Sunday, November 16, 2014

Guadeloupe Sperm Whale Mission: Day 7

Saturday, November 15th

Well, I am now back home and Kirk has taken over.  We came close today.  We were out the door before 6 and on glassy calm waters.  Unfortunately, they didn’t stay that way!  We had traveled along almost the entire west coast of the island and were about to turn back when a whale watching boat called to tell us they had sperm whales.  We blasted through the growing seas but by the time we got near the GPS position the whales had been at they were already miles away and heading in a direction that would make it impossible to put the camera out and have any chance of getting it back when it came off.  It was tough to let the opportunity go, but the team has plenty of time left in the mission so playing it safe was the right call.

The day was far from a loss, though.  We encountered two groups of pilot whales – each with 30-40 individuals, snoozing at the surface.  We got plenty of pictures to see if they are the same whales we encountered earlier in the week.  Eventually we had to head back to shore so I wouldn’t miss my flight (which it turns out wouldn’t have happened since the computers were down at the airport and everybody had to be checked in by phone…no surprise that came with a delay).  On the way, we ran into a group of common bottlenose dolphins.  They were the offshore variety (not a separate species though) so they were big!  We got our pictures, the dolphins rode the bow, and we headed back to shore.

Common bottlenose dolphins riding the bow of the research boat.
Although we didn’t get as many cameras out on sperm whales during my time, it was a successful mission!  It was great to get to know all of our collaborators at SPAW-RAC and to see the potential for studies of so many species and the real capabilities of Mehdi’s cameras.  The jury is still out on his lucky shirt after today, though.

I’m told the best season for the whales is in the spring…when our next mission will go!

I will keep updating the blog – though not daily – as the team sends in reports, photos, and videos!

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