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The Oceania Project's
Whale Research Expeditions
in Hervey Bay: 1989-2013


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Life Histories and Focal Follows


'Sahara's' Under side Fluke Underside Flukes are important in Photo ID work. As we approached this mother tail lobbing beside her new calf Trish sensed the Fluke was familiar. It was 'Sahara' a regular mother. Propellor Marks behind 'Sahara's'  blow holeMnenomic names aid in remembering individual whales. 'Sahara's name came from the distinctive 'dune-like' propellor marks across her blow hole and the top of her body: Click to enlarge If we encounter a well known individual whale with an established life history, like 'Floppy' or 'Nala', we may engage in a 'focal follow' to obtain information on the pods or individuals that they are inter-acting with while they are in Hervey Bay.

Collection of 'sloughed skin' samples in this type of work is vital as the DNA information from the samples enables to learn about the relationships between individuals and amongst pods, leading to insights about humpback social structure.

Successful collection of skin samples requires sharp eyes and quick reflexes. it is important to collect skin samples quickly as the ship moves into the 'footprint' of an individual whale.

The type of encounter with the humpback pods are categorised. Sometimes a pod will take 'no interest' in the presence of our vessel, while at other times a pod will intentionally approach our vessel which may result in a 'close extended encounter'. Such encounter can last for a few minutes or up to several hours, providing a unique opportunity to obtain Photo ID data and to sort out the individuals within the pod.

During each day in the field we take time out to collect water samples and to conduct environmental readings using a Hydrolab.

All Team Members have the opportunity to be 'Chef' for a day supported by a galley team. So if you have a favourite recipe bring it along. otherwise Trish has an 'Expedition Cookbook' with ample suggestions. There's plenty of support if you need it.

Fieldwork is subject to weather conditions within Hervey Bay. Depending upon the conditions we either go to a comfortable anchorage, or return to Urangan Boat Harbour, and catch up with data entry, reviewing photography, viewing a powerpoint presentation or a video about Cetacea.

There is a limited reference library on board so if you are working on a project there is support material available and keen whale researchers to talk with you on a range of topics.

Ross Bullimore assisting Jacqui BullardIntern Ross Bullimore from the UK working with Expedition Assistant Jacqui Bullard during the 2003 Expedition.
Trish and Interns checking days PhotoID work Trish reviews the days Photo ID work with Team Members aboard the 2001 Expedition: (Left to right) Kathrin Schreier, Austria; Pixie Stevens, Brisbane; Olive Andrews, SCU Marine Science and Daniel Burns, Expedition Assistant. At the end of each working day we anchor along the western or northern shore of Fraser Island. Fraser Island is 40 nautical miles from the mainland coast of Australia so we are all able to quietly reflect upon the days experiences as we share the unusual sight of the sun setting into the ocean.

After enjoying an evening meal prepared by our companions we review the days photography, share a presentation or discuss the days events.

Everyday aboard the Expedition is a rich and full experience. Firm bonds of friendship and professional relationships are formed and developed through working together with a common focus.

At the end of our time aboard the Expedition we will leave with more than memories.


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