Saturday morning found DCP researchers in the office and most of the students exploring the mangroves. At 1500, Nicole and the university group set off on their dolphin search. The ocean was as calm and flat as a lake! It was so flat that it made it much easier to spot the lone bottlenose dolphin that crossed our path less than 20 minutes into our ride. We observed this dolphin from the boat for a few minutes before continuing on our way.
For this trip, Dr. Kaplan brought along the coordinates for a spot she had visited 6 years ago. What’s so special about this spot? Well, it’s over 3 miles from land but there were 2 golf carts on the sea floor! When Dr. Kaplan was there previously there were also a lot of bottlenose dolphins foraging around the carts. While we did not expect to find a secret dolphin hang-out, we were curious to see if the carts were still there. And since the spot was not far from where we usually travel, Captain Al said a small detour would be fine. Surprisingly, the golf carts were still there! We took a swim break so the students could explore the carts and then continued our search for dolphins.
Only five minutes later we came across a group of 7 Atlantic spotted dolphins! Captain Al joked that we had just missed them at the submerged golf carts. This group was very slow moving and was not actively socializing so it seemed to us that they were resting. After a short time observing them from the surface, a small group of humans entered the water for observations. Once under water we were able to recognize some of the dolphins, though they may not be from our resident Bimini community. It is possible that these adults came from White Sand Ridge–we have to check our records. After a brief encounter, we returned to the boat which repositioned and then deposited us back in the water with a group of at least 18 spotted dolphins! This group included many more familiar faces–Romeo (#10) who was socializing with Stefran (#82); Noodle (#94) with her calf; Split Jaw (#22) who was seen with Prince William (#64) and Tim (#69); and Lil’ Jess (#35), Paul (#99), three calves and possibly Speedy (#78) and Freckles (#15)! A couple of the calves have some distinguishing marks that we might be able to add to our catalog in the near future.
A short time later, we climbed back on the boat and left this group of spotted dolphins. They were traveling a bit too quickly for our human legs and we also hoped to see who else we could find since it was still rather early. Only 15 minutes later we found a trio of spotteds and were able to collect some brief underwater observations of two of them. Once these dolphins left the humans, we were picked up and pointed in the direction of home. We had such incredible encounters today that no one expected to see any more dolphins but only 20 minutes later we came across yet another group of spotted dolphins! This was a group of at least 14 which included Split Jaw (#22) once again, so perhaps there were other repeats from our earlier encounter. We had a couple of short underwater encounters with this group in order to collect photos and videos that we will review later for IDs. Then we got on the boat and headed for home. It was yet another late arrival at the dock but we enjoyed a wonderful sunset during our drive–a beautiful ending to a successful day. We’re excited to see what we might see tomorrow!
Until next time,
Nicole & Kel