My name is Sofia Aniceto and I have a VISTA fellowship for a postdoc at the Arctic University of Norway.
We are now close to Lofoten and will soon do a stop by Svolvær to meet up with some high-school students. This ship has a great working environment, and it’s really inspiring to see the great work everyone is doing within the STRESSOR and connected projects. So much knowledge inside one ship!
This is not my first time onboard Helmer Hansen… it’s my second! The first time was 2 or 3 years ago to Svalbard during my PhD when I was doing aerial surveys from drones. It just took me a day or so to get in sync with the ship again (slightly sea sick) and now I am ready for adventure. Some of the crew members are the same from last time I was here, and it was really sweet that some of them still recognize me!
Now, as to why I am here.
Contrary to what we would often believe, the sea is not a quiet place. There are many types of sounds in the ocean. Boats often produce a lot of it, but we also have fish, whales, dolphins, storms, and even earthquakes! I work with marine mammal sounds, and focus on how the whales of northern Norway are distributed in relation to the surrounding environment. Marine mammals depend on sound throughout their entire life. They produce and listen to sounds to find food, to find a mate, to scare away competition, and just to socialize with each other. Whales often spend more time underwater than they do at the surface, so it’s important for me to estimate what is going on while they are making sounds. To get this information, scientists normally use hydrophones that can be attached to the seafloor in cabled observatories or to moving vehicles like gliders. Once we get the sounds, we can identify species and discriminate different types of behavior, so we know what they are up to down there.
Over the next few weeks I will be basically doing whale observations with my binoculars, to see what whales are around this time of the year. We were fortunate to get a Seaglider (Kongsberg, supplied by the GLIDER project) for this cruise, and at the end I will find out if I can identify the same species using both methods, and if not, get a better perspective of their distribution. The Seaglider was put in the water two days ago and will follow a transect back to the Hola trench, where it meet the LoVe cabled ocean observatory (Equinor/IMR). A normal day for me looks like this:
Wake up at 3:30
Survey from 4 to 6:00
Breakfast (nutrition is important!) at 7:30
Computer work/nap until 9:45
More computer work or help out other scientists in station work until 14:00
Lunch (who can say no to a delicious Helmer Hansen lunch?) at 14:00
Survey from 14:30 to 16:30
Break/more helping people around until 19:30 (yesterday was helping with eDNA sampling for example)
Survey 20:30 to 22:30
Bedtime (need to catch up on my Zs)!
I try to cover the sun rise and sun set, which is slowly increasing here as we approach the midnight sun, and get some extra shifts in between. So far, I got some sperm whales while we were passing the Bleik Canyon, some orcas here and there, and this morning (at 4:30AM) I saw a breaching (jumping whale)! Hard to say which species, but definitely a baleen whale. This was a tricky one because it was far away (about 1km) and the only time I managed to get a good look with the binoculars, the darn whale jumped with its belly up. I just saw a white underside and the mouth ridges that expand when this type of whale eats. Most likely a minke whale, the only whale species hunted in Norway. They don’t jump very often and are actually quite tricky to see since they are very evasive in relation to boats (a natural response since they are hunted).
Overall, so far so fun! Lets hope it keeps going like this and keen an eye on that horizon!