In February 2007, the Blue Whale Study acquired a new 6.3m research vessel, the Bonney Blue, funded largely by Santos Ltd, that allows us to work independently at sea.
The Bonney Blue is a plate aluminium Razerline Olympian™, built by Seaquest Boats in Perth, WA, and fitted out by Geelong Boating Centre. She was designed as an offshore fishing vessel, suitable to our needs due to her rugged construction, excellent sea-handling qualities, and weatherproof walk-around wheelhouse. She is powered by fuel-efficient twin Yamaha F80 four-stroke outboards, has extended-range fuel tanks, and we navigate using a Furuno GP-7000F plotter-sounder. For safety she carries comprehensive distress equipment, a satellite phone and VHF radio.
- Extra-high bow rails that enable a tagger or photographer to brace securely in the bow.
- A drum winch on the starboard side aft, for deployment of our Seabird SBE-19™ CTD (temperature and salinity at depth instrument). We are considering replacing it with a pot-hauler-type winch that would allow a more versatile range of deployments.
- A custom-made fitting on the port side that enables us to raise or lower our Simrad™ krill-finding sounder transducer.
The boat is used for a range of scientific methods, including:
- photo-identification of blue and other whales, for studying movements, long-term residence patterns and associations of individual whales.
- behavioural studies of foraging and feeding blue and other whales, as well as other social interactions possibly related to breeding etc.
- tagging of blue and other whales using suction-cup-attached tags which will enable us to study fine-scale foraging and feeding movements; as well as implanted satellite tags, which will enable us to study larger-scale migratory and foraging movements.
- biopsy sampling of blue and other whales for genetic studies on whale populations and social relationships.
- net sampling of whale prey (for species ID), whale faeces (for prey genetic studies), and sloughed whale skin (for whale genetic studies).
- oceanographic sampling using CTD (records temperature-salinity at depth), moored temperature loggers and other instruments.
- hydroacoustic sampling using a towed transducer (echo-sounder) for measuring acoustic backscatter of whale prey ie krill.
- acoustic monitoring using hydrophones and sonobuoys to study whale acoustic behaviour.
- recording the presence and behaviour of a range of other species including seabirds, seals, fish etc etc.
- generally monitoring environmental conditions and human-related threats in the blue whale feeding grounds.
She is also an excellent fishing boat!