Tuesday morning was a hard wakeup for me- it was my last full day on Bimini. With the boat trip being cancelled Monday, I was glad Nat and I had the opportunity to explore the island. But I was very excited to get back on the boat and spend my last day here searching for dolphins.
Nat and I started off with our usual morning routine of a large pot of coffee and a few hours of work before prepping for our afternoon boat ride. Around noon we got a little restless and decided to take a swim break, but it was too hot to stay out for too long.
This week’s Bimini Adventures group is actually a researcher and two students. It was exciting have another scientist onboard since we could ask him questions about his research and how he ended up here. With Tuesday being his first day on the boat, we expected a day of figuring out logistics for his research equipment and less of looking for dolphins. However they were able to get everything together fairly quickly and we decided to give the dolphin spotting a try. Shortly after our search began, we had three dolphins swimming at us for some bow rides. We all hung out on the bow taking turns watching them play in the bow wave.
Before we knew it, three dolphins turned into over twenty coming to play and hang out by our boat. They seemed to be hanging out for a while and we figured we’d give a try and see if they’d stay with us in the water. Nat and I were able to gear up and jump in quick.
At first there was nothing. I popped my head up to look around and see if I could see what direction they swam away in- but then I heard the unmistakable sound of a blowhole exhale right next to me. I threw my face back in the water and realized I was surrounded. For forty-five minutes this group of dolphins came and played with the guests and let us all observe them. At one point I was alone swimming with a sub group of six. At another time most of the dolphins had left us, but Inka (#93) and Vee (#101) continued to stay by us and put on quite the show of playing pass with some sea grass. I was even able to free dive right next to Inka a few times and could feel her echo locating right at me. The rest of the group continued to weave in and out of swimming around us. It seemed that every time we lost them for a few minutes and were almost ready to head in, they’d come swimming right back at us.
Towards the end, I had begun following a young calf who seemed pretty interested in me. She circled me not even an arm’s length away maybe eight times. I must have looked pretty silly frantically spinning in the water trying to keep up with her. However I then heard my name being yelled at from aboard. Al could see a storm approaching and it was time to get out of the water and head in. We all climbed aboard with the biggest smiles on our faces (and possibly a few tears in my eyes). Kel looked over at Nat and me and began laughing, saying that that was why even if we weren’t expecting to get in the water that day- we should always bring our gear- just in case. The six of us talked about what an amazing experience that was before Nat rattled off a list of names of dolphins she was able to recognize: Romeo (#10), Split Jaw (#22), Lil’ Jess (#35), Swoosh (#36) and her calf, Niecey (#48) with her calf, Prince William (#64), Speedy (#78), Inka (#93), Vee (#101 – pictured here with Nat recording her behavior!), Sulfur (#102), un-named #110*, we think Paul (#99) and several un-catalogued but recognizable dolphins. And those are just the dolphins we recognized in real time! There is now a lot of photo-ID work ahead for DCP. None of us could keep a smile off our faces the entire boat ride in.
Dr. M was then kind enough to invite Nat and I to dinner with his students to celebrate the amazing day we had. We were thrilled to have an invite and ran home to quickly shower and get ready before meeting up with them. We ended up sitting at our table until the restaurant had literally closed down and everyone had left. It was so lovely talking to Dr. M about how he ended up in his field today and what further research he would like to do with the dolphins. Nat and I walked them back to the Sea Crest before hugging goodbye and Dr. M telling me one more time that I should stay “for the sake of the research” and not board my flight Wednesday (I was almost convinced).
While my internship was only a short 12 nights, it feels as if I have been here for a month. Never did I think that I would want to be working 10-hour days! I feel so lucky to have been able to come here and work under someone as amazing as Kel and for such a fascinating project as DCP. I also feel extremely lucky to have been able to work with and get to know Nat. It breaks my heart leaving Bimini and not knowing when exactly I will return, but I am so excited to be given the opportunity to continue working with DCP remotely this year.
Until next time Bimini.
Frankie (& Nat)
*Interested in being the one and only person who gives #110 her name? Click here to find out how!