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Entry for July 28, 2007

How does a day in the life of Evohe unfold? It starts early, well before daylight, with Doug and Mauricio hunched over their Macs by the fire (the Apple brothers). Doug makes tea for them, and they get at least an hour of quiet before Allison starts rumbling around in the kitchen. The whales are also active before the crew arises, and yesterday they set off the depth sounder alarm (designed to go off when the Evohe gets into too shallow waters) as they rubbed up against the transducer on the underside of the ship.

The rest of the crew starts falling out of bed between 7 and 7:30 and stumbles into the salon for coffee. There is at least a half an hour of silence until the caffeine takes effect, and then conversation starts in the form of grunts and mono-syllabic sounds. Eventually Simon starts beating the drum about going out for a little darting, and the rest of the crew is slowly motivated to get to work. Sunrise is about 8 a.m. but the conditions for useful photography don't arrive until sometime after 9 a.m., and the underwater light is poor until after 10 a.m.

Simon and his crew take off between 8 and 9, in the zodiac known as the Black Mamba.

Brian and Mauricio sit around looking at the sky, waiting for some omen of good weather, praying for sun, and worrying about water clarity, debating about the murk stirred up in this cove or that, cursing the rain, sleet, snow, and heavy clouds that bring such, quoting lines from Pulp Fiction or the Godfather, and fussing with the digital technology that makes up modern photography. Eventually, decisions are made, and the two of them set out in the white zodiac to see if anyone (in the whale world) wants to play with them. Roz and Scott bend over their computers, identifying whales, analyzing the previous day's data, and responding like a volunteer fire department with cameras and data sheets when whales come over to investigate the Evohe.

In the early afternoon, both zodiacs return to the Evohe for lunch, usually drenched with salt water (whether from diving or from facing into the waves all morning). Scott Baker disassembles his dart gun, wipes it down with fresh water to reduce rusting, and places it by the fire to dry off. He also flames his biopsy darts, to ensure sterility. Glenn and Simon process samples, carefully labeling and storing each biopsy so that the genetic information is linked with the individual whales. Lunch is short, and the darting team is soon back on the water, frequently staying out until dusk. Brian and Mauricio back up the underwater images, do some preliminary post-image processing, and assess their success with an eye toward improving the next dive. Doug rotates between groups, doing field work, furiously scribbling notes for the Nat. Geo. Story, and spending long hours on the computer (we think he's writing, but he could be playing video games). Roz and Scott sometimes take off in the white zodiac to collect health and scarring assessments on animals that do not approach the Evohe, so as to eliminate any "boat friendly whale" bias in the photographic sample collection.

Dark falls at about 530 p.m., so all crew is back onboard around that time. There follows a small frenzy of post-fieldwork data and sample processing in the salon (there are more computers on board than people). Dinner is accompanied by tales of heroic deeds, challenges overcome, moments of sheer terror, and adventures with wildlife. Unexpected talents surface. Doug can recite both William Butler Yeats and bawdy limericks. Brian has a fearsome recall of the significant lines and scenes of many classic movies. Murray is an inventor, developing his own pocket camera version of the huge high-priced video camera systems for viewing whales underwater. Many bad jokes surface, only to happily submerge again. The evenings are usually short, but with a small die-hard portion of the crew staying up to watch movies from the Evohe's extensive collection. The following day is usually filled with quotes for the previous nights' movie, made suddenly applicable to current activities.

And in conclusion, we share this prayer (with apologies to Robert Frost)

The Auckland Islands Biologists Prayer

We stopped in a Bay on a snowy night,
Wind howls around the salt-blown bight,
The way is cold and dark and deep,
With many a whale to go before we sleep,
And whales to go before we sleep.
Scott Kraus, with poetic assistance from D. Chadwick, R. Rolland, and S. Baker