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Current position of the SSV Corwith Cramer. Click on the vessel to view position history. Use the layer tools, top right, to change the map style or to view data layers. Dates and times use GMT (Greenwich Mean Time).

SEA Currents: SSV Corwith Cramer

March 04, 2017

Taking Time to Listen

Dr. Heather Heenehan, NOAA, Northeast Fisheries Science Center

Colonization to Conservation in the Caribbean

Above: A visualization called a spectrogram of humpback whale song recorded on Silver Bank 3-Mar-2017. Listen below for a whale song recorded on Silver Bank. (this 6 sec clip matches the spectrogram). Below: Shady Whale Party on the Quarterdeck. Fluke dive into the sunset (Photo credit: Dr. Jeff Schell).

Listen: Download mp3

Ship's Log

Current Position
20° 24.7’N x W 071° 17.9’ W

Sailing on a port tack on our way to Port Antonio, Jamaica.

Ship’s Heading & Speed
Steering 261° PSC, 5.2 knots

Winds East by North Force 5, Seas 5 feet

Souls on Board

If I had to come up with a personal slogan it would be "take time to listen." As a marine mammal scientist and acoustician at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole, MA, just down the street from SEA Semester, it is my job to take time to listen to the ocean and use listening as a tool to learn about marine animals including marine mammals. But in my time interacting with people of all ages through various outreach and teaching opportunities, I have realized that too often people don't take time to listen and that this important part of our environment can easily be lost or forgotten.

Not yesterday though, we listened for 7.5 hours!

We were on Silver Bank around 7:45 and less than 10 minutes later, the humpback whales were everywhere and we started taking note of all of the surface behaviors we saw. Less than two hours after that we were listening.

If you have been following the blog you have heard from some of the students about listening to whales with me but absolutely nothing could compare or prepare us for what Silver Bank had in store for us yesterday. I put on the headphones as I always do to check our settings and make any adjustments. I was immediately met by the best sound I've probably ever heard in my life (clip hopefully included). I let a few people listen with headphones, watching their eyes light up and big smiles spread across their faces as someone retrieved a speaker. This was too good not to share with the whole ship. We quickly replaced the headphones and until sunset we all listened to the amazing underwater world of Silver Bank. Some visitors to the quarterdeck liked to name the sounds. There were cats, coyotes, blasters from Star Wars, bubbly bloops and seagulls. Other quarterdeck visitors sat peacefully in the shade on deck while others kept a watchful eye on the water for surface activity.

Our day on Silver Bank could not have been better. From rainblows (when a whale surfaces, breathes, and produces a blow that catches the light perfectly and makes a rainbow), to watching a mom and calf surface within a boat's length of us, and fluke dives into the sunset. I think everyone seemed to grasp just how special this day was and just how lucky we were to be there in that moment.

As I near the end of my time on the Cramer, I hope that if I leave anything with my fellow shipmates, it would be to always take time to listen. Whether it is to the sounds of Momma Cramer on a boat check, or to the wonderful musicians we have on board, to each other as we recount the up's and down's of our time at sea, or of course to the whales and dolphins we have had the awesome opportunity to record. We may not always be able to have a 7.5 hour "shady whale party" but we can always take time to listen.

I would like to use this opportunity to thank SEA Semester for letting me join this great adventure and for being wonderful collaborators. The data we collected is an important addition to the Caribbean Humpback Acoustic Monitoring Program (CHAMP) at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center and will be shared with our collaborators from the Dominican Republic.  To everyone who I've met along the way, especially Omar Shamir Reynoso (ANAMAR - National Authority of Maritime Affairs), Lilliana Betancourt (CEBSE - a local non-profit dedicated to education and conservation of Samana Bay) and Kim Beddall (Whale Samana), I look forward to working with you and continuing our collaboration as we learn more about the humpback whales of the Caribbean!

- Heather

PS: Mom, Dad and Kaitlin, I have so much to share from my Moana adventure
and I can't wait to see you all! Love you lots and miss you tons!

PPS: To Nathalie Ward from Stellwagen National Marine Sanctuary and CaribTails
monitoring program. can you help us identify our Silver Bank whale?

Categories: Corwith Cramer,Colonization to Conservation in the Caribbean, • Topics: c271  megafauna • (8) Comments
Previous entry: Whales and Scones    Next entry: The Push and Pull of a Life at Sea


Leave a public comment for students and crew to read when they reach their next port and have access to the internet!

#1. Posted by Libby Pollak on March 06, 2017

Wow!  I never thought I’d hear whales singing!  Thanks so much to all of you for making this a possibility… and for your ongoing, wonderful and descriptive blogs of your sea adventures.

#2. Posted by Farah Chandu on March 06, 2017

What a wonderful experience!  Thanks for sharing.

#3. Posted by Mary Ann Heenehan on March 06, 2017

Sounds like another “coolest day ever” moment in your life. Can’t wait to hear your stories and see your photos!
Miss you!

#4. Posted by Pamela Kenward on March 06, 2017

Awesome sound clip—I have never heard whales before! What an incredible opportunity for these students to have you with your expertise on board Mama Cramer with them! Thank you so much!

#5. Posted by Margaret Gresham on March 07, 2017

Heather and shipmates,
Reading this was wonderful.  I cannot imagine the beauty and grandeur of being there with the whales.  Only once have I had the experience of being around whales and watching their beauty.  Look forward to seeing you and hearing more.  Love u
Aunt Marge

#6. Posted by kim beddall on March 08, 2017

HI to all the students, staff and crew on Corwith Cramer that were on the Silver bank portion of the cruise.  The whale tail that you posted (jeff) is a whale that had been previously photographed on Silver Bank by Jodi Frediani on the 31st of March 2008 and in Samana last winter on the 29th of January 2016 by Eva Reznickova/Whale Samana we gave him a local name “Juggler” until he is identified in the NAHW Catalog. Kim

#7. Posted by Heather Heenehan on March 13, 2017

Libby, I’m so glad you were able to hear the song of the whales! smile We weren’t sure if the six second clip was going to make it on the blog and I"m so glad it did!

Pamela, So glad you liked the clip and were able to listen to the whales with us! It was an incredible opportunity to share this with everyone on board Mama Cramer including Michaela. A watch will always have a special place in my heart!

Kim, thanks so much for the update on the whale we saw! So nice to have seen both Samana and Silver Bank on our trip!

P.S. Missing everyone on board. I made it home safely to 5 inches of snow and more to come tomorrow. Hope you’re all enjoying Cuba and I can’t wait to see more blogs and hear about everything on the last legs!

#8. Posted by Hannah Cotten on July 01, 2018

I am so impressed with your insight into taking time to listen. I have never thought about sound pollution under water. You are an inspiration! You’re doing great work as you bridge the gap between the scientific community and public.



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