Today was Team 2’s second day at sea, and despite the rough sea we were lucky enough to see the first sperm whales of the season. The group included one calf, and we spent the morning with them. There were a total of eleven sperm whales socialising at the surface, and two of them cooperated nicely with our research team and fluked for us. Perhaps the highlight of the day was when we saw a sperm whale breaching repeatedly in the distance. Fingers crossed for some sunshine and some more target species tomorrow.
Half the team went to Pico today and the other half is working on the mural in the harbour.
We’ve had a horrible few days with absolutely atrocious weather. We broke all sorts of records on this slot that we really did not want to break: number of days with weather too bad to back out, least number of sightings, most cloud, coldest, etc. The list goes on! But this is what nature and the weather can be like and I think everybody understands this, even if it is of course very frustrating. Still, thank you for being such a great team with good spirits and using the time on land for data entry, picture analysis and other activities to help out Lisa with her research.
Still, on Saturday we had a small break in the weather and went out to sea for the morning. We had three random sightings of common dolphins on the way to where the lookouts said there was a blue whale. We then stayed with the whale for over an hour, but four metre waves prevented us from taking any good identification photos.
Believe it or not, there was also a bright spot, a single one on Thursday, which Neil managed to capture on the Nikon.
Today was slot 1’s first day at sea. The swells were quite large, and our team members bravely hung onto the rails while searching for cetaceans. After sighting our first group of common dolphins, however, many of our team members discovered they hadn’t quite gotten their sea legs. When the fish feeding group at the back of the boat (myself included) grew to more than half the team, we decided to come back to the harbour. The lucky half of the team not affected by the large waves sighted three Risso’s dolphins on the way back. Joris, Annette, and Christina then decided to take advantage of the shore time and began this year’s wharf painting, a good-luck tradition here in the Azores, while the rest of the team helped with data entry at home base.
Greetings from Banana Manor, our base camp in Horta. Vera, Lisa and I (right to left)
have been very busy preparing for your arrival. Base camp is all set up, and we are eager to greet the first team tomorrow. As it says in the dossier, we’ll be at Peter’s Café at 11.30 on Monday morning to have some lunch, so if anyone would like to join us that would be great. If not, we’ll see you all at the official meeting time between 13.00 and 14.00 at Banana Manor. The expedition briefing will start promptly at 14:00.
I hope you all have good journeys. Please call me if you are going to miss the assembly meeting at Banana Manor. I am eager to meet you all!
P.S. You’ll notice in the picture that Lisa has a cast on her right hand. All will be revealed on site…
Hello it’s Lisa, your scientst, from Horta, not to be confused with Alisa!
I am going a bit stir crazy after six months of being stuck on land. I am looking forward to the expedition in a couple of weeks. There have already been sightings of baleen and sperm whales from the lookouts. We aim to get identification photographs of blue, fin, sei and humpback whales as they migrate past the islands. Last year we had 2 blue whales that had been seen in previous years, so we will be looking to build on that this year. We have also had two humpback whales match to animals seen in the Cape Verde Islands! This year I will also be collaborating with a scientist in Bermuda, so widening the scope for possible matches. And then we have our “regular” sperm whales. They can keep us very busy at sea sometimes if we come across a large group. We will be taking photographs of their flukes and matching them to the catalogue that I keep of animals seen elsewhere in the Atlantic and Mediterranean. It will be nice to see some old friends that have been sighted before and also some new ones passing by the Azores for the first time. If we are lucky we may find a new match of a male to Norway or another female that has been to the Canaries in addition to animals seen in previous years in the Azores. If there are no whales around, we are always on the lookout for dolphins or turtles. Bottlenose & Risso’s dolphin are also target species for photo-identification, while common and striped are always a joy to watch if they choose to bowride with the boat. We also try to catch and tag loggerhead turtles for the joint University of the Azores/University of Florida turtle programme.
While on the boat, you will all have jobs to do. Remember that this is not just a whale watching holiday! Someone records data for all the cetacean sightings; another job will be to take ID photos of target species with the expedition camera, as well as any nice people/scenic photos during the day. A team member keeps the log for the boat. A couple of people each day will be responsible for filling in POPA paperwork (I’ll explain what POPA stands for when you get here). We are the only non-fishing boat that participates in this project, collecting data on random sightings of cetaceans as well as turtle and bird surveys. And of course don’t forget the most important jobs of all – the observers. A couple of you will be lookouts, trying to spot the animals at sea! It is not easy to spot whales and dolphins at sea, but you will get better at it as the expedition goes along. There will be a couple of days for a little bit of R&R around the island as well as data entry at base. Photos of Risso’s dolphin from previous years are on the computers at the base for you to crop and match if you have spare time (for example during foul wheather days when we can’t go out on the boat). Other ongoing project is entering data from previous year’s logbooks & data sheets.
At the end of your slot, you may need a holiday to recover!
Hello and welcome from HQ to the first Azores diary entry. We’re packing up and getting ready for you. Our Azores expedition has been running for many years, so most things are in Horta and the expedition packed up looks very small. Crucial bits include a couple of cameras and laptops (which are with our scientist in Horta year-round) for gathering and entering data, as well as some snazzy Swarovski binoculars (new this year and being shipped soon) for spotting whale blows and the animals themselves – that is if you don’t get seasick looking through them 😉
Staff with you will be Alisa and Lisa as per you dossier. You will also have Vera Menges on the first slot. Vera will soon start as our resident biologist in Namibia and before she goes to Africa will spend a week or so with you on the Azores to see what the jobs of expedition leader and expedition scientist entail.
Alisa will soon send you a video diary entry from the USA, where she is getting ready, and here is a video of Lisa and our research