Crazy Hazy Sunset Cruise

We started off Tuesday with something we hadn’t done in a while — video! We resumed reviewing Bimini video data and showed Kel some of our tricks for doing the social quality event sampling. It was nice to all be able to do it together, and certainly faster since Kel knows the Bimini spotted dolphins so well! We finished the 2011 video and started on the 2010 tapes. It was fun to see the dolphins on the tapes now that we’ve seen them in the water! Later that day, we got a pleasant surprise when we got to tag along on a boat trip since Al wanted to photograph the dolphins — if we could find them that is! We set out under relatively clear skies, but there was an incredible haze hanging on the horizon. Al informed us that this was due to dust and particulate matter blown in from the Sahara Desert. Though skeptical at first, we discovered Al was right after all. We dubbed this trip the “Crazy Hazy Private Sunset Cruise” — a special treat for Pam and Liana after spending all day watching dolphins on the screen! We scanned the horizon for quite a while, but it was to no avail. The dolphins were nowhere to be found! We eventually turned back and watched what we assumed to be the sunset, but the haze cut our 20:07 sunset short when it obstructed the sun actually going below the water. Though we didn’t see any dolphins and Al didn’t get any photos, it was great to get out on the water after a long day of work!

Wednesday morning (Happy Birthday, Al!) we continued working on video. Liana and Kel took a break toBIM12_25Jul_Ttfromsurface make a drinking water run since the new interns consume water at a ridiculous rate — 18 gallons in 7 days! This is definitely a record, but hey, hydration is important here, right?! On the way back, we were told there was a group of spotted and bottlenose dolphins right outside our house! We hustled back and stood watching from shore as another dolphin swim operator traveled slowly alongside a big group of dolphins we could clearly see. They looked like they were on the move, and we couldn’t believe how close they were! It was a clear day, and we watched for a while, then returned inside to do some more work. About an hour later, Kel told us to meet at 1:30 and that we were going to go for a mini-boat-trip to try and get a better look at the dolphins if they would let us! We quickly gathered all our DCP stuff, excitedly biked to the Sea Crest, and headed out! Some of the haze from the night before lingered on the horizon, but the skies were clear, the sun was strong and warm, and most importantly, the water was almost glassy-smooth, ideal for viewing dolphins from the boat even if we couldn’t get in the water with them. We first saw a group of five bottlenose just outside the harbor, with at least two calves in the group. One of the calves had a fresh injury, and one of the adults had a remora (Pam’s favorite sea creature) clinging to it. We got some good shots of their dorsals to be used for ID as well as photos like the one included here – yes, that calm, lake-like water is the ocean! Soon, we left the group in search of the spotted dolphins. We didn’t have long to wait. A large group was hanging around the same boat that had been following them all day, but they were definitely on the move and so it was initially difficult to get a count. We used our eraser quite a bit within the first half hour — first we saw 6, then 8, then 9, and finally were able to count at 21 for sure (possibly even a couple more) and at least 4 calves in the group. We got a few views of the dolphins as they swam, but they only got close enough to our boat to recognize a few. We were excited to see Tilly (#87), Trudy’s (#57) witch-hat dorsal and #40! Al tried to get in the water with them, but the dolphins clearly had an agenda and were moving too quickly to get any good underwater pictures. Eventually, we left the dolphins, sped to the “dolphin grounds” and looked around to see if we could find any more, but had no luck. Even though we didn’t get to get in the water with them or and Al didn’t get any photos of spotteds for his birthday, it was good to see the familiar dolphins in the water, especially in such a large group!

Lots of dolphin trips are the upcoming schedule, so stayed tuned for regular field reports.

Until then,
Liana, Pam & Kel