Update from our volunteer vacation / conservation holiday protecting whales, dolphins and turtles around the Azores archipelago (www.biosphere-expeditions.org/azores)

Our third day at sea was the perfect illustration of why fieldwork brings both freedom and frustration.

The whales were using the freedom of the ocean to disappear without a trace and we were being drawn into a nautical game of hide and seek. How hard is it to find 50 tonnes of whale? – very, when they can dive for 90 minutes on one breath and descend to 1000 m below the surface.

But the team are a determined bunch. With ‘eyes all around’ looking in every direction the sperm whale had to ‘blow’ its cover at some point.

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Eyes around

 

We also had one other trick up our sleeve, as Annabel deployed the hydrophone – an underwater microphone to listen in on the whale’s world. We then had a better sense where it may be moving. The audio-visual vigilance paid off and a single male sperm whale was finally spotted and photographed for the identification records.

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Deploying the hydrophone

 

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Sperm whale fluke success

 

The weather also conspired against us, with increasing winds restricting our movements around Faial. With a limited search area, the dolphins also proved elusive, with just a handful of common and bottlenose sighted. The turtles were the only ones keeping up a regular appearance and giving any consistency to the data.

This is why we are here – to better understand the patterns of appearance and disappearance. After all, any record or none at all – they are all still valuable data.


Update from our volunteer vacation / conservation holiday protecting whales, dolphins and turtles around the Azores archipelago

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