Azores : Wind, waves and surfing bottlenose dolphins

Another team of eight great women joined Lisa and me from the UK, US, Germany and the Netherlands for cetacean volunteer action. Our intensive two-day training phase kicked off the expedition as usual. Fully saturated with information, everyone was eager to test their sea legs and get into the onboard and offshore work. Regrettably, the weather gods were not in favour, so we had to postpone our first trip out.

On Wednesday our Azores volunteer team had a day off to explore the island and enjoyed intrepid walks as well as several viewpoints around the island with the highlight being the scenery of Capelinhos. It just is one of those unique locations not to be missed with the lighthouse as a landmark. Sandblasting treatment also freely included this time.

On Thursday there was no stopping our citizen science volunteers. They were ready to start putting sea hours in regardless of the forecast. One of the lookouts on land had spotted a baleen whale, most likely a humpback north of Horta, so we rushed to the scene. All eyes on board had a dedicated section of the sea to scan for blows. One might think how can you possibly miss a large baleen whale ? Yet, with white caps all around and slow rolling waves putting up walls of 2-3 m, it is just not that straightforward. Our research target managed to play hide and seek quite effectively, so we decided to look for more cooperative cetaceans. A nice pod of bottlenose dolphins was travelling by and decided to give us quite the show by surfing the waves surrounding us. We spotted two calves in the group and spent some good quality time observing them. Ellen, our Monicet app person on this day, and Susie, dedicated GPS log person, made sure the location and data were recorded. Meanwhile Barbara, our dedicated photographer tried to capture as many dorsal fins as possible for later photo-ID work. A few more blows were seen by the look-out nearby, but with even bigger waves, it was next to impossible to locate the animals. On the upper deck POPA data capturers Sheilagh and Lisa adhered to a tight schedule with matching ringtones for turtle, bird and trash times. The bird data loggers were treated to hundreds of Cory Shearwaters and their aerial acrobatics. As we turned back home, some of the clouds surrounding us were like from a painting. Suzanne and Madeleine were the last women standing on the front deck. Respect! While we would have loved more sightings, it was a nice warm-up for group 3 and we will see what tomorrow brings.

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