So we have passed the halfway point of the 2016 expedition, but still have much ground (or ocean) to cover.
As with any field research, you will always have slow days. The objects of your study never seem to be where you are! This was the case on Thursday, which saw a repeat of Wednesday in terms of geography, but not in terms of sightings. Again we headed clockwise around Faial, but with only a few sightings of baleen whales, the cetaceans records in the afternoon, all but dried up. This time no dolphins, sperm whales or baleen whales. A testing and unrewarding afternoon for the team.
The increasing winds and rising sea state ensured another shore day on Friday. But this time to review images, consolidate data and try to match ‘fins’ and ‘flukes’ to individuals in the existing databases. This necessary and vital part of the research effort was rewarded with a notable finding.
A sperm whale previously recorded in Madeira and the Canaries was matched to the Azores. Demonstrating a ‘triangle of movement’ between the island groups for the first time and meaning Lisa now has to update her latest research poster. Always good when joining the dots means we advance our scientific knowledge!
The appalling weather of Friday (rain, low cloud) gave no indication of what was to come on Saturday. With calm seas and blue skies and an initial encounter with Risso’s dolphins, we were soon distract by fin whales, and reports of ‘blues’ in the area. Eight fin whales and two blue whales later, having observed blue and fin whales together (another rarely observed behaviour), our research was nearly done. We finished our time at sea as we started, with a blue whale.
And for those of you interested in the numbers, our 6 days at sea during this slot 2 have yielded 63 cetacean encounters with over 250 individuals, across 8 different species. Another great effort from slot 2!
Thank you again for all your hard work on and off the boat.
Safe travels home (slot 2) and to the Azores (slot 3).