On the look out

August 20 – We are searching for a small yellow and red sound recorder the size of a bottle of Danish Mayonnaise. It seems nothing less than a mission impossible. We are looking out at a very large fjord filled with huge icebergs and chunks of ice in all sizes.

But it is not – I know. It has been done many times before. Not by this crew, here in Gåsefjord, but a lot of other places in Greenland as well as around the world where scientists tag whales with similar recorders to obtain insights of the underwater lives of whales.

Two heart rate and three sound recorders were deployed on three narwhals with suction cups five days ago by the team in Hjørnedal. The data on them is almost invaluable and it is of utmost importance for the whole project that we retrieve the three devices (two heart rate and one sound recorder) that have fallen off the whales. Now they float around in Gåsefjord and the southern side fjord to Gåsefjord– which by the way seems to be a very popular place of residence for our three tagged narwhals. We can track the devices on our computers so that we know approximately where they are at all times.

To help us with our search we had a VHF radio and an antenna delivered that would help point the direction to the individual recorders. A family of five (mom, dad and three small children) brought us a black suitcase containing the helpful items on their way from Hjørnedal to Ittoqqortoormiit in their small dinghy. We met them at the entrance to Fønfjord were we had just passed Danmarks Ø.

We headed straight for the position of the acusonde and when we reached the right position we started the search from Pâmiut. After a while we had to stop for the night but we continued early next morning. It seemed that all on board was engaged in the search and was scouting from low and high on the ship. Finally, after some hours, Ann, the wife of Kari, the marine engineer, located the Acousonde. A tiny antenna, about 15 cm long, rose above the icy cold water only 10-20 meters from Pâmiut. Everybody was thrilled and congratulated Ann on her good eyesight.

For the next search after the first heart rate recorder three men, the VHF radio and the antenna went into the MOB boat. We had realised that it was both difficult and time-consuming to get a precise enough radio signal from Pâmiut. The search from the smaller boat was much easier and after about 15 minutes the heart recorder was retrieved. Literally everyone on board jumped around in joy – truly a happy moment.

Full of confidence we set ‘sail’ for the third and last recorder. When we reached the last position of the recorder we repeated the procedure with the MOB boat and after only five minutes the recorder was found and our precious data saved.

The last sound recorder was found early this morning from Pâmiut (20th August). We now master the skill of tracking down diverse recorders in ice packed waters to perfection. The recorder was retrieved using a large fishing net directly from Pâmiut.

I am so grateful for the large engagement and great help from the crew. A huge thanks to all of you on Pâmiut.