So it was the weekend and we had another day at the ‘office’.
With the winds having changed overnight, and now coming from the north, we headed to the calmer waters south of Pico island. This still meant crossing the slightly rougher waters in the channel between Faial and Pico.
To motivate the team, I had foolishly offered a prize for the first (non-dolphin) sighting of the day. Lynn had clearly had her coffee and soon shouted “Cory’s shearwater” (one of the common bird species we record every day). Lesson learnt. Next time I will be more specific – first non-dolphin cetacean sighting!
Our exertions of hanging on the pitching and rolling boat were soon rewarded with a cetacean sighting, and in the normal fashion, with what else, a fin whale. There was a rumour of a blue whale in the area, but our efforts were only rewarded with repeated fin whale encounters. It is hard to be disappointed.
Reaching the calmer waters, we had a change of focus with the lookout on Pico reporting sperm whales in the area. We tracked the 1000 m depth contour and soon enough we had a first encounter. As the afternoon progressed, one soon became nineteen, including encounters with mothers suckling their calfs. Initial analysis of the images suggests at least 8 different individuals (not including the calves). Calves don’t dive with their mothers and thus don’t show their flukes for identification. They patiently wait at the surface for the their mother to return some 45 minutes later!
So in our toughest conditions yet, the team did a great job. And credit to Susanne for getting great images to aid the sperm whale identification, and to Celine for keeping her upright. Lynn was rewarded with her bar of chocolate – which she graciously shared – thank you!
We now have a well-earned day’s rest, followed by some data analysis. We’ll let you know what else we find when we crunch the numbers and numerous images!