Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Warmest Wishes to All!

As 2009 draws to a close, I am glad to say that I count the Great Marlin Race, and our partnership with the Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament, to be among my favorite memories from the year. The generosity of the anglers and organizers of the HIBT allowed us to deploy ten satellite tags -- the most we had hoped for going into the tournament. Of the three tags that released early, two documented marlin migrations all the way to the Southern Hemisphere -- an amazing result, and one that would make our efforts worthwhile.

During this past week our mapping expert, Mike Castleton, was able to successfully create tracks for the two long-distance marlin - Fish 4, tagged by Bob Kurz; and Fish C, which was tagged by McGrew Rice during the week following the HIBT. You can see them in the map below, or play with them in more detail on our interactive Google Earth map.

And as we welcome in the New Year, we will rapidly arrive at the scheduled pop-off dates for the remaining seven tags - the first of which is due to come up on January 16. It will be fascinating to see if the remaining marlin followed similar paths after leaving Hawaii, and to see where they ventured from there.

As always, we'll be keeping our eyes out for new tags coming to the surface, and I'll do my best to keep you all up-to-date on the latest happenings. It promises to be an exciting few weeks ahead, and I can't wait to see how it all ends up!

We send you our warmest wishes for the Holidays, and bid you peace and joy in the New Year.


Randy and the Block Lab Team

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Second Marlin Journeys to the Southern Hemisphere

Electronic tagging is a game of numbers. You put out as many tags as you can afford, and you hope that it’s enough to help you learn something new. We went into the Great Marlin Race hoping that we'd get some new information -- but the past few weeks have exceeded our highest hopes!

As you know from my last posting, on October 23 we had a tag pop up southeast of the Marquesas Islands, in French Polynesia, marking a journey of 2,225 nautical miles – and establishing a new mark to beat in the race.

Last week, on November 4, we had another tag pop up south of the equator – this one just west of the Marquesas, about 480 nautical miles from where the tag popped up just a few weeks before. Although the fish hadn’t traveled quite as far as its predecessor – a mere 1,847 nautical miles – it is remarkable to have a second marlin make such a long journey in such a short time. We are indebted both to Paxson Offield for sponsoring the tag, and to McGrew Rice for deploying it after the HIBT had ended.

For both “Fish 4” and “Fish C” we are awaiting the arrival of the rest of the data – first from the tags themselves, and then from the orbiting satellites that monitored sea surface temperature during fishes’ journey. Once we have all those data in-hand, we’ll marry the datasets together to produce a map that shows the course that they traveled in their journeys south. Stay tuned!

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Journey of Over 2,000 miles!

It was a great way to start the week -- with the discovery that a second tag has popped up all the way down by the Marquesas -- 2,225 nautical miles from where it was tagged!

Because the tag just popped up to the surface this morning, it will be sending us data via satellite for the next week to 10 days. From these data we will be able to create a track where the fish went, and learn about its diving behavior during its travels. Once we have pulled all this information together I'll post a new update about what we've learned.

In the mean time, congratulations go out to the Laguna Niguel Billfish Club, Team 1 who are now in the top spot on the Leader Board! Although we're still just over 90 days into a 180-day race, tags can come off at any time - so we'll keep our eyes peeled and keep you all posted!

Best wishes,


Thursday, October 22, 2009

We're Halfway There!

It is hard to believe that we are already three months into the race! We were caught by surprise when we saw one of the tags pop off just a few days after we left. The Team 7 fish, sponsored by the Pajaro Valley Game Fish Club, Teams 1 & 2, and the Monterey Bay Anglers, appeared just to the south of the big island on August 1. Analysis of the data suggest that the tag simply fell off the fish, and not that there was a mortality.

It appears that, in the days following tagging, the marlin dove consistently to depths over 150 m, reaching a maximum of 176 m (544 ft) on one dive. I've added to the map a green icon for the tagging site and a red icon for the site where the tag popped off.

Fish 7, with a Pop-up Satellite Tag attached just below its dorsal fin.

After three months, the real surprise is that this is the only tag to have come off so far! This is exceptionally good luck, as we'll have longer tracks to study once they do pop off and start sending their data to us.

In addition to the 7 tags we put out during the race, 3 more tags were deployed the following week - generously sponsored by Packy Offield and deployed by McGrew Rice. I know that there is a lot of interest in these tags as well, so I've added them to the map. They appear as orange circles labeled A, B and C.

I'll keep everyone posted as soon as we see other tags coming off -- so keep your eyes on the website!

Best wishes,


Friday, August 28, 2009

The Site Goes On...

Over the past few weeks since returning there has been a lot going on behind the scenes, but nothing terribly important to share with everyone. I finished putting together DVDs to send out to the race participants, which will be on their way shortly, along with official Certificates of Participation.

I've added some new content to the site - most notably a "Contributors" page and a "Related Links" module. Check out the other sites -- they all have some cool stuff on them!

This morning I finally worked out the bugs on a video gallery I've been trying to get going for a while! These are the same videos that are linked from the interactive map - but now they're easier to find and play right from the home page.

Keep your eyes open for more updates to come soon, and have a great weekend!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Back Home and Getting Under Way

I am finally back at my desk after flying home from Hawaii last night. It was a fantastic privilege to be part of the 50th Anniversary HIBT, and I want to thank all the tournament organizers, as well as the teams, captains and crews who have helped to make the Great Marlin Race possible!

On the final day of the race, three tags went out on three different boats. Unfortunately, none of us managed to tag fish -- so the race is officially among seven entries. We are excited to have so many, and we look forward to the weeks and months ahead as we wait for the tags to come off and start sending us data.

The Awards Ceremony Saturday night was a fantastic event, and a wonderful tribute to Peter Fithian for seeing the HIBT through its first 50 years. Judging by the success and excitement around the tournament, I won't be surprised to see it go another 50 years and beyond.

Thanks to everyone for all your support!

Friday, July 24, 2009

One day to go...

Today we had the pleasure of spending the day with some really great guys from our neck of the woods, joining Dan and Sean Lester from Monterey Bay Anglers for a day on the water. What made it even more special is that we got to spend the day on board the Kila Kila, a magnificently appointed 53' Merritt. Captain Teddy Hoogs and Mate Josh Bunch provided a really wonderful experience -- despite the fact that we just couldn't seem to find fish!

Another bunch of locals, the Pajaro Valley Game Fish club #1, got out a tag on a nice marlin, fishing aboard the Long Ranger.

And the New Britain Game Fishing Club out of Papua New Guinea also helped us out by getting out a tag as well, on board the Strong Persuader.

That brings us up to a total of seven tags in the water -- leaving us with three to place tomorrow. To hedge our bets, we'll be putting each tag on a different boat, and crossing our fingers that we all get at least one shot!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Passing the Half Way Mark

Today was truly an amazing day for the Great Marlin Race. It began with the announcement that all of the tags have been sponsored -- so we'll have a full field of 10 marlins for the race! I'll share more details on this as they come available - but I want to convey our great appreciation to everyone who has decided to sponsor tags, and our excitement that the race is now really on!
More good news came later in the morning, when Packy Offield, from the International Game Fish Association, tagged and released a 180-200 lb. blue marlin on board the Strong Persuader.

Great Marlin Race tag #4 came just minutes later when Tan Chin, from the Laguna Niguel Fishing Club, Team 1, tagged a 140 lb. blue marlin, fishing on the Au'Kalani.

And a third tag for the day came when Dish Landfield, from Laguna Niguel Fishing Club Team 2, fishing with us on the Sea Baby III, tagged a 190 lb. blue marlin. So by the mid-point of the tournament, at noon today, we had 5 of the 10 Great Marlin Race tags out -- keeping us on track to have a full field by tournament end!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Second Day, A Second Marlin

George and I had the pleasure of joining the Laguna Niguel Fishing Club's Team 2 today on board the Jun Ken Po. Unfortunately, it was a slow day with no hookups. Laguna Niguel's Team 1, however, had better success -- tagging a 150 lb. marlin and later catching and releasing a second fish!

The proud team at the docks

We still have teams with tags to place, and we are hopeful that a few more teams might still throw their hats in the ring.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Race Is On!

What an amazing day this has been! It began very early, with George and I meeting at 5:45 to get to the docks. The flurry of activity was incredible, with boats backing up to pick up their teams, one by one, and scurrying back out of the harbor to prepare for the tournament. At a little after 7:00, the command to start the tournament came over the radio -- and I was reminded of images of the Oklahoma land rush as all the boats blasted off at full-throttle.

After several hours of trolling up and down along the Kona coast, we finally hooked up! Masa jumped in the chair and deftly reeled in a beautiful, 140 lb. marlin. With the help of expert leader work, George landed a perfect tag shot, and the fish was on its way!

By the end of the day, only a handful of boats had succeeded in catching marlin - and no other satellite tags were deployed. As we headed back to the hotel, George and I realized how lucky we were to have been able to get a tag out, and get the Race started!

Tomorrow morning we'll join one of the Laguna Niguel Billfish Club teams, aboard the Jun Ken Po, a 42' Bertram. We are looking forward to another exciting day at sea!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Travel Adventures

We're making final preparations for the race, but my day got off to a rocky start! When I got to the airport in Monterey I learned that the giant suitcase with all my video equipment was 14 lbs. too heavy! So I re-shuffled everything and made it through security, only to discover that my flight was canceled. Bummer! So I'm working at home, putting the final touches on the GMR website (how about Kate Spencer's cool logo!).

I'm now on a flight scheduled to leave around 1:00, which will put me in Kona around 7:00 tonight. Hopefully I'll get more work done on the flight, and there will be more cool stuff to read and see soon!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Getting Under Way!

We are in the final run-up to the race, making final preparations and getting all the pieces in place. James Ganong and I are working to get the web server up and running, and getting all the finishing pieces on the new GTOPP website, where the Great Marlin Race will live. It is very exciting, and we look forward to taking you with us on this journey!