It bit choppier than expected yesterday (Thursday), but the lookout had seen sperm whales, so off we went. Once again, we were headed to the south of Pico, off the town of São João.
We stopped and put the hydrophone in just to make sure and, yup, we were close. The whales we could hear were a bit farther to the southeast, so we headed that way, only to have the lookout shout “Blow, behind you”! And sure enough about 300 m behind us, a sperm whale had surfaced. When they are getting ready to come up to the surface they stop clicking, which is why it wasn’t detected on the hydrophone. As we maneuvered to get around behind the whale, I thought I recognised the white marks on the dorsal from the other day. Sure enough when it fluked, it was “1198”, one of our well known females that had first been seen in 1989. This was very promising, “1019” has been seen with her the last few years and we missed her the other day. The second and third whales were also well known: “3186” aka “Bearpaw” and “2234”. We then spotted “1198” again, this time she had a calf with her, displaying suckling behaviour; arching up and diving next to the female’s dorsal fin. Then we saw “3186” once again. We decided we would watch one more, before heading back to Horta. Blow, this time a little closer to the shore. The dorsal fin was different to the others we had seen and looked familiar. “1019”!!! Yes! She was first seen in 1988, the same year that I started studying the whales and dolphins in the Azores. So she and “1198” are at least 40 years old, because when they were first sighted, they were identified as adults, rather than juveniles.
So off we headed back to Horta, with the lookout trying to find dolphins. And find them he eventually did! You can see from the track of the boat when we took a “hard left”! A couple miles further offshore from our course we found a group of spotted dolphin. These were the first spotted dolphin of 2020!! There were some very small calves in the group and they were riding the bow as they travelled towards the west against the waves. What a finale!
What will the next trip bring? Watch this space. Thank you once more to Biosphere Expeditions, and everyone who has contributed to their appeal, for the funding to make these outings possible!
All pictures (c) Whale Watch Azores