Azores: Epic – says Team 4

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

Cetaceans are the stuff of myths, legends and dreams. But how do you make your dreams come true? Well, citizen science may have the answer.

Dreams of cetaceans would have to wait, as we had our final change of personnel, welcoming Team 4 to the Azores; our final team for the 2018 expedition. We also extend the Biosphere Expeditions welcome to An Bollen, our ‘expedition leader in training’, who is assisting me for the next ten days.

With the welcomes, greetings, briefings and training sessions dealt with, we were all keen to get out to sea. Our potential survey area was restricted by the sea conditions, and these also challenged some of our team – but great job by Amy for being the last volunteer lookout standing on the front deck.

The effort was worth it – an encounter with 75 common dolphins put a smile on all faces and data in our records.

Our first full day at sea was initially met with nerves and excitement. And again emotions were soon settled with another common dolphin encounter. Word of sperm whales then came in, and the ‘hunt’ was on. We quickly located several socialising groups, but none were diving, so frustratingly, no fluke identifications photos.

Time for a change of tack; so we went in pursuit of a baleen whale, that turned out to be blue. One blue turned into two blues, which did what the sperm whales wouldn’t – fluke! And it fluked multiple times, much to the delight of all.

Feeling lucky, we decided to try the sperm whales again, after encounters with yet more common dolphins and loggerhead turtles. After following several groups for an age, only two fluked briefly.  So again we went the way of the baleen whales, but this time pursued a humpback, and again it fluked – multiple times! So more ID photos recorded.

Quite a day for many in the group – with several seeing their first whales! However, on the first day we all met, Christine had stated she’d had a dream since she was child, to see a whale fluking in the wild. What she didn’t know was that citizen science would make that dream come true, and in some style, with three species fluking in one day. I told you (in my last blog) three was a lucky number!

Great day, great data and great reactions from the whole team. Their whoops and cheers are still ringing in my ears, but Christine summed it up neatly – ‘epic!’.


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