UPDATE 2011 Jun 21 Tuesday:
Eric Hoffmayer just sent the following note to Bonny, telling us that the whale shark we found and tagged is still in the area!
" Just heard from our shark. By the way, we named her Bessie after your plane. The tag reported at 8:35 am from 28 04.667N, 91 00.333W on top of the southern boundary of the bank. i will give you updates as I get them."
Did they survive last year's devastating oil spill and use of dispersants? Would they return?
The big questions! T
NOTE: Unless noted, no photos or video provided by On Wings Of Care are "photoshopped" or otherwise altered in any way that could degrade accurate interpretation of what we observed.hese giant harmless filter-feeders no doubt took some seriously bad gulps of crude and dispersants while they were here in the Gulf from last June through last September (and maybe longer -- that's just when we were finding and tagging them). Would they be here again this year? And in the usual large numbers? Last year during the full moon in June, scientists Eric Hoffmayer and Sylvia Earle awoke on their boat out on Ewing Bank, 75 miles off the shore of Grand Isle, Louisiana to see hundreds of whale sharks surrounding them! And throughout the rest of the summer, with the help of On Wings Of Care's eye in the sky, he and his colleagues continued to find about 25 more, although they never again appeared in large aggregations. This year, Eric went out to the Ewing Bank area again, and On Wings Of Care flew over the area for six hours at a time every day for four straight days, all of us looking together for these gentle giants over a search grid on the order of 1000 square miles.
The photo on the left was taken from our plane last year, Sep 04, about 80 nm south of Gulf Shores, AL. The photo on the right was taken yesterday, Jun 29, over Ewing Bank, about 75 nm southwest of Grand Isle, LA! More photos of this year's sightings are given in the galleries below.
We found one whale shark the first day, plus some 'unknown' large animals -- one group of about seven we speculated might possibly be giant bluefin tuna, and another pair of large mammal-looking animals we thought could be beaked whales. The second and third days gave us fairly rough seas, and we saw nothing of significance, though we combed the areas very thoroughly, even tracking the shallower underwater areas south of the original grid (to Thibodaux Basin) with the help of a bathymetric chart. The fourth day dawned much calmer, and we decided to focus all of our efforts on a ~400-square mile area centered on Ewing and Diaphus Banks. Just as our closely-spaced transects were about to merge with the location of the previous single sighting on day one, we received a radio call that a passing boat had seen one whale shark -- at almost exactly that original position! We flew there immediately and circled as Eric's boat made its way there. And we promptly found three whale sharks, two large and one medium in size, feeding horizontally at the surface! Before the afternoon was through, we thought we had identified four distinct whale sharks, one hammerhead shark, and one pod of nine bottlenose dolphins. Scientists succeeded in placing one tag securely, but they did not get a tissue sample as planned. More tagging and sampling will have to wait for the next sightings and boat opportunity.
OIL SLICK REPORT:
One additional unrelated report we're not happy to have to make is that there was another significant oil slick we found on Thursday Jun 16. It was several miles wide and extended to the southwest about 10 nm, centered on about 28°06'N, 090°56'N. It was near two offshore oil platforms, SS-349A and 358A (per the Hilton fishing charts we had with us). Photos of it are provided below, beneath the whale shark and sargassum photos.
Now, let's get back to whale sharks!
Maybe they're arriving late this year? Maybe we missed them by just a few days? Or maybe the water and plankton around these parts just doesn't taste too good after what has been put in the water -- first crude and then dispersants -- since May 2010. We're hoping that it was just our timing. Time will tell.
We had hoped to make some quick flights out there every day this week, just for about an hour or so each over the Ewing Bank area, to see if more whale sharks surfaced. But today a storm came in with 5-6-foot seas, and they are expected to stay that rough for a few days. We'll wait til things calm down and run out there again. And maybe again in mid-July, near the next full moon, the scientists can make another cruise out to the area, and On Wings Of Care will be glad to be their eyes in the sky once again.
The best of our photos (and apologies that we had no photographers on board during these sightings!) are provided below. And below them you'll find our flight and spotting logs from this four-day adventure. We noted things like particularly healthy-looking sargassum patches and lines, and locations where blue water began. The blue-green lines were surprisingly far south this year, which may in fact be a result of the Mississippi River flooding.
As always, our flights can be followed in real-time here, courtesy of our SPOT GPS transmitter. Note that they are only on this 'shared' page for seven days, complete with time and lat/long for each point recorded at 10-minute interval . We have also downloaded the continuous tracks from our onboard aviation GPS' and are happy to make any of these available to other researchers at any time.
Whale-shark monitoring in the Gulf, 20110616 Thursday-20110619 Sunday.
Eric Hoffmayer in a boat at the top of Ewing Bank, ~28°05'N, 090°55'W.
Bonny Schumaker in a single-engine Cessna (OnWingsOfCare.org's N4784E) with spotter(s).
NW: 28°15'N, 091°10'W.
NE: 28°15'N, 090 40'W.
(Approximately 30 nm N-S and <30 nm W-E)
Top of Ewing Bank: ~28°05N; 090°55'W.
Air-boat comm on 122.75. (Alternates: 123.45, 122.9)
Marine Radio comm: 19 or 68.
Sat Phone (Eric Hoffmayer): 480-458-9532
ADIZ FAA Flight Plan (BLS, N4784E): Squawk 1234, daily depart KNEW 1300 Z, return 2100 Z, cross ADIZ at KNEW 200°-73nm, ~1345Z. Center of Grid ~ 28°00'N, 090°55'W.
GPS Track in 10-min increments available to public for 7 days after flights at:
Bonny will download the full plots for each day off of her portable Garmin gps to make them available as needed.
20110616 Thursday - whale shark spotting.
BLS- pilot, Gary Gray- spotter
8.9 flight hours (Hobbs; 7.6 tach)
1. 28° 44', 090° 33' - shrimper (no nets down)
2. gps#9020, 28° 31', 090° 41'. Beautiful sargassum patch and line extending southwest
3. 28°25', 090°42', change to blue water. Lost of sargassum patches and streamers
4. 28°19', 090°40' ~10' hammerhead shark (Great? or scalloped?)
Also beautiful weed lines from NE corner of rid heading south and west.
SO BLUE! :--))
5. 28°06', 090°59'. Loggerhead turtle.
6. gps #9021. Whale Shark #1. Big one, at least 35' long. 28°06/821', 090°54.7'. 1100-1130 CDT. Also gps #9023 a bit later, after he dove and resurfaced.
7. gps #9022 - large oil slick, at least 2 by 4 nm long, actually longer to the southwest, at least 10 nm. From 28° 06', 090°56' on NE, extending southwest about 10 nm. Near SS-349A and 358A platforms (per Hilton charts).
8. NW corner of grid - beautiful sargassum lines.
9. gps #9024, 27°44.233', 090°43.233', ~7 animals, about 10 feet long. Small whale sharks? Bluefin tuna? Tail swishes, no surface breaking for breaths. About 2.5 nm due west of SE corner of grid. No dorsal perceptible. No breathing.
10. Several flying fish throughout grid.
11. gps #9025: 27°47.238', 090° 46.628', Three large animals, dolphin-like but much larger than dolphins. 10-15' long. Beaked whales?? Circled them but they disappeared from view.
20110617 Friday - whale shark spotting.
BLS-pilot, Jeremy from GCRL - spotter.
7.8 flight hours (Hobbs; 6.7 tach)
1. 28° 25', 090°40': nice sargassum and streamers
2. Went to NE corner of grid first, checked out NE quadrant. Then to center point and boat.
BOAT at 28° 05', 090°59'. Near top of Ewing Bank.
3. gps#9026 - 28° 15.7', 090°42', Shrimp boat with nets down.
4. Saw several flying fish. No other sightings!
Water calmer in NE quadrant toward end of day.
NOTE ADDED 8pm Friday night: Eric said that around 5pm, one whale shark came by their boat. Possibly the same one we saw Thursday, but he wasn't sure. They had a diver in the water within 45 seconds, but the shark dove before they could tag it. They also had a few bottlenose dolphin in their wake Friday evening.
20110618 Saturday - whale shark spotting.
BLS-pilot; Jennifer McKinney from GCRL - spotter. Jerry Moran - photographer and spotter.
7.4 Flight Hours (Hobbs; 6.4 tach)
1. 28° 17', 090° 45'? Two shrimpers, nets down.
2. 28° 20', 090° 45', school of cownose rays (yellow)
3. 28°13.5', 090° 44.5' - BLUE WATER.
Went well south of the grid, explored all ridges throughout Thibodaux Basin and up, circled all platforms, searched all 'high' areas and 'ridge soared' all underwater terrain.
By the end of today, all paths from the past three days had covered very thoroughly the grid and south of the grid. There was no aggregation of whale sharks. Maybe it is too early this year, should try again next full moon (mid July?)?
20110619 Sunday - whale shark spotting.
BLS-pilot; Jennifer McKinney from GCRL - spotter.
7.0 Flight Hours (Hours; 5.9 Tach)
1. 28°41.5', 090°29.5' First sargassum line and patches. still green water. Wind S-SW ~15kts at 1000' agl.
PLAN: Transects N-S in square from 29° N to 28°12', 091°10' on W to 090°37' on E.
Boat is at ~28°05' 090°55'.
2. 28°20.5;, 090°34.6' Large school of cownose rays
3. 28°14.2', 090°35.7' Shrimper with nets down
4. Blue water at: 28° 07/7'. 090° 36'.
(Note: Eric has to get his boat back to Freshwater Bayou by midnight so will have to leave the Ewing Bank area by about 3-4pm today. Freshwater Bayou is at ~29°32', 090°20'. )
5. (Superstition). Jennifer ate Jim Franks' peach Hubigs Pie at 28°03/83 091°07.4' And we promptly saw many flying fish!....
6. 1 Dolphin, large bottlenose, then a pod of NINE bottlenose! : 28°05.3' 091°07.45' (GPS #0016. 0017)
7. Turned west to follow a blue-green line, surprised to find it so far south: 28°14.6', 091°10.8', followed it to other points: 28°13.0' 091°05.2'; 28°13.4', 091°02'.
8. Dropped 2 Hubig pies (Chocolate, then apple) on Eric's boat for the guys, one at 1130, one at 12 noon CDT.
9. 28°07.963' , 090°55.648' , gps #9027 -- Report of 1 whaleshark by a passing boat. We went there, saw none right there, but flew nearby to gps point #9021, where we had seen one large one on Thursday Jun 16 (which would have been our next or next-next transect anyway!), and found one large one (possibly the same as last Thursday's). Then we flew another circle slightly farther west and found one large one and one smaller one about 100 m away from the first.
They put divers and the small dingy into the water. The first whaleshark near the boat dove and the divers couldn't tag it. In the commotion over the first, they didn't hear us telling them we were circling another two. By the time the dingy came to where we had the other two, we could still see only one.
At this point (approximately 1300 CDT), the low-voltage light on our plane was on, and no troubleshooting could bring the alternator back on line. We shut off all electrics and used the marine radio to talk to the boat and a battery-powered gps to keep track of our positions and the sharks. We stayed with them til around 2pm, then had to leave in order to get back with enough battery left to turn on the radios to negotiate controlled airspace and land back in New Orleans. (We landed after 7.0 hours of flying, so it was close to time to refuel anyway. But we had to come all the way back to New Orleans rather than re-fuel in Galliano, because without electrical power we would not have been able to restart the plane.)
The GOOD news is that we know that at least three whale sharks are, today, in the Ewing Bank-Diaphus Bank areas.
We also know, from careful scrutiny over the past four days, that there have been no large aggregations of whale sharks in the grid we searched (1000 sq nm, with north-central portion of it covering the Ewing Bank).
Perhaps we are a matter of days or weeks too early this year. Perhaps the Gulf 'smells bad' from last year's oil spill and all of the subsequent dispersants. The only way to be sure would be to continue to fly aerial reconnaissance over this area daily for the next week or even two. It is about one hour's flight to get out to the Ewing Bank, so with 3-4 hours per day, we could go out and search that area daily to see if any more whale sharks are showing up. For this work, On Wings Of Care works for free and requests help just with airplane fuel. At about 10 gallons per hour and $5.50-$6/gal, those costs would be about $200-220 per day. Jennifer thinks that would be well worthwhile. We'll check out the electrical system on the plane tonight, and if we can get things operational again by tomorrow, we'll arrange for further monitoring flights this week.
(Info below to be filled out when known)
TOTAL FLIGHT HOURS: 31.1 (Hobbs; 26.6 Tach)
Total Mx/Repair (Electrical - new alternator & voltage regulator & belts):
Total Fuel $
"The Story of Pellie Lou - a Pelican who survived the Gulf of Mexico oil spill"
by Bonny L. Schumaker, Ph.D.
With 46 photos from the Gulf of Mexico.
ALL proceeds go to benefit Gulf wildlife!
Order your autographed hard copies or an electronic copy here!
Read about our rescues under Rescue Tails!
Here are some samples:
A Dog Named Pepper Doesn't Give up Easily on Life!
20130428 - This 15-yr-old deaf, blind, arthritic senior held out in a hot, dry, desert parking lot until love finally found him!
CHAZ - No Ordinary Extraordinary Cur!
20130422 - Left to die but instead, this super-intelligent deep-hearted dog discovered love, family, and even fun -- from the most unlikely mentors!
Turbulent Trails for Tails from TX-20130413
Six rescue dogs from east Texas find forever homes in Nevada and California!
Who was rescued, and who was the rescuer? Anyone who has known this kind of bond has felt something so deep, so real, so ancient, that it cannot be described with words. These bonds ground us and free us from pettiness in our lives. Thank you Sheba. Rest in peace.
A Letter From Your Admirers! 20121231
This was a last-minute challenge that seemed beyond even our own grandest heroic imaginings. But it turned out not to be beyond the devoted hearts and energies of about 30 rescuers, shelter staff, volunteers, and families working together. Forty-three (yes, 43!) dogs in one day, from dead-ends in a Porterville shelter to homes and real lives with real humans who love and want them. Rescuers ROCK!
Orphaned very young, left alone and hungry til her fur fell out and her skin was covered with mange. Thanks to some big-hearted Texas rescuers, not only did she recover, she found the family who wanted to love her forever. How glad we were to be able to give this little pup with the big paws the ride to the rest of her life!
20121205-Blackie Goes Home at Last, and Taylor Turns Texan!
Four long months since Blackie's lifelong human companion and partner Tammy suffered a serious injury from a passing truck and disappeared from his life. Suddenly Blackie was in a shelter kennel, and Tammy fought for her life as she dreamed of her beloved dog. Thanks to many people, both of these souls survived to find each other again! This was a rescue and a reunion we'll never forget.
The same rains that made us work "On WHEELS Of Care" this week kept us grounded for this trip, which serendipitously combined the transport of Skip northward and the joyful and miraculous reunion of Miss T'Chen, who had been rescued and taken to Illinois after Hurricane Isaac, with her family in Baton Rouge!
This flight went almost as planned, and our plane was filled to over-flowing on every leg. And we met some wonderful new cat and dog rescues in Idaho and Oregon!
20 Lucky rescued dogs flown to homes in Canada!
2012 Sep 22
It turned out to a journey full of unexpected challenges, but these 20 lucky lovable canines who had been through the worst of times in California were just the best through it all, and now they are warming the hearts and laps and lives of some very lucky Canadian families!
Spindletop Scandal and the Search for Scarlett
2012 July 17 - present
With pitbull-like tenacity, we wouldn't take "NO" for an answer. Out of 21 dogs we sought, we have closure on all but two. Alas, one of those two is our Scarlett.
Tale of seven cities, six cats, and five goats!
2012 July 16
Who knows if the pleas for help brought the plane, or vice-versa.
But when serendipity puts this much together, there's no saying no!
Homeless Mom and Pups no More!
2012 July 08
Sometimes rescuers find the IDEAL person to adopt that animal in need ...
themselves! And in the process, a hole gets filled for the entire family.
This lucky mom now lives with Bear, Sheba, and Dave!
From Empty Nest to Love Fest!
2012 May 11
That last urgent plea came for the five orphaned pups ...
but what about the two large senior boys who would probably never get adopted?
Some people are just angels, meant to be who they are and where they are.
Check out these two and their new happy pack!
JEREMIAH has come home to us!
UPDATE 2012 July 7!
2012 January 13
His adopter called to say she had become ill, and could we care for Jeremiah? You bet we could. We rented a plane and flew to Arizona and retrieved him immediately. Jeremiah was indeed a true friend, and we aim to be his true friends, too. He has been eating like crazy and slept his stress away for the first few days, and now he's acting like a young dog again. Read more here!
CHAMP found at the airport!
2012 January 01
A sad, scared but dignified young Champ quickly won the hearts of everyone who met him at the New Orleans airport, and within two days we had permission from his original breeders to give him to a young couple with a younger female boxer mix, all of whom fell totally in love with him at first sight! Champ and Miss Princess are leading the good life now, and Champ's new dad finally has the fishing buddy he wanted! They tell us we made their dreams come true. We think they made Champ's come true, too.
Abby & Dinozo -- Two of a Kind!
2011 September--2012 January
Orphaned brother and sister, rescued and adored until calamity struck and they lost their family. Orphaned again, these gentle gems and perfect canine citizens found love and adventure with us until we found them their true forever home! Abby & Dinozo came with us to Washington January 7, and they were welcomed warmly and immediately into a home. Read more here!
Yo! Get a Load of Yolo!
2011 November--2012 January
Left in the cold, high in the mountains of southern California, life was over before it had barely begun for this orphan teenager.
Little did he know, his adventures had only begun! As of January 7, it's back to snow but this time with a family who adores him, and lots of fun and play in the Pacific Northwest!
Saving Scarlett -- Love Forever at Last!
Found on the streets, teats full but puppies absent, a battle-torn very hungry pitbull.
Hardly that sought-after doggie in the window.
But after we brought Miss Scarlett home to love and food, warmth and stuffed animals,
we discovered a warm heart and sweet spirit that changed us forever.
2011 July--September 29, A Joyful Reunion At Last!
Here they are during their flight with four other dogs Sep 29 (New Orleans to Oakland, CA, fuel stop in Roswell, NM).
And here's a photo from the happiest reunion ever!
More photos and updated videos here!
Sheba-Cosette - this lovely lady waited a lifetime!
Jeremiah - a true friend finds a new lease on life!
Two Giant Dogs & three cats reunited with their family on Whidbey Island, WA
Chihuahuas "Betty" & "JellyBean" fly to their rescue in Bremerton, WA!
New Year's Rescue: 33 dogs & cats are flown to rescue in the Pacific Northwest!
Hounds fending for themselves for years in Alabama fly to rescue in Arizona!
Romo & Stanley are flown to safe havens in Arizona!
Aerial Monitoring of the Gulf of Mexico - 2013
2013 Apr 12 - Mayflower, AR Pipeline Spill
2013 Apr 02 - Bayou Corne #6
2013 Mar 23 - IMMS Marine Mammals
2013 Mar 19 - Bayou Corne Sinkhole-#5
2013 Feb 15 - Bayou Corne Sinkhole-#4
2013 Jan 26 - Bayou Corne Sinkhole-#3
2012 Dec 24 - Bayou Corne Sinkhole-#2
2012 Nov 08 - Tar Sands and Texas
2012 Aug 30 - Hurricane Isaac Conquered
2012 Aug 28 - Hurricane Isaac Arrives!
2012 Aug 13 - Sinkhole in Bayou Corne, LA
2012 Jun 13-Dispersant Spraying Exercise off LA
2012 April - Chronicles of the Endeavor
2012 Dec 10 - How Dilute is Dilute Enough?
Aerial Monitoring of the Gulf of Mexico - 2012
Sat Nov 17 - Platform Explosion
Wed Nov 14 - Barrier Islands 1
Sat Nov 10 - OIL
Fri Nov 09 - OIL
Sat Oct 06 - Whale Sharks
Fri Oct 05 - OIL
Fri Sep 14 - OIL
Sun Sep 09 - Hurricane Isaac
Sun Aug 12 - Whale Sharks
Wed Jul 11 - Whales & More
Fri Jun 29 - Whale Sharks & More
Dominica - The Nature Island!
On Wings Of Care flies to the Eastern Caribbean for whales and sea turtles!
Read more here!
Aerial Monitoring of the Gulf of Mexico - 2011
Sperm Whales & Whale Sharks:
Cape Cod, MA
Our Gift for YOU for 2011!
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from your heart, out!
Aerial Monitoring of the Gulf, 2010
Galapagos Veterinary Support
Galapagos vets do much with little,
thanks to true friends who shipped a TON of supplies and meds from the U.S. in June, 2011.
“Man can no longer live for himself alone. We must realize that all life is valuable and that we are united to all life. From this knowledge comes our spiritual relationship with the universe.”