17 June 2019

The Daily Dolphin: In the Eye of the Storm!

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The dark storm clouds surrounded us on either side, I could see the rain in the distance. The captain of Renegade stayed our course to the snorkel stop, hoping the weather would clear. We stopped at a location known as Bimini Road. The rocks were stacked on either side of a sand path making a highway for fish underwater. We all jumped in the water excited to explore this new area and be one with the fishes for a while. I happen to see one of my favorite fish among them, a French angelfish, one of the most elegant fishes under the surface. Nat and I also had some fun practicing our free diving (with no dolphins in sight) and being one with the school, a school of fish that is. After a good snorkel it was time to return to the vessel and resume our search for our daily dolphins.

The search continued even though nasty weather was upon us. We were searching for the dolphins for hours with no luck. The captain had to change course multiple times to try and out run the storm that seemed to be surrounding us. Miles upon miles of blue ocean was ahead of us with no dorsal fins or flukes breaking the surface. The storm by now unexpectedly caught up to the boat. It started to pour, and the waves grew in response to the roaring wind (but don’t worry – we were safe!). It didn’t look like the storm was going to clear up, but we continued the search. Luckily, we did, because it the far distance captain Kat saw some dorsal fins in the distance and turned Renegade sharply heading toward the dolphins. I eagerly climbed down the ladder and got all my gear on as quickly as I could in hopes of entering the water. We started our encounter with this massive group of 39 dolphins (Captain Al’s final count) all around us. I started to swim and saw the group of dolphins on the bottom exhibiting social behavior towards each other. By the time we swam to them, they swam off. So, the captain called the swimmers back to the boat, only to drop us off at another group of dolphins up ahead.

With my gear already on, I waited patiently for the signal to enter the water once again. This second encounter was my favorite as compared to the first one I witnessed. As soon as I entered the water, I heard loud clicks and buzzes. They seemed close, but I didn’t know how close. I looked down and to the right and to my surprise three dolphins were below me who seemed to be trying to join the big group up ahead. I just froze in awe; I froze in awe because I felt like any one movement could lead to unintentional interaction between me and the dolphin. I looked to my right and left, I was accompanied by the professors of Manhattan and Hunter Colleges on both sides. We were all trying to get video footage of the dolphins’ behavior. The group of three dolphins that I previously mentioned stopped up ahead and were hanging out in the waves. Meanwhile two juvenile dolphins were being playful and showing us tail slaps and jawing. The dolphins seemed to get away from us because we didn’t want to chase the dolphins up ahead. I thought the encounter was over and it was time to return to the boat. Suddenly, the dolphins up ahead came towards us. From the surface, they startled one of the swimmers in the water. We all looked down below to find the dolphins returned, even for a short period of time. After a rocky day at sea it was good to finally see some action. Over the course of these observations, we saw Split Jaw (#22), Tim (#069), Sulfur (#102), Weiloo (#110, pictured here - and we're fixing her adoption link soon!) and many others that we’ll need to ID from video and photos.

After Nat got in the water for another attempted encounter, Renegade was headed home to the island. The storm had cleared up quite a bit, but it was still drizzling on our way back. The trip back was a lot of fun because the boat was hitting some big waves. Today was a great day at sea, following the routine of having a perfect ending to rough starts. Ready for more adventures!

Cheers!

Taylor and Nat

Kelly Melillo Sweeting

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

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