#13: Tales of Life Offshore

Today, a team of four researchers depart on the Shelagh for a two day survey offshore. In the past couple of weeks, we’ve posted a few blogs about where the first Shelagh crew surveyed and what we encountered along the way, but there is a whole other aspect that we haven’t covered yet.  In the best possible way, offshore life is simplistic.  The everyday distractions are nonexistent and you live by the rules of the sun, wind, and sea.  

It doesn't get any better than this.  Photo: Philip Hamilton

On a typical day, our trusty Captain Joe would be up by 0530(L) to navigate the boat towards our starting waypoint (wherever we left off the night before).  Our first watch of two observers and one recorder would start working by 0700(L), once there was enough daylight to effectively survey.  Then our research team of five would rotate through the three “on-watch” positions every hour throughout the day.  Once we picked up whales, it was all hands on deck for proper photo and data collection.  But if you were off watch without whales around (which, unfortunately, was more frequent than not), then the the hour was your own to entertain yourself on a 45 foot boat; therefore, the most common activities were eating, napping, or reading.

 Off-watch activities were riveting. Photo: Bill McWeeny

Making lunch. Photo: Philip Hamilton

We would maintain this rotating watch schedule until around 2000(L), when the light would get too low to properly survey.  After shutting down the engine and hoving to for the night, part of the crew would prepare dinner (often a delicious, pre-made casserole dish), while the rest would organize the data and download photos.  

Working so hard, even the beautiful sunset cannot distract us! Photo: Philip Hamilton

After dinner, the night watch would begin at 2200(L). We would rotate every hour and a half to keep an eye on the radar for passing ships. This wasn’t really an issue until our final night when we hoved to near the entrance of the Grand Manan Channel.  Let’s just say that certain shifts that evening were more exciting/nerve racking than others, as several ships passed within a quarter of a mile of the Shelagh! In the morning, we’d wake up and do our survey rotation all over again.

To some, this scheduled life may seem mundane, but with a great crew and beautiful weather, we kept ourselves entertained with homemade music videos, stories, and loads of good humor. Once you get into the groove of things, there is really nothing quite like starting and ending your day with brilliant sunrises and sunsets, all with the hope that sometime in between, our seemingly elusive right whales would grace us with their presence. We're hoping that this second Shelagh trip is as successful as ours, but with even more right whale sightings!

Sunrise watch. Photo: Bill McWeeny
- Kelsey

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