitanes son Keri y Greg, quienes han sido muy hospitalarios, llevando al grupo entero a un ambiente bastante familiar para un grupo de ocho personas en las que la que al menos la mitad no se conocía con anterioridad.

Es impresionante como logramos guardar toda la mercadería que compramos dentro de muchos compartimientos que se encuentran en el piso y en los asientos por todo el lugar. Seis carros llenos de mercadería ocultos bajo el suelo. Insólito, al menos para mí. También la navegación fue una sorpresa, en vez de moverse de forma irregular para todos lados al más mínimo oleaje, Saoirse surca el océano sin ningún problema y con enorme seguridad, y con la libertad de ser una nave mediana que puede maniobrar con bastante libertad, incluso por aguas poco profundas.

Aparte de la embarcación, el clima ha sido bastante templado, con lluvias esporádicas y rachas de vientos que no pasan de unas cuantas horas. La gente es agradable así que cualquier clima puede ser llevado sin problemas y me han ayudado mucho con el trabajo del manejo del CTD. Yo, que soy el más joven y tan solo un estudiante de pre-grado, he podido nutrirme del conocimiento y la buena onda de todos los que están a bordo.

Pero lo que definitivamente me quitó el aliento fueron los paisajes… Las fotos, postales e historias no logran representar por completo la belleza de la zona de fiordos que he presenciado en el sur de Chile. Siempre consideré que las extensas zonas forestales de la XI Región de Aysén eran parte de las maravillas del mundo, pero el presenciarlas me dejó claro que este territorio es digno de cualquier poema, pintura, película o canción.

Sin embargo, como muchas cosas en la naturaleza, este hermoso paisaje esconde algunos secretos que estamos tratando de resolver en conjunto, algunos científicos de distintas áreas. En particular, el motivo del varamiento masivo de ballenas en las costas de los distintos esteros y senos que se encuentran al norte del Golfo de Penas.

Aun no se tiene completa claridad de la cantidad de cetáceos sin vida presentes en las costas de estos fiordos, mucho menos de las causas que podrían originar este evento. Desde el punto de vista oceanográfico no es recomendable afirmar sólo una causal, sino más bien manejar varias hipótesis para averiguar lo que gatilló este suceso. De la misma forma lo más acertado sería no subrayar como las únicas afectadas a las ballenas, otros organismos podrían haber recibido un impacto y estudiarles podría ayudarnos a dilucidar este misterio.

Para poder afirmar cualquier condición del océano es necesario conocer las principales variables oceanográficas: temperatura, salinidad y oxígeno disuelto. Es por ello que hemos realizado distintos lances de equipo CTD que mide esas variables en cada profundidad. Esta actividad continuará hasta el final del crucero y el siguiente análisis de los datos obtenidos con el instrumento podrá aportar un poco para comprender de mejor manera las características del agua en toda la zona de estudio, hallando una posible respuesta.

Aún queda mucho de este viaje y es excelente que exista este espacio para poder informar a mis seres queridos que está todo bien, que les extraño, que el estudio sigue en marcha, y que alucino con los paisajes día y noche. Así como también me gustaría leer en los comentarios cómo va todo por allá.

Franco

Meanwhile Bach on the beach….

by Greg Landreth

Ode to the Whale

Greg plays Ave Maria by Bach on the beach in Puerto Slight where a whale recently washed up dead on the beach.

I know, I know, I did say I was going to write something every day but as Robbie Burns understood, the best laid plans of mice and men gang aft aglay. As expected, the beaches are lined with the well rotted corpses of last years mortality and we have been continuing with the original plan of measuring and mapping their positions as well as taking CTD scans (chemical profiles) of the water columns inside and outside the fiords. This is wholly absorbing, steady work, even though Saoirse and the dinghies are ofen widely separated I can oversee their safety while the oceanographic work is proceeding. However we are now starting to enter a new phase of the investigation with the recent granting of permission to the expedition by Sernapesca to conduct necropsies on the whale carcasses. This has now become critically important with the appearance of new whale carcasses on shore, commingled with the ones from last years event. If we are to have any chance of understanding what happened here, the necropsies of this years new deaths moves right to the top of the list.

Compared with a necropsy, all else we have done on this expedition seems squeaky-clean by comparison. Over the years of expeditioning we have done it seems that I have become very good at reducing most activities, such as climbing, photography, whatever has been the aim of the expedition, to a simple time and motion study, working around the weather to achieve the best result that I can. To help with this, the participants themselves judge their activites with simple quantitive measurements. Perhaps it is too complicated to do otherwise. For instance a climber will judge his performance by the height of the mountain, a numerical rating of its difficulty, etc. A photograher’s conversation will be focussed around numbers of gigabytes and locations achieved. Here though, the simple concepts of time and motion come overshadowed by timing and emotion.

Simple creatures are one thing; we put mussels in the blender to test them for red tide without thinking much about it, but the idea of a person diving inside the rotting corpse of a mammal which may turn out to have a consciousness equal to our own has a gravity to it which should certainly cause one to falter and ask, “Why are we doing this?”. Back to the mechanics of it though, we have a lot of new things to think about. For a start, whale carcasses are fully involved with death. Saoirse is where we live and must remain liveable. That means that we need a fundamental change of rhythm to the proceedings each time we contemplate a necropsy. At the start we thought we had come prepared for this eventuality, and the first one we did in Puerto Slight went well. We had excellent weather, Alex, our veterinarian had all tools and protocols prepared, the tide was low, exposing the cuts which needed to made. All team members were suited up in a manner reminescent of the images of the teams of medics dealing with the Ebola crisis. Even so, with perfect conditions and all of the team involved (leaving their own separate studies aside for awhile), the act itself took a full day, still leaving the necessity of doing further dissections onboard. Though we must try to leave all things which involve death on the beach, inevitably there will be a lingering effect on board, bottled up inside specimen jars and people’s emotions.

For me, looking at the act from afar, the scene reminded me not so much of a western  hospital autopsy, but more like what I have read of the Tibetan concept of a sky burial. The slow white suited figures wielding sharp saws and knives contrasted with the black-winged figures of vultures and petrels waiting. Waiting for their chance to carry flesh back to the sky where cleansed, it will fall to earth once more. I thought that perhaps to complete the scene  we ought to be having a benediction from a Tibetan monk, but alas we do not have one aboard.

I decided then that we would have to make our own approximation. What did we have at hand?
Looking around the cabins in saoirse I managed to collect:

  1. My electric cello, bought in Santiago, supplied from China after a European pattern.
    1a) some battery powered speakers, found wanting a home in the Falkland Islands two years
    ago
  2. some sheet music, composed some hundreds of years ago, bought a while ago in Toronto and    copied onto a piece of paper of unknown origin with a Swedish printer designed in the USA
  3. A cheap plastic stool, probably made in China, bought in Punta Arenas
  4. A costume composed of cotton trousers made in New Zealand, a shirt made in the USA with wool supplied by Magellanic sheep and some Scandinavian gumboots.
  5. A piece of heavy plywood cut from a failed attept to make a new toilet seat for the boat using a Japanese jigsaw.
  6. A log (local) and a crab claw for adornment, also local.

A pretty good international effort I figured. So that is how I came to be playing my cello version of the Bach/Gounod “Ave Maria” on the beach next to a dead whale in  a place called Puerto Slight, next to a dead whale in Patagonia.  I did the best I could, but thankfully the recording camera mysteriously ran out of batteries and you will just have to take my word for it that it happened.

Eye of the Storm

Eye of a Storm

 

I haven’t written anything yet for this blog as I have not been able to find the words I need to describe what I have seen in these past weeks.  Photos are the way I communicate my experiences and my personal goal for this voyage is to document through images, all the whales we encounter on this voyage, alive or dead.  The death has outweighed the life part of the equation and is taking a toll.

If a photo can tell 1000 words, then it would take 266,000 words to tell this story so far.   12,000 words would be needed to describe the new whale deaths we have since leaving Puerto Eden three weeks ago.

So until I can bring my photos of words to you, here I attempt a seemingly insignificant few to try to describe what I have seen.

To access the whales for documentation and study, we must leave Saoirse with the Oceanographic Research team and head out everyday as weather allows in the dinghy with Ana, Francisca and either Katie or Alex.  I am the dinghy operator, Ana photographs the whale carcasses, Francisca positions them on the GPS and Alex or Katie sit at the bow watching for rocks.   I also photograph each whale carcass we come across as part of my art project within this whale study project, my ultimate goal being to bring these images and the plight of these whales to the world via photographic exhibitions.

Our days are long, often spending 8 hours or more away from the boat, going along the shore from one whale carcass to another, each person focused on their job of documentation.   When there is opportunity to stop, usually only once during this time as the fiords are very long and there is much distance to cover, Ana and Francisca measure the whale carcasses while Alex collects plants for the stable isotope studies.   With the dinghy safely secured, I focus on taking photos of the whales, strangely fascinated with the artistic way in which they have decayed and how other creatures are sustained by their death.   I am also taking video, trying to bring life and movement into the daily images I am accumulating.

Our first stop on the voyage was in Seno Escondido.  Being one of the main study areas of the project, we spent a number of days there covering the entire fiord in the dinghy and photographing and documenting 61 whale carcasses.  For some reason, the reality of the situation did not disturb me as much as one would have thought.    The discomfort began after leaving Puerto Slight, where we documented another 60 plus dead whales.   And now, after covering 14 nautical miles in the dinghy in Seno Newman and photographing 105 dead whales, I feel what I can only explain as a profound sadness, the disassociation of the war photographer having worn thin.

Seno Newman is like a battle field, rotting and decaying carcasses of whales strewn haphazard from one end of the fiord to the other, some whales already stripped to clean white bones, others with skin mummified in a semblance of form.  The putrefying whales still have remnants of what they once were, a flipper, a tail fluke.  The newly dead whales are the most disturbing.  Whales.  Whales which were just recently swimming, feeding, breaching and living are now washed up like shipwrecks on a lee shore.  They are mostly intact, black velvety skin peeled back by the hundreds of giant petrels feeding on their bloated bodies.  Saucer-sized eyes glazed, vacant, devoid of life glare at me through my camera lens.   These whales  shouldn’t be here.  We shouldn’t be here.   But we need to be here.

My photos and our words are only part of what is needed to take action.  The science that we are accomplishing aboard this vessel is the first and important step in trying to determine what is happening to these majestic creatures.   During our month long expedition we are gathering as much information as we possibly can, pieces of a very complex puzzle, perhaps one we may not be able to solve, but one that we must attempt to solve with all our efforts.

Whales are still dying.  And this is only the early part of the season.   What are we going to find here in April when we return for the second half of our project?

How many more hundreds of thousands of words will my photos be worth then?

 

Keri

February 21, 2016

Unnamed Bay

Eastern Shore

Seno Newman

New Whales Found Dead in Golfo de Penas

 

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The outgoing tide reveals the whole of a recently deceased whale under a Patagonian deluge. Caleta Buena, February 23 (c) Katie McConnell 2016

Febuary 16th, 2016

Writing from Caleta Buena, the small beach where photos and videos of the dead whales in Golfo de Penas first seized international concern.

Caleta Buena is a small watery offshoot of Estero Slight, a long fjord carved into the southern heart of the Taitao Peninsula, on the northwest side of Golfo de Penas. This is the region where Dr. Häussermann first reported 31 dead whales to the Chilean authorities.

IMG_9698Image: V.Hausserman (overflight Golfo de Penas, June 2015)

Since arriving to Slight four days ago, we have been working overtime to revisit every previously reported whale, taking observational measurements of size, state of decomposition, and orientation. Without having completed all surveys for this region, we already have found 27* whale skeletons and believe them to be the skeletons of last years casualties. Of the 337 total reported dead whales, this expedition has already surveyed nearly one hundred.

Perhaps the most poignant finding, however, are 8 newly deceased whales, with 2 reports of more from local fisherman and sailors. Of these eight, 5 are here in Estero Slight.
Of these, three are estimated to have died within the last few weeks. We will right away report this finding to Fiscalia de Aysén and Sernapesca.

Although we came prepared with an extensive study regime, a new embargo placed on the whales last November by Chilean authorities made any manipulation of the whales illegal, thereby crippling a vital component of our current investigation. This embargo was placed because of the existence of a whale protection law in Chile which requires Fiscalia de Aysén, Sernapesca and the PDI to conduct a criminal investigation against whoever may be found responsible for the death of the 337 whales.

Now, the authorities mounted an expedition to survey the whales, taking place this week. In fact, two days ago we made radio contact with their ship as they swiftly passed through the region.

We are grateful to report that yesterday we were notified by satellite email that Sernapesca and Fiscalia de Aysén agreed to grant us permits to sample and perform necropsies on the carcasses, with the agreement that we will share all data only with Sernapesca and cannot make public any data collected or analyzed directly from the whales until the criminal investigation is closed. And so, our specialists have finally been given permission to sample. This is a great step forward towards a well-informed impression of this unique and tragic event.

Next week we will continue NE to Seno Newman, where there are more than 90 whales reported from aerial photographs. We will continue to keep a sharp lookout for new whales and take utmost advantage of the limited time we have left in Golfo de Penas.

–Katie McConnell

*Counts taken from skulls, 1 count was from a jawbone.