Azores: group 1 round-up

A sterling effort by group 1 over the past few days. We’ve covered in excess 250 km of surveys over the past three days, and again in some challenging seas. Safe to say everyone now has their ‘sea legs’.

We have also been involved in a mini collaboration with the local university, assisting them with a search for a D-Tag. This non-invasive tag (attached by a suction cup to sperm whales) can record the sounds heard, and made, by the tagged whale together with its depth and orientation (i.e. pitch, roll and heading), in a synchronised fashion throughout the dive cycle. The tag records data digitally for around 24 hours, depending on sampling rate. When if floats to the surface it gives out a radio ‘ping’, so it can be radio-tracked, once a rough position has been triangulated from land. Well, the theory is simple!

We were able to help in the search whilst conducting our own ‘normal’ surveys. Rui Prieto joined us from the local university (Dept of Oceanography & Fisheries) with his telemetry kit and all we had to do was spot a small yellow tag in the Atlantic – needle in a haystack – when dealing with 5 m waves. Sadly we weren’t successful on this front, but we did collect other cetacean data. We wish Rui luck in finding it!

Over the last few days, the team have worked their socks off, scouring much of the ocean south of Faial and Pico, up to 25-30 km offshore. The reward has been nine cetacean encounters, totalling over 125 individuals, not forgetting several loggerhead turtles. And let’s not forget our couple of expedition firsts – orcas and a singing humpback – more than data, they are truly moments to remember.

Just reward for such a great group who have personified teamwork – you have been a joy to work with, thank you. But as we say a sad farewell to group 1, we are excited to meet and welcome group 2. There is still much to discover, as we reach the halfway point of this year’s expedition.

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