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Reseach Vessel "Odyessy" Visits Pensacola

PENSACOLA, Fla. -- A research team and a conservation group have teamed up to make their fifth trip to the Gulf of Mexico.
They are studying the effects of the BP oil spill.

Their mission is called 'Operation Toxic Gulf: It's Not Over'.

Their research vessel is called the Odyssey.

It's docked at Pensacola.

The Odyssey will be open to the public for tours from 10a.m. to 4p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Scientific Manager Andrew Rogan says whales are good indicators of the gulf's health.

"A lot of people have been personally affected by the oil spill and it's so important that we try to explain to them what is going on out there," Rogan said.

Rogan and a crew of 11 others make trips out to the gulf for about a week and a half at a time.

"We collect skin samples from the whales and then we send those to the lab and they test it for toxins," Rogan said.

Rogan and his team use this device to find the whales that are swimming in the gulf.

"We drop a hydrophone off the back of the boat . It's 300 feet long and it picks up the sounds that sperm whales make," Rogan explained.

The research crew uses sperm whales because they are  very similar to humans and they are also one of the loudest animals on the planet. 

Which makes finding them easy with a hydrophone.

"I was expecting a very poor number of sightings," said Eva Hidalgo, a data collector for the team.

Hidalgo says the team was surprised to already have more than 60 sightings of different mammals in the gulf.

"It seems to be a very important habitat," she said.

It's great seeing the whales but it is worrying that their future is in question," Rogan said.