Update from our volunteer vacation / conservation holiday protecting whales, dolphins and turtles around the Azores archipelago (www.biosphere-expeditions.org/azores)

Chris, Craig’s assistant for group 2, here this time:

Blue skies, calm sea…the second day seemed promising. Fears of churning stomachs were replaced with optimism as we took off in search of the cetaceans. The question is would they be more co-operative than on Sunday?

With no information from our lookouts, it looked like the flip of a coin would decide where to go. We headed to the south of Faial, where noone was looking. Some common dolphins made a good start, surfing our bow wave. Bob got the chance to do his job with the hydrophone, in the hope to hear some ‘metronomic clicking’, which would lead us to some sperm whales. Unfortunately these toothed whales were silent, but the dolphins were singing.

With wind from the southeast, we trailed west and suddenly the shout came: “Bloooowww”. Four fin whales travelling south of Faial were kind enough to show us some of their impressive white lower jaw, blow holes and dorsal fins – identification shots were bagged. Some bottlenose dolphins also gave us a fleeting encounter.

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The faint clicking of the hydrophone suggested the sperm whales were out there, but our efforts to find them were interrupted when we suddenly ran into a school of 150 striped dolphins, jumping and racing along. Not a common sight here; and all were happy to be the first Biosphere Expeditions group this year to encounter these beautiful animals.

A sperm whale finally revealed its location by breaching with a huge splash in the far distance. Our pursuit was thwarted by rougher seas, but not before being waved goodbye by a sperm whale’s fluke. Random sightings of these mammals are rare, so also capturing the photo ID was a bonus.

While closing our circle around the island of Faial we encountered another single fin whale passing to the north. As the wind strengthened, it was time to head for the harbour. The data scores were better than yesterday, with more encounters and species. Our only zero was on the turtle front – the first time the expedition has failed to record one this year.

More to come…

Update from our volunteer vacation / conservation holiday protecting whales, dolphins and turtles around the Azores archipelago

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