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Voyage beagle indd

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Voyage of the Beagle Oregon State University researchers are using radio tags and weather satellites to study the lives of blue whales and other little-understood marine mammals by Andy Duncan My eyes flutter open but a sleepy brain can’t place the fog,” says Bruce Mate, shooting me a cheery sideways long, lonesome whistle. To tell you the truth, it can’t glance and steering the Suburban into a huge parking even place where I am. Curious eyes study the dirty- lot speckled with cars and trucks, many attached to white ceiling and walls, then a window with flimsy boat trailers. curtains pulled open. The dim outlines of treetops We stop by a sturdy-looking life raft. It looks like come into focus. I remember the driver the night the device I’ve seen ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau before, cutting down an alley and letting me out not zip around in on television documentaries when he’s far from a train station. Hopping out of bed and dress- leaving the Calypso to go ashore. “That’s our vessel,” ing quickly, I throw a few things into a rubber bag and Mate announces. hurry down a long hallway and stairs and out the front The other two members of the crew of the HMSC door of the Hotel State Street. Beagle, as Mate tells me he and his colleagues have named their raft, are busy. But they introduce them- selves. Both seem friendly. Glad to welcome me aboard. There’s the Beagle’s other Mate, Mary Lou.
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My eyes flutter open but a sleepy brain can’t place the
long, lonesome whistle. To tell you the truth, it can’t
even place where I am. Curious eyes study the dirty-
white ceiling and walls, then a window with flimsy
curtains pulled open. The dim outlines of treetops
come into focus. I remember the driver the night
before, cutting down an alley and letting me out not
far from a train station. Hopping out of bed and dress-
ing quickly, I throw a few things into a rubber bag and
hurry down a long hallway and stairs and out the front
door of the Hotel State Street.
Outside the air is salty. I breathe deeply and notice
the sky. It’s lightening to a weak gray as dawn sneaks
up on Santa Barbara, California. There appear to be
stragglers from last night’s Old Spanish Days Fiesta,
an impressive blowout from what I saw while I was
finding my way into the hotel around midnight. Ner-
vously, I reopen the watertight rubber bag: pen, note-
book, extra clothes, candy, sunscreen, still-wrapped 99-
cent plastic air mattress. Okay. Let it begin. I’m ready
to stalk a beast whose tongue weighs more than me
and my entire family (including a couple of uncles).
A bearded, robust-looking man by a middle-aged
Chevrolet Suburban motions for me to get in. It turns
out we’re only blocks from the Santa Barbara Marina,
where the city’s red tile and white stucco motif meets
the vast blue Pacific Ocean.
“What we have is a low overcast bordering on
fog,” says Bruce Mate, shooting me a cheery sideways
glance and steering the Suburban into a huge parking
lot speckled with cars and trucks, many attached to
boat trailers.
We stop by a sturdy-looking life raft. It looks like
the device I’ve seen ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau
zip around in on television documentaries when he’s
leaving the Calypso to go ashore. “That’s our vessel,”
Mate announces.
The other two members of the crew of the HMSC
Beagle, as Mate tells me he and his colleagues have
named their raft, are busy. But they introduce them-
selves. Both seem friendly. Glad to welcome me
aboard.
There’s the Beagle’s other Mate, Mary Lou. She’s
collaborated with Bruce on lots of adventures, includ-
ing raising two children during their 32 years of mar-
riage. When Mary Lou mentions she was an intensive
care nurse until she retired a few years ago, I’m com-
forted. Can’t have too many of those along when your
quarry would dwarf a Tyrannosaurus rex.
And there’s Barbara (Barb to her crewmates) La-
gerquist, a slight, soft-spoken native of Ontario, Cana-
da. When she’s not at sea, I learn, one of her passions
is Ultimate Frisbee, kind of a cross between tossing a
Frisbee among friends and an NFL football game.
“I let some air out in the heat when we broke down
Photo: Tony Stone
Dawn patrol: OSU marine biologist Bruce Mate, left, and
research assistants Barb Lagerquist, center, and Mary Lou Mate
get ready to push off from Santa Barbara’s marina to search for
blue whales. A 90-horsepower engine powers the HMSC Beagle,
a rigid-hulled, inflatable raft. Photo: Andy Duncan
Voyage of the Beagle
Oregon State University researchers are using radio tags and weather satellites
to study the lives of blue whales and other little-understood marine mammals
by Andy Duncan
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