After our now-standard morning routine of deliciousness (aka breakfast) and blog writing, our Wednesday continued with a lecture about ethograms and different methods for sampling animal behavior. We revisited the Dolphin House and Mr. Saunders had us put up the tiles we brought him – he was really happy and we were honored to have contributed to the Dolphin House. Several of us met “Skippy” (some of us more than once!), a friendly local. We went to the Straw Market and got lots of good souvenirs – it was even fairly priced! Of course, we’ll be back.
After this busy morning, we came back for lunch and then had time to get ready because today was the day – we were headed for our first grand adventure to the open water!! We boarded “Renegade,” and it was beautiful to see all the different shades of blue. Some of us saw a turtle – it was either a green turtle or a very big hawksbill. We also saw flying fish taking air to escape the boat’s path. As we approached the notorious “U-boat,” we stopped the boat for a moment of silence for Dr. Stan Kuczaj. Dr. Kuczaj was Dr. M’s mentor and friend (and of Dr. Yeater’s too – who you might remember from SHU courses and the collaborator’s page), a long-time board member of DCP and a source of great information for us. A poem was read before we all threw flowers into the water and had a moment of silence. We then went straight into our “Dolphin Drill,” knowing that Dr. Kuczaj would be hoping we were all having a great time here in The Bahamas. During our drill, we practiced getting our gear on and getting on and off the boat. It was a good thing we had this practice because we were a bit slow! The water was so clear and we could see the details on the sea floor. It felt like the water was much shallower than it was – until we tried to dive down!
Back on board, we resumed our search for dolphins. At 17:30, we hopped into the water for a “swim break” and we spread apart so that we could “swim” in peace, even when it took some effort. Aside from “swimming,” it was also nice to cool off and re-energize for the dolphin search. Pretty much right after we were done, we saw dolphins for the first time! There were four bottlenose dolphins, including one that had a severely damaged dorsal fin and discoloration/damage to its melon and rostrum. We were amazed at how easy it was to see the dolphins, even when they were swimming at the sea floor under the boat! They weren’t very interested in us though, so after we all got a good look, we continued in search of other dolphins. The first two datasheet teams were hard at work throughout the day, especially when there were dolphins in view.
We saw more dolphins as we continued our search, traveling back toward home. First it was more bottlenose dolphins in the distance and then – suddenly – there were Atlantic spotted dolphins! Initially, there was a possible mother/calf pair that came to the boat. The older dolphin did not stay long, but we got some good looks at the calf. Still thinking there were just two dolphins, a juvenile appeared at the boat, bring the count to 3. And then – another (older) juvenile came to the boat bringing the group count to at least 4! One of the juveniles was swimming beside the boat; it almost appeared that it was showing us all of its sides! We were running out of time, so the crew said that we could give an underwater observation a turn. But, once we got it, it seemed like the dolphins said, “Oh, what’s that? You want to get in the water with us? Okay. Bye!”
Although we did not get to see the dolphins under water, it was good practice. We boarded the boat and headed toward home. Close to the harbor, we saw one more group of bottlenose dolphins. It was a little bit hard to be sure how many dolphins there were, but there were at least 3 individuals. Photo-ID might help us confirm this. It was an unusual observation in that the bottlenose dolphins rode the bow for a bit!
After this, we really headed back to shore and got ready for dinner. We mostly ate and then crashed, some of us still feeling like we were on the boat!
“Sea” you tomorrow,
The Podfia (EKU 2016)
PS: Production of “Over the Gulfstream” (Working Title) is on-going. Stay tuned.