We woke to ~4 foot swells with many white caps … but the sun also greeted us! The seas and wind both picked up and were at odd angles to one another thus creating a chop similar to a vigorous washing machine. If the sea state and wave height increased a bit, then it would make it unsafe for anyone to exit the water for the boat. Getting in to swim would be no trouble, but tackling the swim step would be another story when the dolphins had moved on. We hauled anchor and headed south.
You'd think that the Bahamas would always be sunny! Monday came with drizzle and clouds but the wind had lessened considerably and the seas were calm. We had anchored off Sandy Cay last night and continued our norhterly course at 9:00 AM … a nice trip actually and the clouds kept us comfortable. We saw another group of bottlenose dolphins – two of the same from yesterday with the scarred dorsal fin and the half pectoral fin. We all recognized them. We also saw a group of spotted dolphins mid-afternoon.
Lots of Squalls … but also one dolphin sighting. An intense flash of light followed by a loud crack of thunder woke me at 5:00 AM while we were still at port. The clouds were thick and covered the entire sky. In fact, this was the first morning that we were note greeted by the sun. It is a bit odd not to see the sun bright and early in the Bahamas … but rain does visit, however rarely.
Hurricane Debby now a tropical storm – whew! We had a day in port – the wind was blocked a bit by the trees and it was hard to believe that we would have a storm approaching. The morning was spent sharing the details of my array with the passengers and teaching them how to use my MVA in the pool. We practiced on each other … that is, we posed as dolphins for everyone. It was neat to see how everyone handled my array and how they swam with it.
Hurricane Debby has caused us to return to port early. We woke to news that Hurricane Debby might be heading our way. So, after lunch we hauled anchor and began our trip south. On our way, we stopped at the Sugar Wreck – remember the barge carrying sugar and molasses that sank in the 1920's? This time we saw a nurse shark and a large (1 meter across) green turtle. It swam around several of the people for about 30 minutes. We also saw many fish and …
We spend much time underwater observing. The 15 minutes was followed by a second 2.5 minutes with the same group of 6 dolphins. This third encounter was very special to me … At first we saw two two-toned, class 2 calves. They were playful and mimicked out behaviour and swimming. They circled us and head scanned and clicked at us. The young seem most curious about our 'split-fins.' Then, the calves' moms swam into view. I recognized Hook (#78) immediately. She has a distinct notch just below the top of her dorsal fin on the trailing edge.
Not much interest in us – but another new calf seen and several large groups. We had a slow morning – only one sighting of a single bottlenose dolphin seen by Pepe and me at about 6:30 AM. I love mornings and routinely watch the sun rise out here on the water. The seas were a bit more choppy this morning. We did a dinghy search and found a couple of groups of spotted dolphins. They were more interested in bow-riding the boat rather than swimming with us.
King Neptune blessed our trip north with flat calm seas. Today was the first day at sea for our second trip out here. We had a sea state of zero or one. Amazingly calm with little wind at all. Our visibility was great and allowed us to observe at least 5 turtles breathing. The most common species observed here is the hawksbill. We stopped at the marina in West End to fuel up and have lunch and then continued north. Just after anchoring we saw a group of dolphins but they were not too interested in us.
Waiting and enjoying the heat and humidity Well, we are set and ready to go. The passengers should be here any time and we will leave port tomorrow morning. There are a few tropical storms on the horizon but all still looks okay. We had some amazing lightning displays yesterday afternoon. I also wanted to share with many of you a bit of information I received from a colleague still on Mikura Island in Japan studying the dolphins.
Underwater viewing … Passengers left this morning and we will spend this afternoon and tomorrow morning readying the boat for the next group – cleaning the boat inside and out as well as prepping my research gear and reviewing data forms. So, I thought I'd take this message to share with you a bit about dolphin ages. Spotted dolphins are born without spots and as they age they acquire spots and continue to gain pigmentation throughout their lives.