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

Welcome to our third and final team for 2016. While it is our smallest group, what they lack numbers they make up for in diversity. Our group truly embraces the international nature of Biosphere Expeditions, coming from Portugal, France, Germany, Greece, the United Kingdom, Brazil and the USA.

As part of this team, we additionally benefit from having three (local and international) Master’s students from the University of the Azores. They gain valuable field resesearch experience and we (hopefully) improve our knowledge of Horta and perhaps our Portuguese!

So with the team in place, and briefings and training completed, we set out to sea on our first afternoon of survey. Many people may be familiar with Performance Indicators at your place of work. But how do we assess our first day at sea? Simple, a baseline indicator is to have more cetacean sightings, than people ‘feeding the fish’! Finding your sea legs is all part of the learning process, and whilst not easy for all, the day was definitely a success.

Perhaps predictably we encountered common dolphins first, who were the most social group so far, and we then went off in search of a blue whale known to be in the area. We soon got more that we bargained for as a blue whale surfaced close to the boat only moments later. It is not often you get a blue whale as a ‘random sighting’, and so close that you can almost see down its blow hole!

With that encounter documented, we went off in search of the ‘original’ blue whale, spotted by the lookout on Pico. The animal obliged us with an extended encounter, with Pico as the backdrop.

Heading back to Horta, we soon spotted a fast-moving pod of dolphins. Striped dolphins to be precise, but it turned out they were actually in a mixed pod with some common dolphins.

So another great first day at sea. Starting with two blue whales – the largest species that has ever lived on this planet – is hard to beat! And if the variety of our sightings matches that of our group, it will hopefully be another great week.

Little did we know what we would see, when at breakfast we enjoyed some great ‘blues’ music of John Lee Hooker. I wonder if there is a band out there called The Orcas??

Common dolphin (Craig Turner)

Common dolphin (Craig Turner)

Harbour-side briefing from Lisa (Craig Turner)

Harbour-side briefing from Lisa (Craig Turner)

Boat orientation (Craig Turner)

Boat orientation (Craig Turner)

Close encounter of a blue (whale) kind (Craig Turner)

Close encounter of a blue (whale) kind (Craig Turner)

Blue whale south of Pico (Craig Turner)

Blue whale south of Pico (Craig Turner)

Silvio hard at work recording data (Craig Turner)

Silvio hard at work recording data (Craig Turner)

The characteristic mottling and colouration of the blue whale (Craig Turner)

The characteristic mottling and colouration of the blue whale (Craig Turner)

Striped dolphins (Lisa Steiner)

Striped dolphins (Lisa Steiner)


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

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