#6 In the hands of Mother Nature

One of the most over-ruling facets of field work is weather. A lot of people could probably go days without looking at a weather forecast-- save making plans for a picnic or a day at the beach. But here in our field house we check the weather incessantly, waiting for every hourly update of the sea conditions in our survey area and obsessing over the swirl of colors on the radar as they fluctuate and surge.

In fact, the first thing our team leader Jess does in the wee hours of the morning is mull over the weather reports-- weather at the airport we depart from, the height of the clouds, visibility, winds, rain, how these factors change the farther we get out to sea and how they change north and south along the coast. The main reason we are preoccupied by weather is that it can affect our ability to sight whales from the plane. As I displayed two posts ago, whales can be hard to spot when the sea is glassy as a lake; with increasing winds and waves, our ability to spot whales from one thousand feet in the air decreases enormously, so flying would be futile.

We have been having a rough December as of yet, hampered by strong Northeasterly winds punctuated by bouts of enveloping fog (exemplified in the accompanying photographs taken off Fernandina Beach). It's certainly a unique and atavistic situation to be thus ruled by the whims of winter weather patterns. Hopefully our fortunes will change here very shortly so that we can get out and better protect area right whales, undoubtedly gathering at this moment in the local waters, rain or shine.



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