Bahamas Summary … with a few other tidbits. Well, I must say thank you for all your patience in waiting for the summary of my field research in the Bahamas. This past month has been crazy busy but I finally have been able to review the slides and video taken while at sea.
We saw some familiar faces (dolphin faces, that is) and two or three new additions to the study population of Atlantic spotted dolphins. It was a joy to get re-acquainted with these dolphins after my time in Japan.
Dolphins, turtles, sharks and fish. We had 25 sightings this week – 13 of spotted dolphins, 5 just bottlenose dolphins and 2 with both species involved. We also had 4 turtle sightings and a few nurse sharks seen, and swum with! We spent 53 hours on effort/on watch looking for dolphins and about 85 minutes underwater with dolphins during 10 encounters and 10 short encounters. We even had a four minute swim with 7 bottlenose dolphins! They seem to be getting a bit less aloof with us up here on the banks.
The sunrise was colorful and the breeze slight. Yesterday afternoon brought us to anchor just north of Sandy Cay. About 14 feet deep and clear visibility with no current. We went in search of conch and lobster for supper. But also it was fun just to observe the critters underwater. We did see a 6 foot nurse shark pass by within 10 feet of two of us while snorkeling. This morning brought more snorkeling and glassy seas. Almost mirror like – it was amazing.
An increase in wind and sea conditions led to an early departure south. But everyone woke (or rather 'got out of bed') with a sunny attitude. And we had dolphins by the boat at about 8:00 AM. We were taken by surprise with having them so close to us. Literally about 2 meters from the stardboard side of the Hanky Panky. They turned out to be two mother/calf pairs. I recognized #42 and her calf but the other adult female will require photo-identification (i.e., matching of slides).
… but then some old friends seen again. We had a slow morning, with no dolphin seen from the big boat. We did two dinghy searches – one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The morning trek provided us with two spotted dolphins. They were not interested in us or in bow-riding. We had a bit of a chop and a slight swell most of the day but these and the wind decreased in the early afternoon. Dolphins were sighted in the distance, in one of the many layered blue color bands of sea.
We spent the holiday underwater … Our day dawned clear and bright. Guess the old saying is true. Today was an awesome day for dolphin sightings! We had 6 encounters! and 10 sightings – our last at 21:43 this evening when a group of 5 dolphins swam by our stern. No light and no way to watch for other critters so no night swimming. But we were in the water so much today, I still feel water-logged.
Little Wind, calm seas – yippee! Mostly green sea turtles coming up for air but one was a hawksbill. Way cool to see them gulping air at the surface. As is usual, we stopped at West End (now called Old Bahama Bay Marina) for diesel and lunch and then continued north. We stayed overnight on the dry bar. A location more protected from the swells of the Gulf Stream and where some of the dolphins hang out. Alas, the dolphins were elsewhere this afternoon. But we saw conch and lobster underwater and cooled off with a lengthy swim.
Can you believe we are into the 9th month of this first year of the new millenium! We had a bit of rain – just a drizzle today. Some of the passengers left for home and others will stay in the nearby hotel for a night. We may get together for dinner in Lucaya this evening and partake in some of the local entertainment. That is, dancing to lots of steel drums and enjoying a good Bahamian dinner. This week was low for ths number of sightings and encounters, likely because of the choppy seas.
Hanging on with both hands and watching the swells roll by. Doesn't it seem that my reports are more weather reports as opposed to dolphin reports? I guess that is the way of things when you are reliant on calm seas and light winds to actually conduct research. We left Sandy Cay a few hours early because the winds were still about 20 knots (FYI: 1.2mph = 1 knot) and we could see rolling white caps off in the distance. Exactly where we were headed.
We woke to calm seas … for a time. Our trip north encountered progressively increasing winds and seas. By the time we reached the northern most spot and had done a few searches east and west, we could not anchor nor could we safely enter or exit the water. It would seem that Father Neptune was a bit perturbed this week. That or we were experiencing the remnants of Hurricane/Tropical Storm Debby in the form of a weather wave.