There She Blows!!

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Unbelievably exciting day here in Sandy Point. We had 3 encounters: bottlenose dolphins, sperm whales (oh yes we did), and spotted dolphins. And the best part? We got poo samples!! Yes, the exciting life of a marine scientist; getting excited over some poo.

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The first location we went was to Rocky Point were we encountered our ID bottlenose dolphins and a few ‘not-to-sures’. In a previous blog, I mentioned how marine mammals are typically identified, using the markings on their fins/tails and comparing it to a catalog. Since we spent two days ID’ing, I recognized many of the individuals out there. Interesting how  now I can place a number on the organism only after two days of office work.

The second location we went was to the Deep Blue, the 1000+metre drop into the ocean from shore. It’s a drop into the bluest waters I will ever see in my life. Dr. Claridge lowered the hydrophone into the water as Jurique held it and we all heard clicks from a sperm whale. She had said to me previously that sperm whale clicks/sounds can be heard roughly 6 miles from their starting point. The hard part right now was taking a chance to either go north or south to find the bugger.

We decided to head north. Traveling 4 miles, we listened again with the hydrophone. Lucky! The clicks were louder this time. Another 4 miles, this time the clicks did not sound as loud. Did we travel too far? Did we miss them?

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Picking up some plastic that was floating in the water.

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Keeping an eye out for the spout/blow of the sperm whales

I did not know what to look for. A spout? A cloud rising from the ground into the air? How was I going to find a sperm whale’s surface if I do not know how to look for one? Jack called first on finding it and off we went from Cross Harbour.

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Whale fluking. When the whale dives, kicking its tail into the air as it descends.

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It was AMAZING! Our waters can hold such majestic creatures. The spout/blow the whale made as it surfaced reminded me of smoke when its blown out through the mouth. A puff or tiny cloud just barely on the surface of the water. It is not as the cartoons show with a gigantic spray into the air that could be seen for miles and miles around.

And guess what? “I hope there are poo samples, or even skin! 🙂 ” Those are the words of a true scientist. The excitement over poo. Feces tells us a lot about an animal within the past 24 hours. How their hormones are, what they ate, if it is male or female, etc. We know that two of the whales had a species of squid sometime that day; the beak was in the feces.

In total we followed, documented and ID 3 sperm whales heading north and then back south where they came from. Since these whales do not have much of a dorsal fin, they are ID by their tails. Each one had a few nicks, unique to them. They can be caused from predation from other whales, competition, etc.

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Sperm whale about to spout.

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Spotted dolphin [L] and sperm whale [R]

There was an interesting encounter  with one of the whales; it was being ‘harassed’ by a group of spotted dolphins. They were swimming around its head and around the boat until it fluked and disappeared from our eyes. The dolphins then headed south and we followed in hot pursuit.

Eventually, they stopped speeding off and instead swimming near the boat at the bow, breaking the surface every so often with their dorsal’s. There were 15-20 of them. This lasted for maybe half an hour before we decided to head back to sperm whale watching.

No luck on the beaked whales though. Spent a good chunk of time looking for them but nothing.

Once we returned home to the facility, it was time to rinse off the gear and get our data together before dinner (still processing data as I type this).

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