04 June 2019

Balloons & Spoons

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In the morning, we wrote our daily blog then had a morning break. The Three-Oh-Five Stooges headed to the acclaimed CJ’s….to wait 90 minutes for cheeseburgers. They observed tourist “Brad” being not so patient with the delay, but The Stooges stayed strong and were rewarded with their delicious burgers. They promised the CJ’s cook-extraordinaire that they had her back. Back in Room 305, our class topic was photo-ID. It was interesting how you can pick out a certain characteristics and find that dolphin again; it isn’t always something huge that sticks out, sometimes it’s a smaller spot pattern. We went over the age classes and it was cool to learn how to tell them apart (and then apply that knowledge in the field!).

We grabbed lunch (pasta salad, sandwiches, chips….super good) and then it was boat time! The boat departed an hour early so that we could snorkel at “3 Sisters” where we met the big sister up close. Just as we’d been told, the site was extravagant and incredible. The only issue was the mines of jellyfish on the journey from the boat to the rock; we fought them off, parting the jellyfish sea. Thankfully, these are only walnut jellies and don’t have a powerful sting. And, seeing them was actually really cool. There were coral, fish – the fish were different sizes, shapes, colors. We were good visitors to the sea and, per Kel’s instructions, we didn’t touch anything. The current tricked us and the swim back to boat was a challenge, but well worth it.

Back on the boat, we weren’t done with the water – it was a jumping festival off the bow of the boat. Then it was our dolphin search. The seas were crazy flat and at one point we thought a tourist boat was “poaching” “our” dolphins (just kidding a) we do not own the dolphins, so they aren’t really ours and b) the other boat was just snorkeling not raging killers – though, were they littering?) Soon, we could see other dolphins in the distance: Jesse shouted, “Dolphins off starboard! Oops, I mean, port!” There was a discarded Mylar balloon (grrrrr), but with Captain Al’s boat maneauvering, Nicole pulled it from the sea. The Stooges were sure they saw Split Jaw (#22) – but, hmmmm, we’ll have to see if they were right when we’re back in class*. We watched the dolphins from the boat and 30 minutes later, we were in the water! Today’s adventure included a lot of fecal matter. We swam right thought it (because, well, why not) and noticed that different individual’s feces were different consistencies and colors. Today, the dolphins were not as interactive with us, but there was so much to see. We also saw more mating and socio-sexual interactions. It was quick – we could often confirm that the inverted dolphin was male, but we could not confirm the sex of the horizontal dolphin. They were more vocal than previous encounters and it was amazing to hear their sounds. From the boat, we saw tail slaps, chuffing, rostrums out, spyhopping and big, repeated leaps. Toward the end of the day, we came upon more dolphins, including Romeo (#10), Swoosh (#36), Leslie (#80), Inka (#93) and calves – could Inka have been with her own calf??!! One of the calves was really small…but, no fetal folds.

Back at the marina, we watched at least three bull sharks, plus nurse sharks, scrounging for scraps at the fish cleaning stations. Then, it was dinner, camera downloads, a rowdy game of Spoons (go Ana & Cass!) and….a power outage. The generator kicked in (but not before we made use of the darkness to do some stargazing) and gave us enough time to finish our games and get ready for bed. Just after midnight, the city power returned and we snoozed….

Until tomorrow,

The Conch-erers (SHU 2019)

PS: While writing this blog, students went through the catalog and made the ID match – it was Stefran (#82) and her distinct dorsal they saw from the boat and under water! And remember, if you’d like to come experience Bimini, DCP and these amazing dolphins, reach out to Kel about the 11 – 16 August 2019 eco-tour!

Kelly Melillo Sweeting

Kel is DCP's Bimini Research Manager, and all around awesome scientist.

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