whale researchers mourned
ENVIRONMENT: Work will
continue despite untimely deaths, Canadian scientist says
BY CHUCK BROWN
A plane carrying
North Atlantic right whale researchers has crashed into the Atlantic Ocean and
the search for three bodies has been called off.
of marine researcher Jacqueline Ciano, 47, of Massachusetts, has been recovered
from the waters off Florida but the plane, its pilot and two other researchers
were not found.
Ms. Ciano and the others were flying over
the Atlantic looking for right whale calves. Last radio contact was made Sunday
afternoon and Ms. Ciano's body was found at 11:30 p. m. Sunday, according to
the Florida Times-Union newspaper.
Ms. Ciano and other
researchers had counted 14 right whale calves so far this year - encouraging
news for the species, which numbers about 300. The scientists were searching
the waters for more calves when the plane went down.
Jerry Conway, the Canadian Department of Fisheries and
Oceans marine mammal co-ordinator, said the marine science community is
saddened by news of the crash but vows their work will continue.
"It won't stop the research. It won't stop people doing
the surveys," Mr. Conway said.
He believes Ms. Ciano and
the others would have wanted their work to continue.
"It's a very important part of the overall project,
especially when you're trying to identify the calves from the air, population
growth and problems with the population," Mr. Conway said.
While the research work will continue, Mr. Conway said
the crash will be remembered and will weigh on the minds of scientists who take
to the air.
"This sort of work is being done by
everybody, these aerial surveys, and it makes you realize you're vul nerable,"
"It's a question that we all have in, the back of our
minds when you do: take these trips."
News of the
crash spread quickly , through the marine science community.
"It's a very small community Everybody knows each other,
or of each other, especially in the right whale community," Mr. Conway said.
"This tragedy touches all of us. If we didn't know all of
them we at least knew one of them aboard the plane."
Ciano has spent several summers working in the Bay of Fundy out of the New
England Aquarium's Lubec, Me., field station.
worked in the Bay of Fundy, and was very fond of Canada and the Canadian
people," Mr. Conway said.
During this research project,
Ms Ciano was working for the New York-based Wildlife Trust, as were two others
on the plane - Emily Argo, 25, of Wellfleet, Mass., and Michael Newcomer, 49,
of Los Altos, Calif. Tom Hinds, of Florida, was their pilot.
The research project involved identifying whale calves
and also identifying migration patterns in efforts to save the whales from one
of their greatest threats - ship strikes.
the Times-Union, officials said they don't know why the plane went down.
The Cessna 337-02A took off about 10:30 a.m. Sunday.
About 4:15 p.m. Sunday, the callcame in that the group
had spotted several whales.
They broke off from their
predetermined route to intercept the pod of whales to identify and photograph
It was the last time anyone heard from the plane
except for the ping of its emergency beacon rising from 15; metres below the
ocean's surface almost 12 kilometres out to sea.
National Transportation Safety Board investigator Alan Yurman said the
four-seat Cessna was descending to about 150 metres for a: closer look at the
"They started the descent and (no one ever) heard
from them again," Mr. Yurman said.
By Monday afternoon,
searchers had recovered a life raft, a backpack, a logbook and a carrying case.
Ocean conditions at the location the beacon was found were hindering efforts to
determine whether the wreckage was. there.
The search was
called off Tuesday.