Thursday was the Sea Crest group’s last day on the boat and it began with a 1430 departure. Nicole joined them on their dolphin search which was preceded by a snorkeling stop at the “Three Sisters”. After enjoying the coral and beautiful fish around the big sister rock for a bit, as well as an up-close encounter with a tiny (but feisty) remora, we headed out on our regular route. About 20 minutes later we passed another local dolphin boat that had found a group of spotted dolphins. We waved to the boat captain as we continued on our way to look for other dolphins.
About an hour later we came across a group of six juvenile Atlantic spotted dolphins! They were being extremely playful, riding in the bow wake, leaping and chasing each other around near the boat. From the bow we were able to see that un-named #101 and #102 were there, as well as Paul (#99) and possibly #105. We observed these dolphins for about 40 minutes during which time they were joined by an adult and a calf. Then we made a brief attempt at a swim with this group before moving on to search for more dolphins on our drive back to the harbor.
Thirty minutes into our journey home we found another group of spotted dolphins, this time 26 of them! From the boat, Nicole was able to identify Romeo (#10) with a calf (yay!), Stefran (#82) with a calf, Prince William (#64) and Cerra (#38). The sheer size of the group made it a challenge to get any more IDs from the boat! Fortunately, after a couple of failed attempts, we managed to collect some underwater observations of this group. During this encounter we were excited to see that Romeo (#10) was nursing a calf! Nicole also thinks she saw Milo (#96) and un-named #98–she’ll have to check the video to confirm!
After a little while, the large group of dolphins swam out of view. Captain Audley decided to take the boat in a wide circle to see if any playful dolphins would ride the bow while we watched from the water. As the boat passed the human swimmers, Nicole could see a dolphin swimming belly up in the bow wake. Knowing that a certain female spotted has been seen doing this ever since she herself was a calf, Nicole had a sneaking suspicion of who it might be. And sure enough, this dolphin broke out of the bow wake and swam towards the humans, along with a calf–we were able to identify her as Noodle (#94)! She and the calf hung around the humans for a few minutes, showing off interesting behaviors such as rubbing into the sand and chasing each other along the seafloor. Eventually, the pair swam out of view and we piled back onto the boat.
We arrived at the dock a bit late but we could not have asked for a better final dolphin day for this group. We are so thankful to them for allowing us to join them on the boat and for asking us so many thoughtful questions about the dolphins and DCP’s research. Hopefully we have inspired them to return to Bimini or to explore other marine species around the world.
DCP researchers have the day off the boat on Friday but Saturday and Sunday should find them out on the water. We look forward to telling everyone about what we find!
Until next time,
Kel & Nicole