A warm sunny day and the dolphins were ready to play
(Still images taken from video courtesy of John Anderson – Terramar Productions)
We had an afternoon trip today - conditions were outstanding. There was very little wind, hardly a cloud in the sky, and the sea was mostly calm (I am not sure it ever gets completely calm). Kathleen started out with the MVA for the first water entry, but after that it was up to me to try my hand at data collection! The dolphins made it easy for me – we saw 3 large groups with plenty of subgroups eager to check us out. On one occasion, two mother calf pairs swam by our little group without taking much notice. But a few seconds later one of the calves (probably a year or so old) swam back to take another look. After 15 seconds or so her mom came back to collect her and shoo her away from the curious split-fins. We also caught a fleeting glimpse of one of the tiny new calves gliding along the bottom with mom. Since I was using the MVA, Kathleen had the chance to swim with the dolphins without being saddled with video equipment. For the first time in many years she could swim with the dolphins just for fun. It was quite a sight!
Data collection here in Mikura is a bit different to Bimini. The boats are much smaller, which makes getting in and out of the water easier, but the whole operation runs at a much faster pace. Passengers (and researchers) need to be ready to get in and out of the boat in a flash, and having 6 or 7 water entries begins to wear you down. It can be difficult to keep track of the equipment, environmental and positional information, dolphin behavior and IDs as well as keeping an eye out for other passengers. There is a lot of information that needs to be recorded – Kathleen, with her 15 years of experience, makes it look easy - scribbling away furiously on her waterproof slate after each entry. It seems she knows the name of every rock around the island. I certainly have some big shoes to fill, but I will do my best!
We are hoping to get another boat ride tomorrow before Kathleen and John head back to Tokyo. After that, I will be out here on my own! So far so good – I am looking forward to more trips like today! -Justin