Our third day at sea was the perfect illustration of why fieldwork brings both freedom and frustration.
The whales were using the freedom of the ocean to disappear without a trace and we were being drawn into a nautical game of hide and seek. How hard is it to find 50 tonnes of whale? – very, when they can dive for 90 minutes on one breath and descend to 1000 m below the surface.
But the team are a determined bunch. With ‘eyes all around’ looking in every direction the sperm whale had to ‘blow’ its cover at some point.
We also had one other trick up our sleeve, as Annabel deployed the hydrophone – an underwater microphone to listen in on the whale’s world. We then had a better sense where it may be moving. The audio-visual vigilance paid off and a single male sperm whale was finally spotted and photographed for the identification records.
The weather also conspired against us, with increasing winds restricting our movements around Faial. With a limited search area, the dolphins also proved elusive, with just a handful of common and bottlenose sighted. The turtles were the only ones keeping up a regular appearance and giving any consistency to the data.
This is why we are here – to better understand the patterns of appearance and disappearance. After all, any record or none at all – they are all still valuable data.
Update from our volunteer vacation / conservation holiday protecting whales, dolphins and turtles around the Azores archipelago