Kelly Melillo Sweeting

Kelly Melillo Sweeting

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

Well, came up with some bottlenose
20 February 2019

Well, came up with some bottlenose

On Saturday, things finally lined up: boats were in order, captain was free and the seas were calm. We headed out in search of “Lamda” (DCP ID#104). Lamda grew up around Bimini, but stranded far from home in late Aug 2018; he was rescued, rehabilitated and released with a satellite tag (read all about it here and here). But, the satellite data was weak for the last several days; the few points that were coming in were really bad quality, which means they didn’t provide reliable information about Lamda’s location. Still, with email access sorted on my phone, we headed out.

Turns out the weather was fantastic. But, no satellite data came in. So, we searched as we normally do (Lamda is the first dolphin in this area to be tagged). We came up empty….at least for spotteds, anyway. We did see a group of about five bottlenose dolphins, but neither Lamda nor any spotted dolphins were nearby.

Turns out, Lamda’s tag is probably done transmitting. It lasted 108 days! That isn’t breaking any records for battery life, but it did pretty good and gave us information on this dolphin’s movement that we never had access to before. So, while we wait for the regular Bimini field season to resume in April, when we can look for Lamda as we look for all the dolphins, I extend a huge thank you and congratulations to the team: Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organisation, Wild Dolphin Project, Atlantis Bahamas, Sarasota Dolphin Research Program, Al Sweeting Jr and the Bahamas Department of Marine Resources. Cheers!

Until next time,

Kel

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Want to be a DCP Intern?
20 February 2019

Want to be a DCP Intern?

We're now accepting applications!

There isn't much time - the deadline is 1 March. Click here to read all about our summer internship program. Office and field portions are required. Office portion is completed in Port Saint Lucie, FL, USA and field portion is completed in Bimini, The Bahamas. Interns must be proficient with Microsoft Word and Excel, have a strong attention to detail, be able to work well both independently and in small teams, be flexible and be comfortable in hot weather, on a boat and swimming in open water. Proficiency in English is a requirement.

We understand that letters of recommendation often take time to acquire. If you need more time for your letter(s) of recommendation, please request an extension along with your otherwise complete application packet. An extension until 8 March may be given to qualified applicants.

Questions? Email us at info {at} dcpmail {dot} org.

Click here for position and application details.

Can’t commit to the whole summer? Sign up for our Bimini eco-tour! It’s an awesome way to get an intro to DCP and see what field work is like. Plus, you’ll have a great time. Here’s the link for those details.

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Back in the classrooms!
20 February 2019

Back in the classrooms!

On Tuesday, I had a chance to get back into a few Bimini classrooms. This time, I was joined by my friend, Jillian Morris, Founder and President of Sharks4Kids. We visited students in Grades 2, 3 and 4. We chatted about the importance of the ocean, compared (& contrasted!) dolphins and sharks, and we all agreed that Jillian and I can in fact be friends, even though she studies sharks and I study dolphins. In fact, the students even decided that one person can like both! After all, sharks aren’t the bad guys of the sea and dolphins are pretty tough and cool too.

Thank you to the teachers and principal of Bimini Primary - and of course, the students! I am already looking forward to my next visit – and future collaborations with Ms. Jillian and Sharks4Kids!

Until next time,

Kel

PS: Interested in joining us at our Bimini, The Bahamas field site? We still have spaces available for our 30 June – 5 July eco-tour! Click here for more info and get your deposit in now!

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Data, Dolphins, Discussions, and Fiesta!
20 February 2019

Data, Dolphins, Discussions, and Fiesta!

Data, data and more data! Our paradigm shifted just a bit this morning. We still met at 6:15 AM to go observe the dolphins at Bailey’s Key and collect data with Kathleen but we also began our first session where we collected details about dolphin surface active behaviors as well as the behavior of any dolphins within 2 dolphin body lengths of Kathleen. The data sheets were a bit daunting but practice will make perfect! The day was sunny and bright and warm! Our data collection session was followed by a scrumptious breakfast after which, we reviewed the data we collected and discussed one of the scientific papers we had to read. The paper was about tooth rake marks that are an indirect indicator of aggression in dolphins. After observing the dolphins here at RIMS in person, we’d be more inclined to believe the rake marks are just as much an indication of play interactions as aggression.

We had some free time from just before lunch until about 3 PM to work on our portfolios, read remaining PDFs for future discussion, and enjoy the tropical flare! A few of us snorkeled, kayaked, or just meandered through Anthony’s Key to observe the other animals (birds, anoles, iguanas, eels, and more). 

We met in the RIMS classroom to review video and watch a few sample videos from Kathleen that depicted aggressive and playful actions by dolphins. Our afternoon wrapped up with a talk on sea turtle conservation by Jennifer, Education Director at AKR, RIMS. We learned several neat things we’d not known before about sea turtles. We were especially interested in the Arribada in Costa Rica. 

And, this evening is the fiesta celebration: a buffet dinner that included ribs, corn and exceptionally good brownies (among other culinary delights, though still no mac ‘n cheese!). We participated in the hermit crab races, tried our flexibility at limbo and enjoyed watching the Garifuna dancers. All in all, today was a very good day! We’ll be ready tomorrow by 6:15 for more data collection! It’s hard to believe we only have 2 days left!

Cheers

The URI Rams!

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Finding #104
20 February 2019

Finding #104

On Monday, I was able to head out with Captain Al to once again search for DCP ID#104 (aka, Lamda by Wild Dolphin Project). With support from The Bahamas Marine Mammal Stranding Network (lead by Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organisation and supported by Atlantis Bahamas) and tracking from the team at Sarasota Dolphin Research Program, we were happy to finally be searching in good sea conditions (Click here to read about #104’s story and here for our first search attempts). We had #104’s morning locations and since we were hyper-focused on laying eyes on this guy, we had to cruise right past a group of bottlenose dolphins early in the search. I can’t help but mentally apologize when we ignore them!

At 10:47 we were about a mile from #104’s last known location and there! I spotted them. Well, it seemed like bottlenose again, but this time, we were sticking around. Soon, we saw a large (~20) group of Atlantic spotted dolphins – a busy mixed age group (including Romeo (#10), Lil’ Jess (#35) and Sulfur (#102). I scoured the surface for #104’s tagged dorsal fin. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. After 15 minutes, bottlenose cruised through. And one minute later: #104! I had convinced myself that I might not be sure I was seeing the tag, that I’d have to really concentrate in order to not miss it. Ha! As soon as he surfaced next to the boat, it was clear. He was there and he seemed fine.

First order of business was to get a photo of the tag so we could assess how well it was still attached (see photo). Next up, what is he doing? He was right there in the mix with this large, mixed species group, but he was simultaneously a bit on his own. Sometimes on the outskirts of the group, he didn’t seem paired up with any of the other dolphins. We never saw him make physical contact with another dolphin (like, for example, rubbing pectoral fins) or surface in synchrony with another; and though he was often closer to the bottlenose, there were no obvious socio-sexual interactions there either.

Then, the icing: could I get a glimpse of him under water? See his whole body? I hoped in and there he was, slowly cruising….away from me. He didn’t turn to interact with me, but at least I saw that he looked robust and had no new external injuries. Once he was gone, I stuck with five juveniles, including Sulfur (DCP#102) and un-named #111 (I’ll ID more once I review the video), hoping #104 might come back. He didn’t, so I hopped back onboard.

We were able to find #104 again. This time, I had to skip what seemed like an awesome chance to get in close to him because of passing boat (why do I have to share the ocean? :-). When we were lined up again, I slid in – and he stayed! He looked great. If I hadn’t known his history or the reason behind the tag, I would have thought he was just like any other wild Atlantic spotted dolphin in this area. He didn’t give me much time, just two good, albeit quiet, passes and I was psyched! Of course, all things have their downsides: camera fogged! Ugh! I’ll need to look into this; my best guess is that it has to do with the cold water. I’ve only ever used this rig in Bimini’s warm, summer water, so I’ll need to do some querying before the next go. Nonetheless, I’m thrilled to be able to report to you and the rest of the Lamda team that he’s alive and well.

Hopefully his relationships are still strong; though he seemed a bit like a loner within the group, he was most definitely in a group and was not – that I saw – the target of any aggression. Cheers, #104!

Until next time

Kel

PS: Curious about our research off Bimini? Join our 2019 eco-tour: 30 June – 5 July and you can help us look for #104 too!

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December Dolphins
20 February 2019

December Dolphins

On Wednesday, I joined – in a somewhat unofficial capacity – a dolphin trip with Neal Watson’s Bimini SCUBA Center. As this is the off-season for dolphin trips, opportunities limited to search for DCP ID#104 (WDP’s “Lamda”), the Atlantic spotted dolphin who stranded in August, was rehab’d and then released in late October. I filled the guests in on #104 and my hope of the day…

Soon, there were dolphins! No #104, but it was a large group of bottlenose dolphins. They seemed to be crater feeding, so I grabbed the surface camera while the boat crew positioned the boat for the guests to enter the water. The dolphin group then split up, with some dolphins heading north. Right around the same time, I wondered if I saw a tiger shark swim past the boat….Hmmmm…We stuck with the three feeding dolphins and the guests were not disappointed! And I have plenty of photos to sort and match to our photo-ID catalog.

Once the dolphins and the people had their fill, we continued north for a quick search for #104. Soon, I was sure I saw a shark! Was it a tiger? That I can’t be sure of, but it was hearty and it wasn’t a nurse shark. We didn’t make it too far before the crew decided seas were too rough to keep searching; better to head back while the guests were all still glowing from their crater feeding observations!

Though I am wishing we could have laid eyes on #104, I was happy to be out searching. And, pleased to chat with the boat crew who did see him on Sunday. They described that he wasn’t clearly “with” other dolphins, but appeared in good shape and was eager to ride the bow of the boat. So, this description will just have to tide me over until I can see him myself!

Ongoing thanks goes to the Chicago Zoological Society team who continues to update us daily on #104’s movements and Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organization for coordinating funding for the searches.

Until next time,

Kel

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Searching for #104
20 February 2019

Searching for #104

October is normally a very quiet month for DCP on Bimini. Research summary reports are drafted. Permit applications are prepped. Data are attempted to stay organized…This October brought a spike in activity. As you likely saw on social media and in our latest issue of The Dolphin Gazette, DCP ID#104 (also WDP’s ID “Lamda”), was found stranded in late August, far from Bimini. The report came into BMMRO and they called upon the rescue team from Atlantis. They assessed his condition and got him back in the water and off he went. But not for long. He soon re-stranded; so the rescue team flew him to their rehab facility where was carefully monitored, medicated, fed and tested. The outlook was grim.

But #104, nicknamed “M&M” (Modern Miracle), rebounded! He put on weight. His tests came back normal. He got feisty! Soon, conference calls were happening, planning his release. Where would we do it? How would we do it? Would he get a tag? Who would handle permits with Bahamas Department of Marine Resources? All the ducks lined up and he was flown – by sea plane no less – to Bimini, then transferred to a boat which took him close to the area where we’d previously observed him. He zipped and zoomed and though he didn’t swim anywhere near where we thought he’d go, he was on the move and sticking to the Great Bahama Bank.

Everyone involved was thrilled when #104 started making his way back to Bimini. We watched the daily satellite tracking data from Mote Marine Lab and hoped he’d not only return to Bimini, but stick around once he did. Well, he’s finally back. And it was time to try to lay eyes on him.

So, on Saturday and Sunday, Al and I headed in search of #104. We looked in the areas where his tag had reported him in the few hours prior. On Saturday – with rough seas and overcast skies – we had no luck. A few bottlenose dolphins cruised past, but no sign of spotteds. On Sunday – with rougher seas but sunny skies – we saw more bottlenose. And 14 – 16 different Atlantic spotted dolphins. But, none of them was #104. I didn’t focus on individual IDs (which would have been difficult in the waves), but rather aimed to get a good view (& ideally, photo) of the base of every dorsal fin. No tags.

I came back to the dock pretty disappointed that I wasn’t able to confirm #104’s well-being. How did his body look? How was his behavior? Was he alone or with a group? If a group, was it the same individuals he’d been seen associating with over the summer? But, we know he’s out there. And we know other spotteds are too. So, I’ll go back to hoping he’s doing well and waiting for the next chance to search for him.

A huge thank you to Dr. Randy Wells for providing location data during each search and to Dr. Diane Claridge for helping me stay in touch and get those data while at sea. And to Al for donating his time for the search!

Stay tuned for more updates – I hope! – on this guy!

Until next time,

Kel

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Notecards for you, for free!
20 February 2019

Notecards for you, for free!

Ho, ho, ho, holiday bonus! For every hard copy adoption kit, $35+ donation or $7.50+/month sustaining membership received between now & Dec 15th, you'll receive a bonus pack of six marine life notecards!

This bonus is added to your order automatically – you won’t see anything in your cart.

And fear not – your financial support still comes straight to DCP. These notecards have been graciously donated to DCP by a DCP board member!

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Fall Issue of The Dolphin Gazette!
20 February 2019

Fall Issue of The Dolphin Gazette!

Time to get reading!

Whether you need a mid-day or late-night break, The Dolphin Gazette is a great to get your DCP updates. Be inspired by Kathleen's eco-tour summary, excited by Kel's Bimini update (including the release of a rehab'd Bimini spotted dolphin!), proud of DCP becoming a Conservation Partner with REEF....and grab your t-shirt before they're gone or sign-up for a Bimini Eco-Tour or RIMS program today!

Click here to download your copy now. Happy Reading!

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Weeeeeeeee!
20 February 2019

Weeeeeeeee!

Yay for October dolphin trips! I don't get a chance to in search of dolphins very often post-September, but on Friday and Saturday, I was able to join a visiting film crew. Though I knew I would be unlikely to collect any video, acoustic or photographic data, I was still eager to search for the dolphins and share info with the visitors. On Friday, the seas made us work for every step on the boat and we only saw a few passing bottlenose dolphins. Still, the film crew was able to get some productive shots and we said goodnight eager for what tomorrow would bring…

Saturday began with a cruise along the shoreline and a break for an interview. Then, the serious searching began. We had to wait a bit, but around 1540, the large splashes in the distance could not be denied. Dolphins were jumping. And it was a lot of them. We got closer and saw the Atlantic spotted dolphins were scattered and feeding. We assessed, careful not to interrupt their meal, and then entered the water. Though I hate missing out on data, it was, dare I say….really fun to be in the water without a camera! It’s so rare for me. There was a lot going on with the crew and their goals, but I was able to see Tina (#14) and her busy-body older calf, Juliette (#12), another older adult and several juveniles. During the second water entry, which included just Tina’s calf and 2 juveniles, there was a large school of ocean tally (aka ocean triggerfish) mid-water column. The dolphins occasionally gave them a bit of attention, but mostly they just floated around. What an unusual site!

We slowly cruised home, and nearer to the island we saw more leaping dolphins. It appeared to be a mix of bottlenose and spotted dolphins; one adult spotted came for a quick bow ride before zipping off in pursuit of a fast fish. We continued on our way, finishing the day with an absolutely beautiful sunset (again).

Thanks so much to this visiting crew and to Bimini Adventures for once again supporting DCP and our efforts.

Until next time,

Kel

PS: Intrigued by our research off Bimini and the dolphins themselves? Come check it out for yourself! We are now recruiting for our 30 June – 5 July 2019 eco-tour. Spend 5 nights with us on little Bimini, learning about dolphins, searching for dolphins, swimming with dolphins…and, supporting our research! Click here to learn more and email us now at info[at]dcpmail[dot]org to reserve your spot!

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Bimini Field Course Recruiting Season!
20 February 2019

Bimini Field Course Recruiting Season!

The off-season means a lot of things: data, writing, resting. But, it also means recruiting for our Bimini field courses! We’re excited to have three courses lined up for Spring/Summer 2019. University of New Brunswick Saint John is already full. Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) and Sacred Heart University (SHU) are now accepting applications. Contact us at info [at] dcpmail [dot] org for more info, or go ahead and contact the Professors/Schools directly!

EKU: Field dates 12 – 24 May 2019. In-person class sessions during Spring 2019 semester followed by 12 nights in Bimini, The Bahamas. Click here for more info.

SHU: Field dates 31 May – 6 June 2019. On-line component prior to field session means this is a great course for non-SHU students (though all students must sign up through SHU). Click here for more info.

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New partnership: Wanderer Bracelets!
20 February 2019

New partnership: Wanderer Bracelets!

Wanderer Bracelets, based in Florida, creates a reliable source of income for incredibly talented Balinese. Each bracelet serves as reminders to embrace what you value most - the people and the places you encounter on the path of life.

Now, Wanderer has teamed up with DCP for their dolphin bracelet: 10% of sales are donated to DCP. Get yours today!

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Introducing…..Poppy McVie!
20 February 2019

Introducing…..Poppy McVie!

Poppy McVie (DCP ID#112) is a juvenile, female Atlantic spotted dolphin. We've been observing Poppy off Bimini, The Bahamas since 2015 as she swims along with friends like Paul (#99), Tina (#14), and Lil' Jess (#35). She has just received her name from DCP supporter Kimberli A. Bindschatel in honor of her literary character, Poppy McVie. You can be among the first to adopt Poppy - click here!

And, check out Kimberli’s upcoming book, Operation Dolphin Spirit: A Poppy McVie Adventure, inspired by the dolphins of Bimini!

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Dolphin Gazette 22.3
20 February 2019

Dolphin Gazette 22.3

Download your copy today!
This issue is filled - and we mean filled - with updates from the field: Bimini, Roatan and the Amazon! We've got a lot of data processing ahead of us! Also check out news from Wanderer Bracelets and meet our newest Adopt-A-Wild-Dolphin, Poppy McVie!

Thanks for reading - and sharing!

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A Bottlenose Farewell
20 February 2019

A Bottlenose Farewell

Shortly after breakfast on Thursday morning, Kel and the DCP guests met for a discussion on ecotourism. Kel was able to share the voluntary Code of Conduct that Bimini Adventures, Captain Al’s ecotour company, and the other consistent dolphin ecotour group operating out of Bimini agreed upon to define the appropriate way of observing the dolphins around Bimini. (Click here to see the guidelines yourself.) Generally, the document describes when it is appropriate to observe dolphins, it defines resting and foraging behavior (which are the times it is always inappropriate to follow the dolphins) and provides the best practices for driving boats and swimming with the dolphins (e.g. drive slowly, no sharp turns; do not touch, feed, or chase). The conversation with the guests also delved into the importance of hiring local people as much as possible and trying to minimize any impact on the environment while on vacation. It was a great discussion and it was nice to hear everyone’s opinions, especially given the diverse backgrounds of the guests.

In the afternoon, after our last lovely lunch of the week, we departed the dock at 1400 with every intention of first stopping to snorkel at Bimini Road before searching for dolphins. Those clever dolphins had other plans for us, though! Less than 15 minutes into our journey, we came across a large group of foraging bottlenose dolphins. Crater-feeding is the one foraging behavior we are able to observe off Bimini, and over the years DCP has not detected any behavior indicating that our presence disturbs the bottlenose when they are feeding in this manner. This group was very cooperative, permitting Kel and the guests to observe them underwater, as well as surfacing plenty of times for Nicole to collect surface photos. Upon returning to the boat, the guests were marveling at the crater-feeding foraging technique the dolphins were using. They really dig into the sand with their rostra, which must mean the treats their fishing out are yummy because the sand here is rough!

Eventually, it was time to leave the dolphins to their feeding, so we resumed our course to Bimini Road. As we approached, however, Captain Kat noticed that a squall to the East was approaching and might cross right over our planned snorkeling destination. To avoid it, we instead searched for dolphins for a while, allowing the squall to move off. We did eventually end up back at Bimini Road and the guests were able to enjoy seeing many different species of fish and invertebrates, including lots of sergeant majors, stoplight parrot fish, and angelfishes!

Once everyone was satisfied with their observations and back on the boat, we set off to look for dolphins once again. Though the squall never actually reached us, it left lots of wind which made the ride a bit bumpy. We had no luck finding spotted dolphins in the “usual” areas, but as we headed back towards home, Captain Kat made sure to pass through the area where we had seen the bottlenose earlier in the afternoon. Sure enough, they were still there! While we didn’t see as many of them as the first time, the ones we saw were definitely some of the same individuals. They must have found a really “juicy” spot for foraging! We snapped some more surface photos of this group and then continued toward the harbor. The bottlenose “waved” us off with their flukes—a wonderful end to a great week for our guests. And a nice way of ending the DCP Bimini field season. We’re already looking forward to sharing with you our adventures with the Bimini dolphins again next year!

Until next time,

Nicole & Kel

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Lots of Wind and Cruising Dolphins
20 February 2019

Lots of Wind and Cruising Dolphins

After breakfast on Wednesday morning, Kel, Nicole, and the DCP guests headed to Radio Beach to collect garbage and recycling. It was a lovely day, but we were fortunate that the clouds gave us a break from the blazing sun while everyone worked hard to pick up as much trash as they could. If it had been a bit cooler, we would have kept working all morning! But as you can see in the photo above, we were very effective in under an hour. Once we had rinsed the sand off and had some water, we re-grouped for Kel’s presentation and discussion about photo-identification and the dolphins of Bimini.

The boat departed from the Sea Crest Marina at 1500, just after the wind had picked up. The morning had been so calm we were hoping we’d have a smooth ride all day, but squalls to the West created quite a blustery afternoon. The waves and wind didn’t prevent us from finding a group of spotted dolphins early into the trip, though! Captain Al spotted a group of what turned out to be eight dolphins, including Niecey (#48), Sulphur (#102), un-named #107, and possibly Cerra (#38). The dolphins were riding the swells and waves and seemed to be quite social. After about 30 minutes of surface observations, we tried a couple of underwater encounters. Though the surf-play was slower than previous days, the dolphins weren’t really staying in the same spot, so the swimmers only had brief views of a couple of young dolphins as they cruised by. We continued observing a lingering group of three young dolphins, still including Sulphur and possibly newly-named #110 (stayed next month to learn her name!). The juveniles were riding the waves and then the bow, giving the guests a great show.

Over an hour after finding this group, we finally lost sight of the remaining dolphins and continued on our way. Soon, Captain Al saw more dolphins leaping in the distance! As we approached the spot, we were surprised by a group of 10 dolphins from the East. From the bow, Kel recognized Inka (#93) and Vee (#101). Strangely, we only saw these dolphins for just over five minutes before we lost sight of them abruptly. It’s possible they were engaged in social behavior below the surface as we moved off from them. At any rate, we continued our search, but to no avail. By the time we were close to the island again, the wind had calmed significantly, but that didn’t help us spot any more dolphins on our way back to the harbor.

Back at the dock, everyone was pleased and smiling about the dolphin adventure of the day. A great dinner and long conversation later, we all headed to bed to re-energize for the group’s last day on the island. We can’t wait to make the most of it!

Until then,

Nicole & Kel

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Intricate Mangroves and Lots of Dolphins!
20 February 2019

Intricate Mangroves and Lots of Dolphins!

Tuesday morning also began nice and early—our guests want to make the most of the days they have here on Bimini! A bit later in the morning, a small group set off with Mr. “Bonefish” Ebbie to explore the Healing Hole. On East Bimini, the area made up of mangroves, there are elaborate creeks and tunnels naturally formed in the forest. On the outgoing tide, cold water flows out of these creeks and brings with it lots of minerals, which some people believe to have healing powers. Whatever you believe, this adventure into the mangroves was beautiful, and an amazing side of Bimini that visitors rarely see. And on our way back to the dock, we saw lots of Southern stingrays, lemon sharks and nurse sharks, reminding us of the importance of the mangroves which serve as nurseries for many species.

After a lovely lunch, we set off on the boat at 1500. Less than an hour into our search, we saw dolphins leaping a bit to the North! As we approached, the dolphins came towards the boat and we were able to see that they were Atlantic spotted dolphins—a group of three including Inka (#93) and Vee (#101), along with another juvenile that Kel and Nicole didn’t recognize from the boat. These dolphins were riding the waves, but relatively more slowly than groups we’ve seen earlier in the week. They seemed like they might stick around with human swimmers, so we decided to try underwater observations. Just as we were about to put people in the water, everything was suddenly a bit chaotic. The wind picked up, another pair of spotted dolphins joined the original three (including one adult that Kel recognized from previous trips, but that isn’t in the DCP catalog, and possibly Milo (#96)), another dolphin-swim vessel was getting close to the North, and the dolphins started picking up speed. All of these things combined meant that our guests were only able to have a brief view before the dolphins moved off.

Once everyone was on the boat, we located the original three once more. The other dolphin-swim vessel was off looking for another group of dolphins, and they quickly found a group of eight to the North. As we continued following the three, including Vee and Inka who were both playing with sargassum, we realized that this group was likely going to join the other eight. We didn’t want to overwhelm the dolphins or the humans, so we moved off to observe from afar. After about half an hour, as we were starting to search for more dolphins, the other vessel decided to head back to the harbor. They kindly let us know that the big group of 11 was heading our way, so we kept our heads up and looking in that direction. Sure enough, there were suddenly lots of dolphins around, including SplitJaw (#22), Inka (#93), Swoosh (#36), Tim (#69), and possibly Prince William (#64) and Milo (#96)! We attempted a few underwater observations of this group, but the dolphins had another agenda—they were riding the waves, socializing, and playing, much too quickly for the humans to keep up. We decided to leave them to it and started making our way back to the harbor. Two young dolphins joined us on the bow, but we soon lost sight of the whole group.

Just 20 minutes later, we were surprised by a couple of young spotteds leaping towards us from the West! It was getting quite late, so the Captains asked that we try an underwater observation right away, instead of collecting data from the boat for too long—for everyone’s safety, we want to be sure we make it back to the dock before it gets dark. And good thing we heeded their request—this was the longest encounter of the day! The group of 11 included Romeo (#10) with her calf, Lil’ Jess (#35), Stefran (#82) with her calf, un-named #75, and Kel thinks she spotted Cerra (#38). These dolphins were very curious about the humans at first, following the free-divers down (and bumping Nicole in the head on her way back to the surface!) After investigating us for a minute or two, they continued with their interactions, swimming at a relatively slow pace so we were able to collect lots of photos and video! When we piled back on the boat, everyone had huge smiles and lots to share!

We made it back to the dock rather later than usual, but as happy as ever. Another delicious dinner was accompanied by animated conversation, about the day’s events as well as many other subjects. With two days left, we can’t wait to see what new adventures await!

Until tomorrow,

Kel & Nicole

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Less wind, more dolphins!
20 February 2019

Less wind, more dolphins!

The group started with breakfast nice and early on Monday, so a couple of people would be able to go for a morning dive. The rest of us chatted for a bit before the first session of the day, an introduction to DCP and the research we do. Nicole presented the slideshow describing DCP’s origins, our field sites, the dolphins studied here off Bimini, and our research methods. The guests had some really interesting questions. Kel and Nicole had a great time sharing their knowledge with the group.

After lunch, the boat departed a bit earlier, at 1400, because we would be stopping for a bit of snorkeling before our search for dolphins. The dolphins clearly didn’t know our plans, though—only a few minutes into our trip we came across a group of foraging bottlenose dolphins! This group of at least five was surfacing pretty regularly so we were able to get lots of surface photos, but they were spread pretty far apart, so we decided not to try underwater observations. Instead, we headed to Three Sister Rocks for our snorkel stop.

The true search for dolphins started as we left Three Sisters…and continued….and continued…for two hours! Fortunately, the wind was much calmer than yesterday, making the survey much more enjoyable. Finally, we came across a group of 22 Atlantic spotted dolphins! From the boat we were able to identify Romeo (#10) with her calf, Tina (#14) with her calf, Lil’ Jess (#35) who we only saw briefly, and Stefran (#82). This group was splitting apart and coming together, riding the waves and socializing. The captains thought we might give an encounter a try and after one failed attempt (the dolphins are just so unpredictable) we were able to observe Tina with three juveniles. They followed Kel for a bit so DCP was able to collect some good video data of their interactions. Eventually, they swam off more quickly than we could keep up, so we got back on the boat. A few minutes later, we caught up to a larger group and tried another encounter. This time we saw Tina again, but we also identified Niecey (#48) and un-named #75 and #114. Hopefully we will be able to identify more of the group once we review stills and video.

As it was still relatively early, we kept our eyes peeled for more dolphins on our way home, and we were not disappointed! We came across another group of foraging bottlenose dolphins—possibly even some of the same individuals from earlier in the day (we’ll have to check our surface photos!) This time, they appeared to be a bit more cohesive, surfacing in a group and spending some time at the surface, so Kel got in the water to test it out. The dolphins appeared to return to about the same spot, so a few guests joined Kel for an encounter. They did get a pretty good view of the group of bottlenose as they came up for a breath. After a few minutes of observations, everyone was back on board and we were heading back to the dock.

After dinner and some more captivating conversation, most everyone headed to bed early. Tomorrow is another adventure-packed day, so we need to get some rest in order to be ready for whatever comes our way.

Until next time,

Kel & Nicole

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A Wonderful Welcome
20 February 2019

A Wonderful Welcome

Sunday morning was a busy one for everybody. DCP was preparing to welcome the guests for their first day on Bimini, the guests were dealing with the airlines and ferries, the Sea Crest staff was hard at work getting the hotel ready for everyone. The majority of the group was on-island and ready for our first meeting at noon, when DCP made introductions and gave everyone the “house-keeping” chat. As the last few guests made their way to the hotel from their various modes of transportation, we all shared a lovely lunch and continued getting to know each other. This is a very diverse international group, with people traveling from Colorado, Illinois, Hawaii, Virginia, Switzerland, the UK, and Turkey! Everyone was already getting along splendidly, only five minutes after meeting. It’s going to be a wonderful week!

At 1445 the group was all on the dock, ready to have their boat introduction and begin their first dolphin trip at 1500. As it was day one, this trip began with a gear check, which was also a nice excuse for everyone to enjoy the beautiful Bahamian waters. Shortly after getting back on the boat, we spotted a small group of bottlenose dolphins. This group of three was pretty elusive, diving down and surfacing only periodically. Kel snapped some surface photos so we can try to identify the individuals back at the office, and then we continued on our search. We searched and searched, and the waves got bigger the farther we went. We were really rocking when we finally found more dolphins. Actually, the dolphins really found us. The crew all thought it was another group of bottlenose at first but those sneaky dolphins turned out to be three Atlantic spotted dolphins. They were all a little bit older and neither Kel nor Nicole recognized any from the DCP Bimini catalog, so we suspect they are the northern transplants. We watched the group as they surfed the waves and played with seaweed, and then the Captains suggested we give an encounter a try. We only saw the group briefly underwater, but Nicole was able to capture some still images that will hopefully help us figure out who the individuals were.

We lost sight of this group as everyone piled back on the boat, mostly because the waves made it very distracting—everyone was struggling to stand straight and stuff was rolling around. Luckily, things began to calm down as we made our way back toward the island. About 45 minutes after losing sight of the last group, we came across another small group of spotted dolphins. This time we definitely recognized someone—Romeo (#10) was there with a calf, along with another mother-calf pair. These dolphins were also riding the waves and covering a lot of area while doing so. The second mother had a pretty small calf and seemed to be keeping it a little farther from the boat, which is why we never really got a good look at the adult. Nevertheless, we attempted underwater observations, which resulted in a quick swim-by. Meanwhile, the crew on the boat was keeping an eye on another group of dolphins—as the swimmers got a glance at the spotted, a group of at least four bottlenose dolphins swam in front of the boat and soon disappeared.

With everyone onboard, we still had a little time to check for more dolphins on our way home. We didn’t find any, but everyone was quite pleased with what we had been able to observe. Back on land, we gathered for dinner and shared some wonderful and intriguing conversations on many subjects—just the start of what promises to be a fascinating week. Soon it was time for bed, and time to dream about what we might find tomorrow.

Until then,

Kel & Nicole

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Leaps and Bounds!
20 February 2019

Leaps and Bounds!

Thursday began with some office work and a bit of rain. As we were getting on the boat, the skies were covered in clouds, but by the time we reached the snorkel stop at Three Sister Rocks the sun had come out, revealing a beautiful day and impressive water clarity. The guests enjoyed seeing the differences between this snorkel stop and yesterday’s at Bimini Road. After about forty minutes soaking in the beauty, we began our dolphin search.

The water was nearly flat-calm with just a light breeze keeping us cool and creating gentle ripples. One would imagine it would be nearly impossible to miss any dolphins swimming past. It took nearly an hour, though, before Captain Audley spotted something far away. As we approached, Captain Audley and Nicole realized we were likely approaching foraging bottlenose dolphins. Sure enough, when we got to the (very deep) spot there was a group of at least eight bottlenose. They were so spread out and spent so much time underwater, it was really hard to be sure of a group count. The water was so clear that you could really see the dolphins as they scanned the sea floor—it was fascinating! Since the group was so spread out, we opted not to try underwater observations. Once Nicole had gotten some good surface photos, we headed back to our normal course to look for more.

In less than 20 minutes, we did find more! More bottlenose dolphins, that is. This group of at least five was also foraging, but they were covering less ground, so Captain Al thought we could give a swim a try. After advising us not to intrude on the dolphins’ foraging (no free-diving), Captain Al gave the all-clear for us to slide in. Crater feeding, the foraging technique we observe with bottlenose dolphins most often around Bimini, is fascinating to observe. Nicole was able to get some good underwater video that will hopefully be helpful to DCP’s current project investigating the details of this feeding method. About 20 minutes of good observations later, the dolphins swam a bit too far out of our view, so we decided to head back to the boat.

By this time it was getting late, so we began our return to the harbor. And it was lucky we did—we soon came across a group of spotted dolphins! As we approached, four spotteds zoomed over to swim in the bow wake. Leaning over the bow, Julie saw SplitJaw (#22) and Nicole recognized Prince William (#64)! Given the time, we let the dolphins ride the bow for a few minutes but then decided it would be best to try an encounter. Once underwater, we realized that it was actually eight spotted dolphins—along with SplitJaw and Prince William, Nicole saw Milo (#96) and Speedy (#78). There was also a mother-calf pair and a couple of adults who we will hopefully ID once we review the data. This group was great—they showed little interest in the humans but stuck close enough that we could observe their interactions. There was a lot of socio-sexual behavior, sometimes all directed at one individual. We also saw what looked like minor disputes—a little bit of pushing and jawing. It was a great encounter for the guests as well as for DCP data collection!

Eventually, the dolphins began swimming too quickly for us to keep up, so we climbed back on the boat and began excitedly sharing our experiences. Just as we were becoming complacent and settling in to our seats, we saw someone leaping high in the air! It was a group of spotted dolphins who appeared to be playing, leaping, and chasing fish. As we passed them, four juvenile dolphins, including Paul (#99), split off from chasing fish and joined us on our bow. They played in the pressure wave for a few minutes and then turned and made their way back to where they had started.

This was the last day for this group of Bimini Adventures guests. DCP is grateful for their enthusiasm and interest in the dolphins and our research. What a perfect last day for them, full of dolphin sightings and observations! Next week is DCP’s Eco-tour group—we can’t wait to meet everyone and have another great week of dolphin adventures!

Until next time,

Nicole & Kel

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From Seaplane to Boat
20 February 2019

From Seaplane to Boat

Wednesday morning started bright (dark?) and early at 2 am, for Nicole at least. In order to get to Bimini early in the day, her first flight was at 5:00! Three flights later, including a seaplane flight with an incredible view of a submarine (!), Nicole was on-island and ready to go out on the boat with Bimini Adventures’ current guests. This group is lovely and very sociable—they had no idea Nicole would be joining them, but they welcomed her onto the boat like an old friend.

The trip started with a snorkel stop at Bimini Road. The wind and water were quite calm, and it was quiet. The guests commented on how peaceful the reef there was, and how beautiful and colorful the corals were. After enjoying the tranquility for a little while, we began our search for dolphins. Less than ten minutes later the group leader spotted something far away. As we changed direction and approached it, we realized it was a spotted dolphin—#112, our recently-named juvenile female. Stay tuned next week to learn her name! She was very interested in bow riding, and the guests enjoyed watching her play. From the vantage point on the boat we noticed that #112 had a large remora on her side. Despite any discomfort from the fish, #112 kept riding the bow, spy-hopping, and playing with sargassum.

As we followed her, we scanned the water around us for more dolphins. It’s rather unusual for any spotted dolphins, particularly juveniles, to be alone for a long time. Sure enough, within about 20 minutes we found nine more spotted dolphins! It was a group of unfamiliar older adults, and #112 didn’t seem too interested in interacting with them, but she did stick around and continued swimming in the same direction as the group. At one point, Swoosh (#36) swam through this group with a calf and a juvenile in tow, but none of them stayed for very long. After observing #112 and the nine adults from the boat for some time, we decided to give an encounter a try. Unfortunately, it became very plain that this group had no interest in slowing down enough for the humans to keep up, so we piled back on the boat and continued our surface observations. #112 was really giving us a good show—she leapt hiiiigh into the air a few times (probably to dislodge the remora) and her leaps were beautiful! After a little more time with this group, we decided to move on to try to find dolphins who might be swimming a bit slower.

After an hour and a half of searching, we hadn’t seen any dolphins, but we did see a large loggerhead sea turtle! We were on our way back to the island and had started to think we might not be lucky enough to find more dolphins when Captain Audley kept squinting into the sun. He was sure he could see something in that direction, but kept talking himself out of it, saying it was just the waves. Finally, he gave into his gut feeling—and we were well-rewarded! Sure enough, it was a group of four spotted dolphins, including Stefran (#82) and her calf, plus two juveniles who looked familiar (but Nicole couldn’t ID them from the boat.) From the surface we could see that they were playing and chasing fish. They all road the bow wake for a little while, but it was getting late, so we decided to try underwater observations quickly. Again, they were moving too fast for our human swimmers, so we picked everyone up and continued on our way.

Our observations didn’t end after we stepped off the boat, though. Some fishermen were cleaning up their catches at the dock and had attracted a group of sharks—at least 5 bull sharks and 2 nurse sharks! We also saw some rays, lots of fish, and one fisherman said he saw a lemon shark.

With some wonderful observations of dolphins, turtles, coral reefs, and sharks, the group was ready for dinner and some live music at the Big Game restaurant. Everyone is excited to see what we will find tomorrow!

Until then,

Nicole & Kel

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What a great group – of humans and dolphins!
20 February 2019

What a great group – of humans and dolphins!

Tuesday began with getting organized: boat bag, data sheets, cameras, supplies for group talk…and mundane tasks like laundry. When you live at the file site full time, some parts of life are quite ordinary! At 1300 I was at the Sea Crest, surrounded by eager Bimini Adventures guests. As they ate their lunch, I gave them background on myself, DCP and the dolphins off Bimini. They asked absolutely fantastic questions and there was never a lull in conversation. These interactions truly are one of my favorite parts about leading DCP’s Bimini field site. Thank you, everyone!

At 1500, it was time to go in search of dolphins! The seas were calmer than the guests had on Sunday and there were no complaints about that. We searched along the coastline, but it wasn’t until we approached two hovering freighters that Captain Audley spied the dorsal fins. At least four bottlenose dolphins were scattered about. They didn’t form a close group, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t interacting under the surface. Though the situation didn’t seem conducive to underwater observations, the guests were ready for a swim break. So, with dolphins in the general area they geared up and hopped in. As they cooled off, they even had a dolphin check them out! Sadly, this dolphin had a pretty nasty, fresh injury on its back. Thankfully, the dolphins in this area heal very quickly – hopefully this one will be no exception!

We continued our search and it sure took a while! But, our efforts were rewarded as Captain Al spied a group of Atlantic spotted dolphins in the distance. It was a group of about 10; from the boat, I quickly spied Tina’s calf and assumed she was in the area. Because it was getting late, we didn’t waste any time getting in the water. Once I hopped in, I noticed about 8 juveniles, who seemed to be divided into two “teams” – a group of 3, including Paul (#99), and a group of 5. There were not many vocalizations that I could hear, but there was a lot of swimming around with open mouths. I wondered if this was the equivalent of a schoolyard scuffle…

As the juvenile group got farther away, I heard the boat crew calling, “Look down! Headed your way!” Sure enough Tina (#14) and her calf were sneaking up behind us. We ended up have a really nice observation of them as they took turns playing with a single, thin piece of seagrass. It’s always so funny to me when the dolphins choose to play with such small things. The humans all got some great looks at the mom & calf pair and back onboard the boat the chatter about the experience plentiful!

Today was just the day I needed to get even more excited about Nicole’s return tomorrow and leading DCP’s group next week. Weeeee!

Until next time,

Kel

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Waves and Dolphins. Ah.
20 February 2019

Waves and Dolphins. Ah.

On Thursday, I headed to the Sea Crest to chat with this week’s Bimini Adventures guests during their yummy lunch. They have had a great week exploring Bimini and observing the dolphins and it was nice to share DCP’s work with them, answer their questions and hear their experiences. Soon enough, it was time to wrap up so we could all get ready for the boat trip!

We departed in a stiff breeze so we not surprised to see large swells and plentiful white caps as we approached the tip of the island. Still, everyone stayed optimistic and eagerly searched for dolphins. Suddenly, a single bottlenose dolphin approached the bow, surfing its way past us. Just as quickly as it appeared, it was gone…

After plenty more searching, and a little snack, we saw our first group of Atlantic spotted dolphins for the day! There were six to seven spotteds, including Romeo (#10) and her calf, Stefran (#82) and her calf and, possibly, Niecey (#48). This group was cruising fast and then split apart, so while we observed them from the boat for half an hour, we did not swim with them. Later, we came upon at least six spotted dolphins, including Swoosh (#36), who the group had also seen earlier in the week. While the passengers hopped into the murky water, I stayed aboard to make some more surface observations. Our third spotted group of the day included Lil’ Jess (#35),Split Jaw (#22) and Niecey (#48)+. We were able to have two separate swims with this group. It was so fun to see Lil’ Jess and Split Jaw exchanging lots of pec rubs!

Back in the lee of Bimini, we cruised home, everyone reflecting on the great day.

Until next time,

Kel

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The Week Wraps Up
20 February 2019

The Week Wraps Up

On Friday, the breeze in Bimini was still stiff, but with sunny skies we departed at 1500 in search of dolphins. We did not see any along the shore and the guests, who have been to Bimini many times, asked to stop at 3 Sisters for a quick snorkel. After they toured the biggest rock, we were soon on our way again…

It seemed the seas were going to get the better of us when Captain Al suddenly saw two bottlenose dolphins at the bow. They disappeared just as quickly though and with the swells, white caps and murky water, we did not see them again. We continued our search and it was only when we were close to home that five Atlantic spotted dolphins appeared. Once more, it was difficult to keep the dolphins in view given the challenging conditions. But, it soon became clear that there were in many dolphins and were practically everywhere, stretched out and moving. Moving fast. We kept up with them with the boat as best as we could and though it is disappointing to end the week without an underwater observation, the guests were absolutely fantastic in appreciating the views from the boat and the great swims earlier in the week. So refreshing!

It will likely be a week or more before I’m back at sea. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy reading all about Kathleen’s field course in Roatan!

Until next time,

Kel

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What waves?
20 February 2019

What waves?

On Wednesday, I joined Bimini Adventures’ guests on “the small boat” and headed in search of dolphins. The seas were much rougher than Monday and Tuesday and while we searched for dolphins, we could see squalls building to the east. Sure enough, we never did find any dolphins, but we did find some beautiful rain storms. We were able to stay clear of the largest of the storms and while we tried to avoid the smaller, later squall, we had to accept some rain drops. Thankfully, it wasn’t that bad and, in fact, it was quite beautiful cruising through the steady rain as the sea surface calmed and left only the impressive swell.

Thursday was another great day with Captain Al and his guests. We could feel the stiff breeze at the marina, so we knew we were in for a bumpy ride; still, we were optimistic that with the sun shining, we would have a great day. Luckily, we did not have to go far! A large group of Atlantic spotted dolphins was busy surfing the murky water. The first time we spied them, it didn’t last long – the surfed right out of view. But, the next time we were more careful and they were more accommodating. One guest hopped in, but it was soon clear that the water was anything but – and the dolphins were not interested in him. So, we resumed our search and enjoyed the views…

We then found ourselves with eight or so spotteds (it was very hard to get and keep a group count in these conditions) and this time they didn’t seem in such a hurry to follow the waves. We hopped in with modest expectations and we were not disappointed! Even though the visibility was poor, several of the dolphins stayed quite close, zipping around and even playing with sargassum. I think #113 was there, but I’ll need to confirm with the video since she’s not an individual I have personally seen too many times. There was also a mother-calf pair; the mother did not come close enough for me to make an ID, but the little was clearly little! I hope I got the calf’s marking on video as it already has a distinct scar on its back. I’ll just have to be patient and wait to see it, and its mom, again!

After our somewhat unexpected, but awesome, swim, we cruised around a bit more in hopes of getting another opportunity. Though we did not have another swim, the guests did see some amazing leaps in the distance as we came closer to shore. Back at the dock, we said our good nights and began to look forward to tomorrow.

Until then,

Kel

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Surf’s Up!
20 February 2019

Surf’s Up!

On Tuesday, it felt great to get back on the water and search for dolphins. Plus, this week’s guests are a couple who has been chartering Bimini Adventures for several years and I always look forward to chatting with them. The sun was shining and although the breeze was strong, the seas started out calm enough. Soon, however, clouds were building to our east and south and, with that, the seas really kicked up. As I watched Captain Al assess the weather, I felt the boat turn. He’d also seen dolphins! One dolphin leapt clear out of the water, but when we reached the spot, we couldn’t find any….for a moment. Soon, there were at least 16 Atlantic spotted dolphin surfing their way west. Woo-who!

Recognizing the dolphins in the rough seas was a challenge, and they seemed very content surfing the waves, but I did see an adult I recognized as well as Sulfur (#102). Under water, I spied Lil’ Jess (#35), Vee (#101), un-named #110 and, I think, Cerra (#38). At one point, Sulfur had a long session of pec fin to pec fin rubbing with a younger juvenile before they both played with long pieces of seaweed with #110. Back on the boat, Inka (#93) rode the bow with un-named #107.

As we headed back toward shore, we kept our eyes out for different dolphins. Though we got a glimpse of a dorsal fin, another observation wasn’t in the cards. Still, we cruised home, chatting and enjoying the ride. And already looking forward to tomorrow…

Until then,

Kel

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Water spout yields to calm seas
20 February 2019

Water spout yields to calm seas

Nat used the word bittersweet in two recent posts – and the feeling applies to Friday as well. A short but strong thunderstorm woke everyone early, but soon I had my kids scooped up and piled on the golf cart. We picked up Nat and her suitcase and dropped her to the water taxi. Her five weeks on Bimini had come to an end and we were all sad to part ways. I share Nat’s hope that this was, in fact, a “see you later….”

I’m so grateful for all of the assistance in the field so far this summer: Master’s student Nicole, Short Field Experience (SFE) interns J.P. and Frankie, returning intern Patrick and, of course, Nat. Interns provide much needed assistance from data collection to primary processing, but I also hope they learn a lot about dolphin research, and themselves, along the way.

So, I headed to the Bimini Adventures trip as the only DCP researcher once again! I chatted with Dr. M and his students and searched the calm seas for dolphins. Soon, Captain Audley pointed out a growing water spout. We all watched as it tried, tried, tried….and succeeded at fully forming! We were close, but not too close, and quite engrossed as we watched its progress. After a few minutes, it fell apart (did it hit the beach?) and we turned our attention to the rain ahead which was turning into a nasty squall. We diverted course a couple of times to stay out of the bad weather and soon enough it had rained itself out and we were back on course.

When we found dolphins a short time later, there were two (then three) private boats following them. We gave the other boats plenty of space because too much boat traffic is not good for the dolphins. We were rewarded with two, then eight, then ten, then 13 dolphins! We followed this cruising crew, who were taking occasional breaks to mate, leap and chase each other at the surface, for about 90 minutes. Included throughout the day were Vee (#101) and Tim (#69), who spent lots of affectionate time together, Tina (#14) and her calf, Split Jaw (#22), Inka (#93), possibly Buster (#04) and several others that I hope to ID from surface photos.

On the ride home we saw some more spotted dolphins out of the corners of our eyes, but with sunset approaching, we continued back to the Sea Crest. So many dolphin sightings this year! If this all sounds like a blast to you, remember, there are still a couple of spaces left on our August 26 – 31 2018 eco-tour. It’s right around the corner and is primed to be an absolutely amazing time!

Until next time,

Kel

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One Last Time
20 February 2019

One Last Time

Thursday was another day full of bittersweets. Bitter because it was my last day on the island, but sweet because of all the adventures that day held. I woke up early at the ripe time of 6:30 am to start brewing the coffee and to wrap up some of the photo IDs I had been previously working on. Then I strolled over with my fins and mask in hand over to Neal Watson’s Bimini SCUBA Center to go on a two tank morning dive. It was my last time diving on Bimini, and I definitely sad it was my last couple of dives, but I was still excited for what was to come because we were going on a wreck dive. The wreck dive site was about 85 feet to the bottom and there lied four different wrecks. We got to swim through the wrecks and I got a ton of great pictures of parrot fish, lionfish, and a giant green turtle! It was an amazing dive, but the next dive was by far my favorite. We went to a reef called “the strip” and it was just that. A little strip of coral about ten minutes from the wreck site offered an entire array of different fish, shrimp, eels, lobsters, coral, and even reef sharks! It was a beautiful shallow dive, and I never wanted it to end. We got back to the dive shop just in time for lunch. I went back to my cottage and stopped by CJ’s deli to indulge in my last order of conch fritters. The conch is definitely something I will dearly miss about Bimini.

The part I will miss the most, however, are the boat trips out to find dolphins with Bimini Adventures. We set out at 3:00 pm for my last boat trip of the summer, again with Dr. M. It was a nice boat ride out and the sea was very calm. It is always so calming to be out in the ocean off Bimini. After an hour of searching for dorsal fins, we finally came across two dolphins, including un-named #114, who appeared to be cruising (you see them “riding” the bow of the boat in this photo). Not long after we found the two young juveniles did we come across another 14 dolphins. Among them was Niecey (#48) and her calf, Inka (#93), Leslie (#80), and Lil’Jess (#35)! It was so nice to see Leslie and Lil’Jess again on my last day because they were some of the first dolphins I ever swam with and were able to recognize. It was like coming full circle. Dr. M recorded the dolphins from the cameras on the bow of the boat for almost 2 hours! They stayed around the boat for what seemed like forever, which was perfectly fine with me. It was nice to sit on the boat and watch the dolphins play and bow ride for my last day. Then it was that inevitable time to head back home. It was a peaceful ride home and we even had one bottlenose dolphin breech the surface as if it were saying its last goodbye to me. As we entered the harbor I thought about how much I would miss the beautiful sunsets and all the boat rides in and around Bimini.

I am so grateful to have had such an amazing opportunity to work as an intern for the Dolphin Communication Project. It truly has been an experience of a lifetime and something I will never forget; and although I am sad to leave, I am hoping that this is not just a goodbye, but instead a ‘see you later’.

 One last time, Cheers!

-Nat

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Can We Interest You in a Bow Ride?
20 February 2019

Can We Interest You in a Bow Ride?

Wednesday was a day full of bittersweets as we had to say goodbye to our friend and intern Frankie. Frankie and I were able to spend the morning together in our usual roommate routine of making a big pot of coffee and working on photo sorting and blog writing. Then we were invited over to Kel’s house to help celebrate Captain Al’s birthday. We had hamburgers and salads for lunch and then topped it off with a delicious chocolate cake. Kel and I drove Frankie to the ferry so she could get over to the South Bimini Airport for her afternoon flight. We were sad to say goodbye and really enjoyed our time working together these past short weeks, but we had a feeling that we would see each other again one day (perhaps in Bimini?).

After saying goodbye to Frankie, it was time to go home and get ready for the afternoon boat trip. We set out at 3:15 p.m. to look for dolphins again with Dr. M, who is studying the physics of bow riding. It was so exciting to learn more about his project, and we were all just hoping that the dolphins would be fancying a bow ride. It took patience and time, but after two and a half hours we finally saw two spotted dolphins leap out of the water in the distance. We quickly changed course to investigate the splashes further and came across Sulfur (#102) and another young individual. Dr. M quickly got his gear in the water so he could record the dolphins bow riding. The dolphins we chasing fish, but we were hoping they could take a break to catch a ride. Sure enough, Sulfur (#102) and her friend rode the bow and were then accompanied by a third spotted dolphin. The three rode the bow for about 15 minutes and I’m sure the team got some great footage! Then the strangest thing happened. Out of nowhere three bottlenose dolphins came right to the bow for a split second and then were gone, enticing the three spotted dolphins that were originally on the bow with them! I wonder why the three spotted dolphins left with the bottlenose?

After the dolphins swam off it was time to head back to shore. We started our long journey home and in about 20 minutes we had four other spotted dolphins come to ride the bow! I quickly went down to the front of the boat to get a closer look. Down below was Tina (#14) and her calf and Romeo (#10) and her calf having the time of their lives getting pushed by the waves of the boat. Tina and her calf stayed for about 15 minutes and Romeo and her calf stayed for about 30 minutes! It was the longest bow ride I had seen so far; they rode it all the way to where we turn at the sandbar to head into the harbor. They seemed to be having a blast. Soon we were back at the Sea Crest in need of showers and food, and then a much needed lights out after a good day of bow riding.

Cheers!

-Nat

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Dolphin Diaries
20 February 2019

Dolphin Diaries

Tuesday morning was a hard wakeup for me- it was my last full day on Bimini. With the boat trip being cancelled Monday, I was glad Nat and I had the opportunity to explore the island. But I was very excited to get back on the boat and spend my last day here searching for dolphins.

Nat and I started off with our usual morning routine of a large pot of coffee and a few hours of work before prepping for our afternoon boat ride. Around noon we got a little restless and decided to take a swim break, but it was too hot to stay out for too long.

This week’s Bimini Adventures group is actually a researcher and two students. It was exciting have another scientist onboard since we could ask him questions about his research and how he ended up here. With Tuesday being his first day on the boat, we expected a day of figuring out logistics for his research equipment and less of looking for dolphins. However they were able to get everything together fairly quickly and we decided to give the dolphin spotting a try. Shortly after our search began, we had three dolphins swimming at us for some bow rides. We all hung out on the bow taking turns watching them play in the bow wave.

Before we knew it, three dolphins turned into over twenty coming to play and hang out by our boat. They seemed to be hanging out for a while and we figured we’d give a try and see if they’d stay with us in the water. Nat and I were able to gear up and jump in quick.

At first there was nothing. I popped my head up to look around and see if I could see what direction they swam away in- but then I heard the unmistakable sound of a blowhole exhale right next to me. I threw my face back in the water and realized I was surrounded. For forty-five minutes this group of dolphins came and played with the guests and let us all observe them. At one point I was alone swimming with a sub group of six. At another time most of the dolphins had left us, but Inka (#93) and Vee (#101) continued to stay by us and put on quite the show of playing pass with some sea grass. I was even able to free dive right next to Inka a few times and could feel her echo locating right at me. The rest of the group continued to weave in and out of swimming around us. It seemed that every time we lost them for a few minutes and were almost ready to head in, they’d come swimming right back at us.

Towards the end, I had begun following a young calf who seemed pretty interested in me. She circled me not even an arm’s length away maybe eight times. I must have looked pretty silly frantically spinning in the water trying to keep up with her. However I then heard my name being yelled at from aboard. Al could see a storm approaching and it was time to get out of the water and head in. We all climbed aboard with the biggest smiles on our faces (and possibly a few tears in my eyes). Kel looked over at Nat and me and began laughing, saying that that was why even if we weren’t expecting to get in the water that day- we should always bring our gear- just in case. The six of us talked about what an amazing experience that was before Nat rattled off a list of names of dolphins she was able to recognize: Romeo (#10), Split Jaw (#22), Lil’ Jess (#35), Swoosh (#36) and her calf, Niecey (#48) with her calf, Prince William (#64), Speedy (#78), Inka (#93), Vee (#101 – pictured here with Nat recording her behavior!), Sulfur (#102), un-named #110*, we think Paul (#99) and several un-catalogued but recognizable dolphins.  And those are just the dolphins we recognized in real time! There is now a lot of photo-ID work ahead for DCP. None of us could keep a smile off our faces the entire boat ride in.

Dr. M was then kind enough to invite Nat and I to dinner with his students to celebrate the amazing day we had. We were thrilled to have an invite and ran home to quickly shower and get ready before meeting up with them. We ended up sitting at our table until the restaurant had literally closed down and everyone had left. It was so lovely talking to Dr. M about how he ended up in his field today and what further research he would like to do with the dolphins. Nat and I walked them back to the Sea Crest before hugging goodbye and Dr. M telling me one more time that I should stay “for the sake of the research” and not board my flight Wednesday (I was almost convinced).

While my internship was only a short 12 nights, it feels as if I have been here for a month. Never did I think that I would want to be working 10-hour days! I feel so lucky to have been able to come here and work under someone as amazing as Kel and for such a fascinating project as DCP. I also feel extremely lucky to have been able to work with and get to know Nat. It breaks my heart leaving Bimini and not knowing when exactly I will return, but I am so excited to be given the opportunity to continue working with DCP remotely this year.

Until next time Bimini.

Cheers,

Frankie (& Nat)

*Interested in being the one and only person who gives #110 her name? Click here to find out how!

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Lunch Breaks
20 February 2019

Lunch Breaks

Monday was a quiet day for Frankie and me, but there are no complaints here! After making a big pot of coffee we continued to work on photo sorting and video logs to get our hours in. We worked on data all morning and then Kel informed us that there would be no boat trip that afternoon. Although we were excited to go out on the boat, we decided to take a break and explore the island instead since it is sadly our last week here. We biked along the Queens Highway to enjoy the sea breeze and the beautiful ocean views. Although the sun was hot (as it always is) the wind helped us stay cool for the long bike ride. We then dipped down towards the Kings Highway to stop by Stuart’s Conch Salad Stand for a quick bite to eat. We love the conch salad stand because it is a little shack along the water, so we had a nice view while we ate our lunch and looked in the shallows for passing stingrays.

Then we continued our bike ride all the way to the other side of the island where the Hilton resort stands. We only stayed down at the resort end for a couple minutes, looking around inside the resort and going to the top floor to check out the pool and the view. Entering the resort gates was like entering a whole new world, and we soon just wanted to get back to our own with our little beach and CJ’s Deli. We decided to start the long bike ride home and for the first time, I think we did not enjoy the wind too much. The wind was nice on the bike ride there because it was to our backs, but the bike home was definitely a workout. It felt like we were biking in slow motion the entire way back! When we finally got home, we went straight down to the beach to cool off in the water and then laid out for a little bit, enjoying the breeze again. Soon it was time to go back to the cottage and continue our day’s work. I think we both can agree that we will miss our lunch breaks biking the island and laying out on the beach!

Cheers!

Nat & Frankie

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Bimini on the Big Screen
20 February 2019

Bimini on the Big Screen

On Friday, Kel had told us about the vet clinic she was helping run this weekend. With the lack of veterinarians and abundance of strays on Bimini, the vet clinic that happens 3-4 times a year is extremely helpful for the animals on the island. Since I had gotten a lot of work done on Saturday, I decided to spend a few hours volunteering with Kel on Sunday. Nat decided to sit this one out since she isn’t great around blood and was still getting through the video logs. So, Sunday morning I woke up early and went to Kel’s house to pop in some much needed laundry before helping her set up the clinic for the day.

We opened the clinics doors and I was able to first meet the amazing family that was letting us use their space for the weekend. I then met Dr. Grant, a veterinarian who comes in from Nassau to help out, and the other volunteers, including four girls from Bimini Sharklab.

Kel and I were then sent on a mission to Bailey Town to pick up a dog that needed to be neutered. After twenty minutes of sweet-talking and many treats later, we were still unable to convince the dog to get into the golf cart. We talked with the owner, and decided that he should start training the dog to be comfortable in a crate so when the next clinic happened, Kel could just pickup the dog in the kennel. However, a few of the neighbors brought another dog to our attention. The sweetest dog-named Brewster jumped up to greet us, and we immediately noticed something was wrong with his ears as he kept shaking his head – and abruptly stopping. With just a few treats and a minute of pets, Brewster was easy to convince to get in the cart and we were on our way.  

As we waited for Brewster’s turn to see Dr. Grant about a possible neuter and ear exam, I sat with him on the floor. He was anxious at first but we bonded quickly, so he cuddled up into me and fell asleep. After Dr. Grant came out and sedated him, I ended up talking to two of the Sharklab volunteers. One of them was in grad school researching the effects of shark nets and the other wanted to go into conservation policy change in D.C. While they were both a few years older than me, we all had a similar passion of ocean conservation and education, and it was very inspiring to hear them talk about the various paths they wanted to take.

I helped carry Brewster into the vets “office” (a kitchen table) for Dr. Grant to begin the initial exam. The blood draw confirmed what we had already suspected - Brewster had terrible heartworms. This on top of his older age meant it was very risky to proceed with surgery (I may have started crying here). So while he was still sedated, we were able to clean out his ears and get a few ticks off him before carrying him back to the porch floor.

Kel then explained to me the many problems with dogs in Bimini. Dogs get heartworms through mosquito bites. Without proper preventative medical care, it is very likely that many of the dogs here will get heartworms. With many of the dogs being strays as well, no one is looking out for them to make sure they are getting these medications. When Kel first came to Bimini, the stray population was extremely high, however after many volunteer veterinarians coming in for pop-up clinics to help spay and neuter strays - it has decreased and been maintained pretty well.

After the last few patients came and left, we brought Brewster home and were able to give his owners some ointment to help his ears. I then went home, and met up with Nat for some work and lunch.

Later that night, Nat and I realized that our water jug was extremely low, and thankfully Kel was still up and we could go fill it at her house (and get a ride back on the golf cart).

While sitting in Kel’s living room waiting for the water jug to fill, we noticed that it was 9 pm Sunday night- aka the beginning of shark week. Kelly had just gotten her kids to bed and was able to sit with us for a little and watch the first episode. Funny enough, we all quickly realized that the first episode took place in Bimini, and as the next episode began, the boat that they were on was the shark dive boat that Nat and I had been on a few days prior! It was a good end to the weekend and Nat and I went back to our place with a full jug of water and some delicious leftovers.

Cheers,

Frankie & Nat

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Early Start to Shark Week
20 February 2019

Early Start to Shark Week

While there were no boat trips this weekend, Nat and I still kept busy. We woke up Friday morning planning on going on a dive; however the heavy thunderstorms pushed it off to the afternoon. By noon the sun was out and we walked over to Neal Watson’s Scuba Center for the 1 pm two-tank dive. 

Our first dive was a shallow dive through an old shipwreck (The Sapona) where Nat and I saw some gorgeous corals and plenty of rays. Nat was even able to point out a scorpion fish to me (her favorite fish). After about forty minutes, we hopped back on the boat and headed to our second location- Triangle Rocks. Nat and I were so excited for this spot we were basically geared up before the boat even stopped- it was the shark dive.

We were the first to jump in and immediately dove to the bottom to watch the beautiful Caribbean reef sharks and black nose sharks swim around us. While this was Nat’s third time at this location, it was my first, and it was a wonderful experience- we’re even hoping to go back one more time before we leave!

After coming back aboard and watching the shark feeding, we came back to shore and sat on the dock for a few minutes and watched the bull sharks swimming around the harbor before heading home. We were then lucky enough to end our Friday with a lovely dinner at Kelly’s house with her husband, Al, and her two adorable children.

Saturday was a little bit less eventful. Since we had taken a half day Friday, we worked most of Saturday, only taking a little swimming break mid-day when our eyes were slowly dying after hours of staring at a screen. However, Kelly is helping run a vet clinic this weekend on the island and asked us if we’d like to come and volunteer- so we’re hoping to take a few hours off Sunday to help out and give back a little to Bimini.

Cheers,

Frankie & Nat

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Split Jaw for a Split Second
20 February 2019

Split Jaw for a Split Second

It was another stormy morning early Thursday in Bimini, but luckily the skies cleared enough for another lovely day on the boat. Nat and I started our morning once again with some work and a large pot of coffee before beginning our prep for the boat.

Our day started a little earlier than the previous few days and we were able to stop and snorkel “The Bimini Road,” a famous snorkel spot off of North Bimini. It was the perfect time for a much needed swim break as well as the first time for us to see the popular snorkel spot. We dove in and immediately saw a barracuda under us and later saw a gorgeous angelfish swim past us. As Nat took a minute to free dive with a school of fish, I came up for air to clear my mask a little. After a minute or two, I went to go find Nat under water and was surprised to see a wide-mouthed remora swimming right at me. It was my first time seeing one under water and was almost a little nervous it was going to attach to me. I kicked back immediately and it switched directions- heading straight for Nat! Thankfully Nat surfaced and it swam away.

After a 30-minute snorkel trip, our hunt for the dolphins was on- and luckily short! First, we got some quick glimpses of passing bottlenose dolphins – Nat even recognized one from our efforts sorting bottlenose dorsal fin photographs by individual and Kel noted that it was probably Tt057. Soon, a total of 23 spotted dolphins came right to the bow of the boat. One of these was our dear boy, Split Jaw (#22)! We have seen Split Jaw the past six days in which we sighted spotted dolphins! It is always a pleasure to see him doing so well. We also saw Niecey (#48), with her calf, Vee (#101, pictured here), Sulfur (#102),Inka (#93) and un-named #107. I was able to hop in the water with them for a split second, but they were on the move, and fast moving dolphins are a bit difficult to swim with. After they rode the bow for over 30 minutes, it was time to depart from this pod and try to find other more playful dolphins. We were able to spot some more dolphins, but they seemed to be on a mission as well, and we were not able to see them underwater. After the boat trip, we said goodbye to the guests and went back to our cottage for leftovers. Then it was another must needed lights out!

Cheers!

-Frankie & Nat

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Quiet Days
20 February 2019

Quiet Days

After getting a feel for what the educational talks were like on Tuesday, I was extremely excited for our talk Wednesday morning on the Shedd Aquarium boat. As a Chicago native, I was raised going to the Shedd- I even brought my favorite Shedd hat to Bimini! Nat and I woke up early to make some breakfast and coffee before meeting up with Kelly and jumping on the skiff to head to Coral Reef 2 (CRII).

CRII was an absolutely gorgeous boat and all the kids were super excited to have us on board. After Kelly’s talk, the high school students turned to Nat and I and asked us about how we got the internship and if we have any tips on pursuing marine biology careers. We were able to tell them how lucky we felt to be able to intern with DCP but also to just keep searching for opportunities and to not give up. It was so fun to be around so many kids who were all just as passionate about the ocean as we are and we all left the boat with smiles on our face.

Nat and I were then able to get another two hours of work in before prepping to get back on Renegade for the afternoon. We were both very excited for this trip because Kelly was able to join us as well.

We got on the boat and began heading north, however sadly after a few hours of searching and numerous swim breaks under the hot sun, we couldn’t find any dolphins. While it was a quiet day dolphin-wise, Nat and I were still able to ask Kelly a lot of questions about possible future career pursuits or other research interests. Luckily we have another day with Kelly on board and are looking forward to what Thursday brings us!

Cheers,

Nat & Frankie

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Bullsharks, and Bottlenose, and Spotteds, Oh My!
20 February 2019

Bullsharks, and Bottlenose, and Spotteds, Oh My!

This past Tuesday was another great day on the island! Frankie has been settling in well as the newest intern and has already grown accustomed to island life (cockroaches and all). We have grown to become quite the intern team, and she has already grasped the ropes of all the data processing, photo sorting, and data entry that goes on behind the scenes at the DCP. On Tuesday we helped Kel give a small presentation/ discussion to the guests at the Sea Crest. They were all so interested in the dolphins that live just off this coast, and they all loved to learn the names of the dolphins we have in the DCP catalog. We listened as Kel explained how to tell a female and male dolphin apart and how to tell how old an individual spotted dolphin is. I love hearing all the presentations because each one reinforces my knowledge on the Atlantic spotted dolphins. It was so great to have such awesome support from these visitors – thank you!

Soon after the presentation, it was time to board the Sea Crest boat for the afternoon boat trip. It was another gorgeous day and the water was just as clear as ever. Even before leaving the marina we saw two bull sharks circling the docks. We knew right then and there that it would be a good day for spotting marine life. Sure enough, as soon as well came out of the harbor we saw a group of over 12 bottlenose dolphins. It was Frankie’s first time seeing the bottlenose dolphins that inhabit Bimini’s seas and she was so excited. I showed her how to use the surface camera to take pictures of the bottlenose dolphins’ dorsal fins. She picked it up right away and was snapping pictures left and right, trying to get a good picture of every individual dolphin in the group.

Later we were both able to have our time swimming with spotted dolphins. Some hours after the bottlenose dolphins we came across a massive group of spotted dolphins. They were in a mating ball, so although they were quite busy, we were able to hop in the water next to them to record underwater observations. As Frankie was in the water for the first and second encounters, I was on the bow trying to count all the dolphins in the area and to see if I could recognize any of the individuals. I was able to find Sulfur’s (#102) dorsal fin as she surfaced for breath. I was also able to count at least 28 dolphins in the area around the boat. It was the largest group of dolphins I have seen so far during the internship! After the encounter was over and it was time for the 3rd encounter, Frankie and I switched off so I could have a turn recording the dolphins underwater and she could have a turn doing surface observations from the bow. Underwater, I was able to spot Split Jaw (#22) and Lil’Jess (#35)! Eventually the dolphins moved on and it was time to head back to the boat and start heading home, but our dolphin adventures were not over just yet. While we were heading home, two young spotted dolphins came for a joy ride and rode the bow of the boat for at least ten minutes! Frankie and I both watched them play and were both shocked to see that they were both calves. We kept looking out into the distance to see if mom was nearby, but there was no other dolphin we could see. Eventually, moms must have called the two young dolphins back and they departed from the bow. Soon enough we were back at the dock and it was time to go back to the cottage for leftovers and some late night data entries. Then it was a quick lights out for Frankie and me after a long, successful day.   

Cheers!

-Nat & Frankie 

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Island Home
20 February 2019

Island Home

Monday was my fifth day on the island and I feel completely at home. So far, I have biked to get my groceries, seen a bull shark and stingray from the dock, and killed two cockroaches. Nat taught me how to enter data from different trips and tricks on how to ID bottlenose and spotted dolphins from pictures. After spending a few days doing computer work, it was finally time to have my first boat trip and get in on the action. Even though we weren’t getting on the boat till 3, I woke up at 6 am ready to go. I got some work done, was given a tour of the boat, and then began prepping for our trip.

Once on the boat, all data sheets I had been inputting finally started to make sense. After recording the time we left the dock and passed the sand bar, I looked at Nat and asked what we should do next. She told me it was time to just look and wait- then she bragged a little about how she was the first to spot dolphins on her last few trips.

We drove around for an hour with no fins in sight, but the group on board continued to ask us questions regarding the species we were looking for and good ways to spot them. It was exciting feeling like the expert on board and also knowing they were just as excited to see them as we were.

After seeing a splash in the distance, we geared the boat East and finally found some dolphins. However, since they were feeding, they wouldn’t be interested in playing with us, so we just hung out on board and watched them chase fish. After a half hour of this, the group decided it was time for a swim break. Nat and I jumped in as well and she pointed out a small barracuda swimming under us.

We hopped back on board and decided to start heading back towards shore, while still looking for dolphins on the way. About an hour into the ride in, I saw something jump in my peripheral view. I immediately jumped up and screamed “DOLPHINS” and just when everyone was turning, three spotted dolphins leapt out of the water.

While Nat got ready to get in the water, I went to the front of the boat and watched the dolphins bow ride. I was able to point out to the group up there with me which ones were calves and which were the full adults. I stayed up on the front and watched part of the group get in the water and the dolphins swimming right between them. Nat kept free diving and was able to get some great footage of a few of the dolphins. After 10 minutes the dolphins moved on, but Nat jumped on board with the biggest smile on her face and yelled up at me “#22 and #93”- she was able to identify two of her favorites- Split Jaw and Inka.

On the way back into shore we were both giddy with excitement, but also overcome with hunger. We discussed what we could make for dinner for around twenty minutes- but it basically came down to just ramen.

We got back to our place just in time for an amazing message; Kelly had leftovers. In the pitch black we biked to her place (almost falling a few times) to grab a meal with a little bit more nutrition than ramen. We ate in bed and discussed the day; we had originally planned on doing another hour of work, but after a 10-hour workday, we just wanted to go to bed.

Nat and I are super excited to see what a full week of boat trips bring us. We also started planning to do a shark dive on one of our mornings off and taking an hour or two break one day to snorkel a shipwreck off the island.

Cheers,

Frankie & Nat

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Did Somebody Say... Bow Rides?
20 February 2019

Did Somebody Say... Bow Rides?

Saturday sure was a busy day! It was the last day that we got to join Behind the Mask out on the Sea Crest boat for fun dolphin searching. The day before I was able to finally meet the new intern, Frankie, and help her get acquainted with Bimini. I’m so excited to get to work with her and show her all the ropes of the DCP!

I think Captain Al can agree when I say, we got extremely lucky about the boat traffic on Saturday’s boat adventures. It was a little crowded getting out of the harbor, but once we were out searching for dolphins, there wasn’t a boat in sight! What were in sight were two dolphins! Within an hour we saw two spotted dolphins straight ahead. After recording the coordinates of our location with the GPS, I ventured to the bow of the boat so I could get a closer look at any distinct spot patterns. Low and behold, Leslie (#80) was waiting patiently for a bow ride alongside a C2 individual (her calf, perhaps?). The water was so clear that I could easily see Leslie’s constellation of white spots on the right side of her peduncle that configure into the shape of a flower. While I was taking videos of these two dolphins, Al was able to spot two more spotted dolphins in the distance. Once we got closer I could easily tell that we were visited by Tina (#14) and her calf. Tina and her calf are dead giveaways because of the distinct notch in her calf’s dorsal fin. They also came to the bow in hopes of a bow ride and Leslie’s calf gave us quite the show. On the little calf’s side was a huge remora, and the calf definitely did not appreciate the extra weight. The calf tried desperately to knock the remora off its body by swimming at full speed then propelling itself four feet into the air! It didn’t seem like any of the calf’s attempts were successful, however, and we could still see the remora on its belly. When we departed from Leslie and Tina, the calf still had its remora suctioned onto its stomach, and we hoped it would get the annoying fish off its little body soon enough.

We continued our search for more dolphins since we still had an entire afternoon ahead of us. A couple hours later we came across a group of 12 spotted dolphins. The film crew was quick to enter the water and start filming the playful dolphins. I was able to spot Sulfur (#102) from the surface. She is so easy to spot because of the two round notches in her dorsal fin! Soon the dolphins departed and the film crew was able to shoot their dream shot. Everyone was excited about the luck of the day and how playful the dolphins were. We started to turn around to make the long journey home and not too long afterwards, we came across Split Jaw (#22) and a C3 individual! They stayed on the bow for quite a while, giving me a good look at Split Jaw’s split rostrum. It was definitely a great day full of dolphin identifications! Soon enough we were back at the Sea Crest dock and ready to turn in after a long day out on the boat. 

Cheers!

-Nat (& Frankie & Kel!)

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Welcome to Bimini, Frankie!
20 February 2019

Welcome to Bimini, Frankie!

Summer intern Nat and I are thrilled to welcome DCP’s 2nd 2018 Short Field Experience Intern to Bimini! Frankie arrived on Friday and will be doing some blog writing over the next ~2 weeks. While Frankie was busy with flights, a “bus” and a water taxi, Nat lead the surface data collection mission with the Behind the Mask team and Bimini Adventures. During the sunny trip, she was able to ID Tina (#14) and her distinct calf, Split Jaw (#22), Inka (#93) and Sulfur (#102). I’m super proud of Nat for recognizing those dolphins on her own! Now, enjoy Frankie’s first impression of Bimini!

Cheers,

Kel

Waking up at 3 am to start my travel day from Chicago to Bimini was easier than expected. I was too excited to sleep the night before, sleep on the flight to Miami, or the final flight to Bimini. I told myself I would nap for an hour when I got to my accommodation in Bimini so I could be ready to start some work that night. However once I saw the beautiful turquoise water I immediately put on my swimsuit and went to the beach.

I was lucky enough to spend the last few months in Australia studying biology at a university on the ocean there; however I was still in awe when looking at the water here. I sat on the beach for about twenty minutes just admiring all the different shades of blues (also hoping to see some fins in the distance, but to no avail) before finally diving in.

After swimming for a little, I dried off and sat on the steps to wait for Kelly to come pick me up. To my luck, a very friendly curly-tailed lizard even came and sat with me for a little.  Kelly and her two adorable kids then showed me around the gorgeous island of North Bimini. I knew I would love the island, but I did not think I would fall in love this quick- between the beautiful beaches, friendly dogs, and even friendlier people- I couldn’t keep a smile off my face. I was able to learn a little bit more about Kel’s journey here and what my job would be for the next week and a half.

I then finished off my night meeting the other intern, Nat, who even invited to a lovely dinner with her parents who are currently visiting.

I can’t believe it’s only been a day here, it already feels like I’ve been here for a week! I am so excited to be able to enjoy this beautiful island while learning more about field research and the local dolphin population. 

Cheers,

Frankie

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Flaaaaaaat Seas
20 February 2019

Flaaaaaaat Seas

On Thursday, we were once again able to join the Behind the Mask team in their search for dolphins off Bimini. You may have caught their story on Facebook announcing their project here…..drum roll….

They are filming free divers using “Seabob” scooters while swimming with dolphins! It’s been very interesting to watch – sometimes the dolphins are totally in to it, seemingly waiting for another turn while the divers catch their breath. Other times, the dolphins swim off and show no interest. And many times, it’s somewhere in between. It’s been great working with a team that actually cares about how their interactions might be impacting the dolphins – and are actively working to minimize any negative impact. We even discussed, at the end of the day, what average folks who might want to interact with dolphins should do. Ultimately: be respectful. Back off when dolphins are feeding or resting or seem agitated. Don’t touch the dolphins. Don’t feed the dolphins. Do be inspired by them.

We departed the Sea Crest at 11:00 a.m. sharp and headed to South Bimini where the crew was waiting with their gear lined up on the dock. The seas were so flat and there was actually more sunshine than the last two days, so everyone had high hopes for another awesome day. And, the day did not disappoint.

It began with at least 5 bottlenose dolphins, less than one hour into our search. It seemed to be two mom & calf pairs, plus an unknown dolphin in the distance. The dolphins were traveling so after some dorsal photographs we did the same. It wasn’t long before we were with Tina (#14) and her calf. A bit strange for the pair to be on their own, but we soon realized that no dolphins were on their own today! Every time you looked around there were more…

For Nat, it is always such a treat to see spotted dolphins that she hasn’t seen before - and she got to “meet” quite a few. After the first two sightings, we saw a group of over 24 spotted dolphins! Within that group was Inka (#93), SplitJaw (#22), Prince William (#64) and Vee (#101), which was Nat’s first time seeing these dolphins out in the open waters (besides just behind a computer screen): “I love being able to observe the dolphins first hand out in the field, because it helps me memorize and get a better first hand glance at their spot patterns and dorsal fin notches. Now that I was able to see them once, I’m sure I can spot the same dolphins again the next time they swim into view.” While Kel pointed out the different dolphins, including Sulfur (#102), a group of about ten of the spotted dolphins came right up to the bow of the boat searching for a bow ride. The water was so crystal clear and smooth that you could see the dolphins perfectly as they swam around the bow. It was a rare day when we will indeed be able to ID individual spotted dolphins from surface photos (like this one – Vee is at the bottom!) because the sea was just so calm. Eventually it was time to give the dolphins a break and head back to shore! Our day came full circle with our final dolphins of the day: Tina & her calf!

Until tomorrow,

Nat & Kel

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Look, a dolphin! Oh, and another one. And another one. And…
20 February 2019

Look, a dolphin! Oh, and another one. And another one. And…

Man it was quite a day for spotting dolphins! Bimini Adventures was once again chartered by Behind the Mask (BTM) and this time, Nat got to join Kel for a full day of scanning the horizon for dorsal fins. Within just one hour of the boat ride, we came across two bottlenose dolphins. It was a gorgeous day, the water was crystal clear and smooth, so we could see and spot the dolphins clearly from a distance. We were quick to record the sighting and try to take some pictures with the surface camera while the BTM team attempted to film the dolphins. Alas, this wasn’t part of the dolphins’ plan, but the rest of the day included seven sightings of spotted dolphins! We watched as they took bow rides from the boat and played with the free divers. The group sizes were always on the small size, but there were lots of dolphins around today, including Romeo (#10), Tina (#14), Lil’ Jess (#35) and Leslie (#80, pictured here) – all with calves. We’re pretty sure Niecey (#48) made an early appearance with her calf and that soon-to-have-her-name-announced #112 was leading a group of young juveniles/older calves.

With scattered squalls, lightning and thunder, we were grateful to make it back to the dock with nothing more than a sprinkle on our skin. Photo download and blog posting is behind us – time for bed!

Until tomorrow,

Nat & Kel

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Behind the Mask meets the Bimini dolphins
20 February 2019

Behind the Mask meets the Bimini dolphins

Happy Independence Day, The Bahamas! As the island of Bimini celebrated along with the whole country, Nat had another island-office day, working on photo-ID. Kel headed out with Bimini Adventures for an unusual dolphin trip…

I knew I wouldn’t be able to collect any underwater data, but I still packed my gear, just in case! Al and I departed the Sea Crest and were soon getting to know the awesome team from Behind the Mask. I’m grateful for their openness as I offer insight into how they can be the least invasive and the most respectful of the dolphins during their shoot this week. I did a short on-camera interview with them and then – we were off! It was a long ride with not much to see and as the clouds built, Al decided to take us closer to shore where the sunshine was. There were more boats seeking dolphins than we prefer, but everyone respected their space and soon, we were watching some bottlenose dolphins. They, unfortunately, had plans other than hanging with us. But, as the day wore on, a friend of Al’s said he was ok with the BTM team joining him in the water before he moved on. From the boat, I quickly saw Romeo (#10) and Lil’ Jess (#35) and what I assume were their calves. I also think I saw Paul (#99). The BTM team used up every ray of sunlight they could and boarded the boat with all smiles, thrilled with how Day 1 went. On the ride home we even got to enjoy a long bow ride from Lil’ Jess & her (presumed) calf. The calf, I noted, is getting its first spots….I wonder if we’ll be able to add it to the catalog before it leaves mom’s side!

Until tomorrow!

Kel

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Sharing the experience
20 February 2019

Sharing the experience

Being able to work with and around dolphins is such an amazing experience, and being able to share that experience with others makes it all the more worthwhile and fulfilling. On Sunday morning, I was able to join Kel for a presentation about DCP aboard the Coral Reef II for the first of two Shedd Aquarium High School Marine Biology programs. The captain picked us up in Alice Town around 9:00 am in a small boat for a quick 15-minute boat ride to the Coral Reef II, where the students stayed for the program. Thank goodness it was a beautiful day and the seas were calm, otherwise Kel and I would have been soaked to the bone! We were able to make the trip with only a few refreshing splashes and were greeted with excited faces from the students and the crew.

In no time, Kel was set up and ready to talk about dolphins and DCP to the group of ten high school students in the program. She discussed what DCP is all about and how DCP conducts its research, and even brought the camera with its housing for show and tell. The students were very engaging and some even came up to the front of the classroom to take a closer look at the camera and the hydrophones that were attached. Kel taught them about why the hydrophones where important, and how it helps the video recording to pick up the different acoustics of the dolphins under water. Then Kel discussed the identification process and why it is important to ID as many dolphins as possible. The students asked great questions and were able to learn about how the identification process helps us to learn about and track the population size of the dolphins, estimate their life spans, study reproductive rates, and analyze their behavior. I was able to share a little bit about my experience with dolphin identification with DCP and some of my strategies for identifying certain dolphins, explaining how to look for certain notches in the dorsal fins, or certain permanent scars the dolphins might have. We were even able to introduce them to some of the spotted dolphins that we have cataloged, like Tilly (#87), Romeo (#10), and my personal favorite, Lil’ Jess (#35)! I was also able to share my journey finding DCP as well as sharing my college experience so far in marine science. I shared how I applied for the Dolphin Communication Project thinking how amazing it would be to work with such big and intelligent animals like dolphins. Being able to work with such smart and social animals has really been a treat and something I wish to pursue thanks to DCP! I hope that sharing my experience as an intern and telling them about my route in college as a biology major taking marine science classes, helps them in their endeavors as they pursue college and possibly studying marine biology. It was definitely a pleasure to share my experience for something I love and being able to hear Kel give an awesome presentation.     

After our time with the students was done, we boarded the small boat again for a nice cruise back to North Bimini. The rest of the beautiful Sunday was spent snorkeling at the beach and doing a little more work on photo identification. I can’t wait to help with the next talk Kel gives!    

Cheers!

-Nat 

PS: Do you want to come meet Kel and the dolphins of Bimini? Scoop up one of the remaining spaces on our 26 – 31 August 2018 eco-tour! A bucket-list worthy experience for sure! Click here for info.

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Conch Salad Anyone?
20 February 2019

Conch Salad Anyone?

This past Tuesday was definitely a day full of firsts! As office work days continue with ample amounts of photo sorting and dolphin IDs, boat breaks are essential to keep the mind fresh and sharp to look out for those distinct dorsal fin notches and curves. So when Kel invited me for an afternoon boating trip with family and friends, I didn’t hesitate! We left the Sea Crest dock around 1:00 in the afternoon on a smaller boat named Lay Low to venture out to a small beach that wasn’t filled with Bimini tourists.

Upon arrival to our little beach on the North end of Bimini, we stopped by a sea grass bed to snorkel and dive for queen conch. Kel’s friends, Hank and Cole, showed me how to pick the perfect queen conch (one with a big, fully formed lip), to fish out for the conch salad that Hank would make later. I had a blast looking for conchs that were big enough to eat and I dove down to cruise along the seagrass hunting for the big conch shells. After we had plenty for the conch salad, we walked along the shallow sandbar to the beach with our treasures/snack. Hank cracked open the conchs and started to prepare them for the conch salad. Meanwhile, another one of Kel’s friends, Russell, helped clean the conch and offered me the pistol of the conch (you can guess what organ the “pistol” might refer to). After Russell and Hank ate the pistol, I decided to give it a try and popped the small, clear, and rubbery cylinder shaped pistol into my mouth. It had a salty flavor with a rubbery texture and was definitely the most bizarre thing I had ever consumed.

As Hank continued to prepare the conch salad, the rest of us swam and enjoyed playing on the beach. We scanned the water looking for shells, and low and behold, Al was able to find a small milk conch in the shallows. Luckily for the milk conch, it was too small to eat, and for me it was too darn cute! The little milk conch was definitely the most social and curious gastropod I had ever met. After laying the shell on my hand for about 2 minutes, the milk conch inside started to wiggle its way onto my hand. Its eyes popped out of its shell and soon its body was slowly moving around my hand causing it to tickle like crazy! We played with the conch for a while and they placed it back in the water where it belonged.

Soon it was time to re-board the Lay Low and head back home to the southern end of the island. On the way back we enjoyed the conch salad that Hank worked tirelessly to make. It was my first time having raw conch and it was delicious! Although I must confess, the texture of the rubbery conch was not my favorite. It was still a great day full of firsts and conchs! Soon enough we were back at the Sea Crest just in time for dinner and then a must needed lights out after a great day.  

Cheers!

Nat

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Farewell from Patrick
20 February 2019

Farewell from Patrick

Being in Bimini again for a week was definitely a treat. Although shorter than my last two trips, I tried to keep it busy with a few dolphin trips, working with intern Nat, beach trips, and of course, food! If you’ve been keeping up with the blog posts, you read about our great dolphin trips on Monday and Tuesday with Manhattan and Hunter College. These included a roughly 40 minute swim with Lil’ Jess (#35), Romeo (#10), Leslie (#80), Sulphur (#102), and #117, and a few calves and juveniles. They were all so playful and interactive with us! It was so great seeing some familiar dolphin spots and rostrums, before my dolphin trips were finished for the week. While I had planned on taking another dolphin trip on my last day with Neal Watson’s Bimini Scuba Center, it had unfortunately gotten cancelled due to weather. So, two early trips turned out to be my only dolphin encounters for the week and I am thankful that the dolphins cooperated and made them fantastic!

Although my extra dolphin trip got cancelled I got an offer to hop on board for a shark trip with Neal’s crew. I of course accepted, and we headed south past Bimini to the Sapona! This is a popular dive and snorkel spot, but this was a first for me! The popularity of the destination quickly became apparent as we neared the very obvious giant concrete ship that ran aground south of Bimini in 1926. It was completed surrounded by nearly 20 boats, which made for a madhouse in the water. But, the ship is very dilapidated now and makes for an interesting swim. It was surreal to swim through the old rusty ship and see all the life that lives there now, swarming with barracuda, pufferfish, stingrays, and all sorts of coral and tropical fish (pictured above). After the 45 minute swim there, we got aboard and headed to the more familiar Triangle Rock, to jump in the water for the main event with the sharks! They tossed the bait box in and shortly a few sharpnose sharks showed up, a nurse shark lazily swam past, and then the larger reef sharks showed up looking for a bite to eat. They curiously checked out the bait box, the snorkelers and the divers. After our time was up, we hopped out and they fed the sharks from the surface. They are conditioned to eat when smaller, fish-sized objects smack the surface of the water (our captain kindly told us they would not be throwing GoPros to us in the water for the reason!). They took the fish out of the bait box and threw them, forcefully, into the water and they quickly came up to the surface and chowed down, slightly aggressively! It was a very enjoyable last day of my trip.

In the meantime, between the dolphin trips in the beginning, and the shark trip at the end, I spent time snorkeling around the Galant Lady and the rocks around the southern end of North Bimini. I got to spend time training Nat and getting her caught up to speed so she’s prepared to work by herself when I leave (although Kel is right down the road, of course!). I also got to eat at all my favorite Bimini restaurants again, and got to spend some quality time with Kel and her family! I’m always excited to help DCP in any way I can, especially in the water with the dolphins! All in all, it was a great trip made possible by DCP and I am honored that Kel asked me to come back for another summer.

Hopefully I’ll see you again soon,

Patrick

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A Taste of Island Life
20 February 2019

A Taste of Island Life

A break from boat trips means I get to delve into island life and explore beautiful Bimini. On Wednesday & Thursday, Patrick showed me all the hot spots to purchase my groceries and most importantly, my bread! Such a great little shop down King’s highway called Charlie’s Bread makes the best local bread that leaves your mouth watering for days! Just further down the street is where the grocery store is located, perfect to venture to on a Thursday or Friday when the shipment of food arrives.

Besides the waters offshore Bimini where the dolphins swim, there is so much to explore just in my backyard! A snorkel swim just around the rock jetty outside my cottage welcomes a whole world filled with small critters. Wednesday’s snorkel included a couple shrimp hiding amongst the rocks, bright red crabs wedged between two pieces of coral, stingrays, and flounders hiding in the sand with two eyes bulging out peering at the snorkelers. After the snorkel, it was back to office work, organizing photographs for bottlenose dolphins and learning more and more IDs for the spotted dolphins!

The exploration doesn’t stop there; Thursday morning I was able to hop aboard Neal Watson’s dive boat for a two tank dive off the coast of South Bimini. There we did a shallow dive on Military Bay where we saw a big scorpion fish camouflaged against the rocks and coral and some stingrays! The next dive, however, was by far my favorite. It was a shallow shark dive where ten Caribbean Reef sharks circled the waters looking for a snack! But no worries, these sharks were not looking for any humans to munch on, but instead would scatter away if you swam too close. The sharks were so beautiful and majestic to look at, and some as long as 6 feet, that I never wanted to come out of the water. Sadly, the time came to depart the shark dive and I was the last one to get back on the boat. Once back on land, it was time to ride my bicycle home to meet up with Patrick and get back to dolphin photo IDs and organizing! I can’t wait to see what the next days of island exploration will hold!

Cheers!

-Nat (2018 Intern)

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Speechless
20 February 2019

Speechless

I will try to do the impossible task of describing my first experience swimming with wild dolphins, but I’m afraid that there are just no words in the English language to describe the sensation and feeling. To begin, we boarded the Sea Crest Boat at 2:00 in the afternoon. As Patrick continued to teach me the ropes of my new position, we stumbled into a small thunderstorm which accompanied bucket loads of rain. Captain Al made sure everyone was safe and sound inside the cabin until the storm passed. The original plan had been to snorkel the “road to Atlantis”, but unfortunately due to the change in weather, we skipped the snorkel to instead set our eyes to the sea to look for dorsal fins.   

Within an hour of cursing along the water, we came across a group of eight spotted dolphins. Everyone rushed to grab their snorkel and fins and head to the stern of the boat to await first mate Julie’s, command to enter the water.

The first thing I realized when I entered the ocean, were the sounds. Squeaks, clicks, and whistles composed all the sounds in the water, which created a beautiful sense of a sort of underwater music. As my ears picked up the different sounds of their echolocation, my eyes spotted the first dolphin that swam into my view. Lil’ Jess (#35, pictured here)! Not only was I over the moon about seeing my first dolphin underwater, but I was also able to ID the dolphin based on the distinct under bite she possesses. Soon after spotting Lil’ Jess, her calf wasn’t too far behind. The calf came whizzing by and started to rub against its mother.

Not long after observing Lil’ Jess (#35) and her calf, the other dolphins came gliding into view. Among these dolphins were Romeo (#10) and Leslie (#80). We watched as they swam towards the bottom to rub their backs in the sand, and then they swam up to observe the snorkelers above. There was one moment in particular that I will never forget. At one point an adult dolphin and a younger dolphin (on land we ID’d Sulfur (#102) and un-named #117), came swimming along next to me. The most remarkable part was that they slowed down to my slow swimming pace. To compare how slow it must have felt to them, imagine trying to walk in slow motion for someone to keep up with you on foot, so for them to slow down to swim next to me was incredible. For a moment, I was not trying to catch up to the dolphins or swim after the dolphins, but I was swimming with the dolphins, and that is definitely a feeling that has no words to describe, but I will certainly try. It was almost as if you were being invited into a secret underwater world and for a split second you were not just an alien terrestrial animal, but a guest in their new, exciting, and foreign home. I could also see that the dolphins were looking right at me. Their eyes seemed not to just look at me but to look inside me, and I could feel their echolocation through my body. It was the most amazing experience and moment. Eventually, the dolphins parted ways with me and I was left to feel amazed as I watched the other dolphins play, and I was able to observe all the pectoral fin contacts that were happening in the water.

After 45 minutes of snorkeling and observing the dolphins, it was sadly time to depart and head back to shore. It was definitely a day for the books and everyone was wiped out from such an amazing boat day. It definitely made the cozy cabin confinement during the thunderstorm well worth the wait! Then it was supper and a quick, and much needed, lights out for the next day’s adventure to arrive.

Until then,

Nat

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Interns are in the field – yay!
20 February 2019

Interns are in the field – yay!

Each summer, DCP aims to have multiple internship opportunities at our Bimini, The Bahamas, field site. As you read last month, J.P. participated in our May Short Field Experience Internship. Nat (Natalie) has been busy at our USA office and began the field portion of her internship this week. To help train and orient Nat to the island, Patrick – 2016 field course participant (EKU) and 2017 summer intern – has returned for the week. Check out their first impressions below and follow along with Nat’s experience over the next 5 weeks!

Cheers,

Kel

On Sunday, I once again I found myself back in Bimini! I think I'm trying to make it a summer habit at this point. After getting to study abroad here with Eastern Kentucky University in 2016, and being an intern in 2017, I'm back this year to assist Kel and the new summer intern, Nat! The only downfall is that this will be my shortest trip yet, since I'll be here for a week. I will certainly make use of every second I am here though! Coming back to the island I was as giddy as usual, I couldn't wait to see Bimini, its people, and the dolphins again! The only thing missing as I boarded the plane was Nat. We had planned to meet in Fort Lauderdale when her plane landed but her flight got so delayed that she missed the flight to Bimini. As she planned her alternative routes, trying to get here as soon as possible, I met up with Kel as soon as I got off the water taxi to North Bimini. She got us situated in the Sea Crest and we headed to her house to catch up, get some refreshers about the boat and dolphins, and she made dinner! :)

The first full day on the island began with meeting the current group of students that have been here for the past week or so with Manhattan College and Hunter College. Kel and I met on the beach and helped with the beach cleanup as we waited on Nat to land and get to the Sea Crest. As we were taking a dip in the ocean to cool off, Nat had found us on the beach! We finally met in person and we got her settled in her cottage she'll be staying in for the month. The good thing about her making it to the island early in the day was that she made it in time for the boat trip this afternoon! First, we got some lunch at CJ's, right on the beach, then we headed to Kel's and got instruction/refresher's for the boat, since it was going to just be us two representing DCP for the next couple of trips. 3 o'clock came around and we were off towards the dolphin grounds! We had high hopes and were both very excited to see some dolphins. A couple hours passed and in the distance we spot a dolphin or two jumping out of the water, seemingly as high as it possibly could, over and over. We closed in on it and it seems to just be one wild spotted dolphin, just zipping around. As we're following this one, a couple more popped up. This time, it was an older pair of C4s with a C2. Cpt Al decided it was worth a shot to get in the water with them and try and collect some videos! I hopped in with half of the students and got a couple minutes of solid footage but they weren't too interested in us and swam out of view shortly. I knew I recognized the older individuals but I'd have to get back to my computer and break the rust off and figure out who these were! As we climbed aboard and were ready to go they were long gone. But we soon found the same crazy dolphin jumping out of the water over and over by himself again, but Al decided it was best to move on to new waters. As we searched we happened upon a small group of bottlenose! We decided it was worth a shot to give it a go, this time the other half of students and Nat got to get in! I was hoping for a great experience for her first taste of swimming with dolphins and collecting footage, but unfortunately they quickly swam out of view. We hopped back on the boat and headed for home. These short encounters today definitely gave us with a good taste of the dolphins, but we're both hoping for some more interactive dolphins tomorrow! We got back from the boat and Kel had us over for dinner and gave us some work to do outside of the boat. We didn't stay too long because we were quite exhausted, so we grabbed our bikes and headed down the road to our beds.

Until tomorrow!

Patrick

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Although the trip to Bimini encountered many bumps along the road, this beautiful island was well worth the wait. I was scheduled to arrive to Bimini on Sunday to hit the ground running as the new summer intern for the DCP. I unfortunately did not arrive until Monday due to many flight predicaments. On my way from Atlanta to Fort Lauderdale to catch a small plane to Bimini at 3:55 pm, I encountered a four-hour delay with my flight from Atlanta. I boarded the plane at 11:00 that morning and we did not take off until 3:00 in the afternoon. Not only was the plane experiencing some brake malfunctions, but the left engine also needed repairing, (two very important parts of the plane). All the passengers sat on the plane for an extra four hours on top of the two hours of travel time to Fort Lauderdale. Due to the delay, I inevitably missed my flight to Bimini and had to stay the night in Fort Lauderdale to catch a different flight the next morning.

Even though I was not experiencing the best of luck with airlines and airplanes, I decided to look on the bright side to what the next day would hold, and boy did it hold some adventure. Monday morning, I boarded my first seaplane to Bimini at 10:30. The seaplane only contained eight seats and there were only four other passengers besides myself, so there was plenty of room to get a perfect view. The journey over the ocean was absolutely beautiful and the weather was perfect for flying a small aircraft. In just 30 minutes we were landing along the waters of Bimini and unloading baggage onto the dock.

After a short taxi ride, I arrived at the Sea Crest where DCP was completing a beach cleanup. Then after quick introductions and after settling into my temporary home for the next five weeks, I was aboard the boat to go dolphin searching. The other intern, Patrick, showed me the ropes of the boat as well as how to input the data we needed from the boat. After two hours of luxuriously searching on the beautiful blue waters, we finally saw a spotted dolphin jump four feet out of the water. Soon we saw two other spotted dolphins, a mom and a calf, and then two bottlenose dolphins. Then after a long day on the boat we came back to land for dinner and a quick lights out after a long day.

Thanks,

-Nat

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Little Injuries
20 February 2019

Little Injuries

Thursday’s boat trip included two Atlantic spotted dolphin sightings. First, we found a group of about 11 spotteds, but they were on the move. I think un-named #117, an adult female was in the group, as well as a juvenile with a small and shallow, but fresh, injury to its side. These dolphins heal so well, I won’t be surprised if it doesn’t even leave a scar…

Later in the day and farther from shore, we saw another group of spotted dolphins. This time, we were able to observe them under water. I didn’t readily match anyone to our photo-ID catalog, though several looked quite familiar, so I’m sure we’ll make some IDs once we have time to review the photos and video. Once the dolphins lost interest in us, we began the journey back to the dock, searching along the way. We didn’t come across any more on the way home, but we were all happy with the day!

Until next time,

Kel

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Teaching and Dolphins: Two of my favorite things
20 February 2019

Teaching and Dolphins: Two of my favorite things

Monday I had hoped to meet the first group of students from Chicago City Day School, aboard the Coral Reef II, but unfortunately they were delayed. I missed our talk, but hope they are having an absolutely fabulous program exploring the water around Bimini. Then, it was on to the Sea Crest, to meet this year’s students from Hunter & Manhattan Colleges. I gave them an orientation to DCP’s still cameras and slates, which they’ll use over the next 10 days, and some tips on how to best photograph dolphins for photo-ID purposes.

Though I didn’t join the Hunter/Manhattan boat trip on Monday, I did return to the Sea Crest to give a lecture on photo-identification on Tuesday. It’s my favorite topic to teach and this group was great! Then, it was a 1500 boat departure and the day did not disappoint! We first saw dolphins fairly early and were able to observe them, both from the boat and under water, for the whole afternoon. Throughout this time, we saw Niecey (#48) and her calf, then Buster (#04), Split Jaw (#22), Swoosh (#36), Prince William (#64), Inka (#93), Paul (#99), Vee (#101, pictured here), Sulfur (#102) and un-named #107. Tim (#69) and Speedy (#78) may have also been there and I’m hopeful I’ll be able to make more IDs from the stills and video as well.

I don’t usually write too much about how a dolphin observation “felt” but this trip was one of those that leaves even a seasoned dolphin observer in awe. Different dolphin observations have different qualities: some are calm, some energetic, some have the dolphins doing their own thing, others have the dolphins very curious and interactive with the humans. Tuesday’s observations had it all. It was as if every 10 minutes or so, I was transported to a different day, a different group. At one point, four adults simply hovered at the surface, occasionally making physical contact with each other. All I had to do was move my fins occasionally to stay in place and keep them in the camera’s view finder. It was a moment in time that reminds me that I’m not just a researcher trying to objectively study another species. I’m an ocean-loving human who is part of the environment, not separate from it. Ah. What a day.

Until next time,

Kel

PS: Remember, you can join me in the field! We only a few spaces left on our fully catered, 5-night, 5-boat trip 26 – 31 August 2018 program. Click here for more details!

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Cloudy skies give way to dolphins
20 February 2019

Cloudy skies give way to dolphins

On Wednesday, I was lucky enough to join a Bimini Adventures charter. The small group of guests was upbeat, friendly and excited for dolphins. As we cruised the shoreline, the sky was filled with clouds and rain came down in the lightest of sprinkles. We searched and searched and just after the boat hit a turbulent trough, there they were: four Atlantic spotted dolphins! Four turned into six turned into eight turned into at least 12. Over the course of three swims, we Buster (#04), Split Jaw (#22), Prince William (#64), Tim (#69), Speedy (#78), Inka (#93) and un-named #107. Plus, I’m confident that I’ll recognize even more once we review the video. There was so much going on – the guests were thrilled! We saw social tactile behavior including pectoral fin rubbing, we saw mating (particularly between Split Jaw and #107) and we watched the dolphins surf the waves, circling us with ease.

After more than a week on land, today was a great day of data collection. Can’t wait until tomorrow!

Until then,

Kel

PS: Interested in experiencing this for yourself? Grab one of the last remaining spaces on our August Eco-Tour – before they’re gone! Click here for more info.

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I’m leaving on a jet plane - Nope! I'm on a boat
20 February 2019

I’m leaving on a jet plane - Nope! I'm on a boat

Hope you enjoy Short Field Experience Intern J.P.’s final blog post! Keep checking back for new posts throughout the summer from the rest of the 2018 team!

-Kel

It’s Sunday, and my bags are packed and it is my last day in Bimini.  I am filled with mixed emotions as I am excited to go home again but will also miss this island.  I console myself with the thoughts that this will not be the last time I come back here.  I finish up any last minute work I can as I clean up the efficiency and pack anything I left out that I needed for the day.

I check my email and I have something from Kel about being with the kids at the beach near me.  I go to say hi and we chat for a little and discuss how clear the water is here compared to New England.  We discuss the travel plans one more time and I go back to finish things up.

As it is getting closer to the departure time I get a ride to the airport with Kel’s help.  I arrive there hearing similar stories of the firetruck debacle.  I get in line and board with a relatively small wait compared to the airport.  I find a seat and store my bag waiting and watching the seats fill up around me.  The whole time I hear how crazy it is that the airport was shut down for international flights.  Several announcements come over the PA about removing bags from seats as we will need every seat this trip.  After everyone boards we leave shortly after the anticipated departure time.

The ride is fairly smooth and fast for a ferry.  I go to the back of the boat to check the view as we leave Bimini.  There is a loud couple across from me watching the pink panther on their cell phone blasting the speaker, as far as I can tell, at full volume.  I change out my earbuds for my noise canceling headphones and continue listening to music as we proceed on our trip.  As we are approaching Miami the lighting changes and I turn to see the sun setting.  With my big camera packed deep in my bag I grab my phone and head out to the rear deck area.  I watch the sun dip behind the buildings and snap a photo.  As nice as this sunset is I am still going to miss the view from Bimini.

Until next time,

J.P.

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Final Plans
20 February 2019

Final Plans

On Saturday, I wake up knowing this is my last weekend in Bimini.  Today I need to make new arrangements to make sure I get back home.  Due to the airport snafu I have booked myself a ticket on the ferry which is filling up quickly.  Since my phone has been acting up and the Wi-Fi keeps going out, I have had some trouble getting in touch with my airline to change my flight once I get back to the states.  After getting somewhat stable Wi-Fi, I get my phone provider to help me fix my cellular service.  Now that I can make calls again I get in contact with my airline and change my flight over.  Since I will have to take the night ferry and not knowing how long customs will take it looks like I am going to have to stay a night in Florida and take a flight the next day.

With departure plans now in place, I grab a breakfast sandwich from the local eatery and get some work done.  I am now in the last legs and trying to finish up anything I have left over.  Balancing my cold and work proves to be more difficult than expected.  I take breaks getting some fresh island air as needed to help the healing process.  The helicopter and boat routine still seems to be going on today as I take one of my breaks to see if they are doing anything different.  Nope, still just doing pass after pass down the shoreline.

As the day goes on I reach out to Nicole and Kel to get there opinion on some of the work I have completed while I finish up the rest.  They give me welcomed feedback and I work on improvements the best I can.

Sunset quickly approaches and I grab a bite and watch the sun dip into the sea.  I am going to miss this view…

-J.P.

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Wild Dolphins in The Bahamas: Spaces Still Available!
20 February 2019

Wild Dolphins in The Bahamas: Spaces Still Available!

Did you enjoy reading about the May Eco-Tour (aka Research Experience)? We have another opportunity for supporters to join us at our Bimini, The Bahamas field site – where we study wild Atlantic spotted and bottlenose dolphins. There are only 4 spaces left!

Program start: 26 August 2018 (begins with lunch, so many guests are arriving on 24th or 25th)

Program end: 31 August 2018 (ends after breakfast)

Cost: $1875 (ask about $50 US check discount!)

Read all about this awesome program here. And email info [at] dcpmail [dot] org for more info and to save your space!

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Newest Dolphin Gazette!
20 February 2019

Newest Dolphin Gazette!

The latest issue of DCP's quarterly newsletter, The Dolphin Gazette is here! Kel has been busy at our Bimini field site, and still has spaces available for different experiences that bring you to The Bahamas to help study wild dolphins. Kathleen reflects on the upcoming 20-year anniversary of DCP and she too looks forward to supporters joining her in the field. Of course, you can always wind down with a fun activity on the last page... 

Click here to get your free copy. Thanks for reading - and sharing!

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Hot pursuit?
20 February 2019

Hot pursuit?

On Friday, I wake up earlier than planned with a Bahamian head cold.  Thrown off by a cold in the middle of summer and not able to sleep, I check my email.  To my surprise I have an informative email about my airline and flights from Kel.  Apparently the airport’s fire truck has malfunctioned and due to this development scheduled U.S. flights will be canceled until further notice.  Kel has been kind enough to mention some options which I look into briefly before trying to go back to sleep.  I manage to catch a few winks but unsettled by the cold and news it looks like I am going to be having an early morning. I get some work done while I am up and some breakfast at CJs after it opens.  I exchange some emails and find that everyone that was planning to leave via the airport was able to reschedule with the seaplane.  Unfortunately that does not seem to be an option for me since I brought my scuba gear therefore luggage limits on a smaller plane seem too restricting but moreover they are sold out of flights for my departure date. 

Today is Nicole’s last day and I need to get some work material from her before she leaves.  She stops by and we say our goodbyes for now.  I then head off to pick up some cold supplies to help expedite ridding this cold.  On my way back I head to the dock to see how Al is doing with the boat repairs.  Al is nowhere to be found but I run into one of the group members before she leaves for her flight.  I wish her safe travels and head back to the efficiency to get some work done and kick this cold.  The cold remedies seem to help with the discomfort as I get some more work done. 

Lunch time fast approaches and as I am eating I hear some aerial action closer than I expect.  I feel like it is right outside.  I brush it off and continue eating then I see a boat and helicopter out of my window.  I go investigate and it looks like the boat might be being pursued by the helicopter.  The boat turns around and the so does the helicopter.  After they loop a couple of times, I grab my camera and take some shots and come to the conclusion the boat is most likely being filmed/photographed.  I get back to my work and continue on as I hear the hum by as they do pass after pass.  As the sun is getting ready to set, I head to Sue and Joy’s to get another sports drink and run into Kel.  We discuss the travel craziness and plan to catch up tomorrow.

So, until then,

J.P.

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Lots of spots!
20 February 2019

Lots of spots!

The sun is out and the weather looks good on Thursday as I walk down to meet our group for our last boat trip.  Today it looks like we are going to be on the big boat as there was a little engine trouble with the other boat.  We board with purpose today since it is the last day and we have to adhere to a schedule as flights must be made.  After the whole group has boarded we set off.

We approach the sand bar and it looks like a large boat may be stuck.  They seem to be putting out some power but not going anywhere.  As we get closer to them they seem to break free of trouble and start moving.  It seems they are clear of any issues they were having.  We set course hoping to see some action soon.

Not an hour in and Captain Al see some dolphins in our path.  We continue on excited as they seem to be coming to us on the last outing.  I break out the surface camera and snap a few photos as Nicole confirms they are Atlantic spotted dolphins.  We take photos and observe them for a while.  They seem to be on the move but more and more dophins are joining the group.  We get a count approaching twenty dolphins!  I continue snapping photos away as we hope they slow so we can join them in the water.  After a little time goes by we decide we will try to get in the water with them. 

We gear up and get in.  There are a lot of dolphins but they do not seem to sticking around.  We try to keep up but shortly after they leave us.  We board the boat hoping to catch up to them and give it another go.  Back in proximity of the group, we get back in the water a second time.  This time we keep pace with them for a little before they leave us again.  We board the boat knowing that this is not going to work.  We catch back up to the group and decide to observe from the surface until we have to head back to port.  We chat while taking surface photos and enjoying the view.  We have some bow riding going on from time to time along with some feisty fluke slaps.  I take my research hat off and just enjoy the view.  I concentrate on the dolphins and their playful appearance and it transforms into a tranquil moment.  We observe as long as possible and say our goodbyes as we leave the dolphins to head back to port.

Throughout the day, we are readily able to recognize Buster (#04), Romeo (#10, with a calf), Tina (#14, with a distinct calf), Lil’ Jess (#35, with her older calf), Niecey (#48 – with a calf?), Leslie (#80 – with a calf?), Paul (#99), un-named #112 and possibly un-named #117. Stay tuned for details on the addition of Tina’s calf to the catalog and – possibly – a name for #112. Ooooo, the suspense!

A final docking and we conclude our venture.  We say our goodbyes and part ways, satisfied with our week of dolphin adventures.

-J.P.

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We have a breach!
20 February 2019

We have a breach!

The weather is warm and sunny as I head to the Sea Crest to meet up with the rest of the group.  It looks like today will be the day we help the beach get a little cleaner.  I arrive at the suite with the smell of cinnamon bagels in the air.  Good mornings are exchanged as I grab a seat as we wait for the rest of the group to join us.  After Kel gives a quick briefing we head out to the beach.  Once we arrive at the beach outside CJs, we grab gloves and bags and start the collection process.  We split into two groups to comb the beach.  I go through the collection of beach matter and sort out what does not belong.  I grab big and small items and toss them into the quickly filling with straws, plastic and Styrofoam.  It is looking much better now.  As my bag is almost full I double back picking up anything that I missed along the way.  I grab another bag and start on the other side.  You can definitely feel the heat of the sun today as sweat starts running down my brow.  I start the other side and I am pleasantly surprised to find little cleanup to do.  The beach is actually looking better than what I remember during my last beach cleanup in 2014 (during the awesome DCP field course with SHU).  The bags fill up as we look to each other satisfied with our results.  We tie off the bags and get them ready for proper disposal.  Now that our morning task is completed and we have left the beach better than we found it, we disburse to get back to our plans for the day before our last afternoon boat session.

I go get some work done and time quickly passes as it gets closer to our boat outings.  I meet the group at the dock as we are ready for our trip for the day.  We proceed to board and release from the dock as we head out to our first stop of the day.  Today we are heading towards the snorkel stop, Three Sisters. We arrive at the stop without an event and proceed to the water after we are briefed.  During the snorkel session I see a giant rainbow parrotfish, big eyed john, and a flounder that was blending in quite well.  After everyone had gotten there fill for the site we boarded the boat hoping to see some dolphins today.

We cruised the sea hoping to see some familiar dorsal fins as we chatted amongst ourselves.  Some action is spotted in the distance.  It appears that we have some breaching dolphins!  We continue course looking to the horizon for more splashes.  I have my camera out and ready hoping to catch a shot of the action.  I capture a photo of a breach however the distance is too great to discern any detail.  We keep our heading towards the splashes.  We arrive to find no signs of dolphins.  We monitor the area for a while but with nothing in sight so we continue to search elsewhere.

After a short while we come across some movement.  It appears we have found our treasure for the day.  There are bottlenose dolphins all around.  I start snapping photos of every dolphin I can see.  We observe their behavior and they seem to be staying in the area.  We decide to get in the water and see if they stick around as bottlenose seem to be less curious of us humans.  We slip into the water and observe and record their behavior.  They seem to be foraging for food as they dive down making some noise and rustle up the sand.  This is very similar behavior to what I saw back in 2014.  The water clarity is less than ideal so I dive down a little to get some photos.  They do not seem to mind us as we swim around them trying to observe as much as possible.  After a little while they leave us.  We wait for the all clear signal and then board the boat.

As it is getting later in the day we head back to the docks to find some spotted dolphins breaching the surface in the distance.  We get closer and they seem to be chasing fish near the shore.  Due to the time we could not stay long and continued to the docks.  Once we were settled in the slip we left to go our separate ways knowing we had one final trip in the morning.

Until the AM,

J.P.

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Birthday Surprise
20 February 2019

Birthday Surprise

Beach cleanup is on the docket for Tuesday morning but with the sudden burst of rain I am skeptical about if we will keep the schedule today.  I hear a couple more showers with the water bouncing of metal and wood as I get ready to meet the others at the beach.  Hearing no word of a cancelation I leave for the beach.  Scanning and seeing no one in sight I make my way to the suite.  I find that we are delayed but not canceled.  I go to get some work done and get a little tunnel vision towards the end.  I see the time and rush back to meet at the suite.  I arrive to find that due to the weather we are cancelled today but will try again tomorrow.  I head back to the efficiency grabbing a breakfast sandwich on the way.

I get some work done as time quickly passes and it is almost time for the boat trip.  I get ready and head off to meet the group at the docks.  I arrive and meet up with Nicole and one of the group members.  Shortly after the rest of the group joins us and we find out that it is one of their birthdays.  Kel and Al arrive and inform us that there is some bad weather rolling in but it should pass quickly.  With dark clouds rolling above we are not sure if we are going to have to run for cover.  After the clouds pass leaving us more or less dry it looks like we are in the clear.  We board the boat and start the departure routine.  The water is looking much calmer today and the sun is around.  We get out of the docks and it looks like this is going to be the smoothest and driest trip so far.  We set course to our snorkel destination, The Bimini Road.  I have visited this site once before back in 2014 and read up a little on it yesterday before we went on the outing.  It was predicted by a psychic to appear near Bimini and be the remains of Atlantis.  On our way to the snorkel stop we all have our eyes peeled looking for the evasive dolphins we have been seeking these past couple of trips.  A guest sees something off in the distance that does not seem like waves.  We change course to investigate further.  I focus in on the area in question and confirm that something is not moving like the rest of the water.  Shortly after I can make out what it is, a dorsal fin, no two dorsals, dolphins!  Nicole quickly is atop the bow confirming and counting as a guest and I grab our long lensed surface cameras in hope of snagging a shot.  Nicole confirms two bottlenose dolphins.  We all scan the area but cannot seem to locate the dorsals again or any other sign.  As quickly they appeared they seemed to have vanished.  Kel informs us that this is often the behavior of the bottlenose dolphins.  We look around a little more but to our disappointment we can no longer locate them.  We change heading back to the snorkel location and proceed with our outing.  Everyone is happy we finally got to see what we were looking for but are now desiring more, as a taste is never enough.

We slow as dolphins are the talk around the boat.  I look around in hope of seeing more dolphins but nothing is within sight.  Captain Al informs us that we have arrived at The Bimini Road.  After informing us the direction of the road we gear up, buddy up and get in the water.  We spend some time exploring the road practicing our snorkeling and freediving.  We come along some fish including angel fish.  After we finish looking around and testing our free diving form we head back to the boat hoping to use the rest of our energy swimming with dolphins.  The group boards and we set off hoping for a second sighting.

We pass the time searching the horizon having friendly conversation.  Some of the group is trying to guess my full name so I give them some incentive that I will let them know if they spot some dolphins.  Some afternoon snacks come out as people fuel up hopeful for a swim.  As it has been the best day out on the water so far and we have had one sighting so far we cannot complain.  It gets later into the trip and it looks like we are just going to be enjoying the open water until we return to dock.  A group member says she saw something out in the distance and we change course.  We are alerted to the area in question and everyone is on the lookout now.  It is confirmed with the sight of multiple dorsal fins.  Nicole get on the bow and counts as I do not waste a second this time to grab my camera.  I get some surface shots as Nicole counts five spotted dolphins.  We gear up excited to finally get a swim with the dolphins!  Captain Al lines the boat up into the optimal position as we wait for the go sign.  After receiving the sign we start to slip in the water.  I turn my camera on and there are three dolphins right in front of me.  To further fuel my excitement I recognize one from the distinct fluke!  I try to get good footage of all of them but one swims off shortly after we got in the water.  I proceed to focus in on the other two: un-named #114 and an older calf/young juvenile.  Some of our group members dive down and intrigue them.  You can hear there clicks in the water as we investigate them.  Due to recent storms the water is a little murkier than normal but we do our best to keep them in sight.  After about fifteen minutes it seems they left us.  We head back to the boat satisfied with our encounter.  The trip back is pleasant and calm.  As we approach the dock we are happy with the birthday surprise we all got to participate in.  We secure the boat and thank Captain Al for letting us stay out a little longer than usual.  We part our separate ways hoping to have a similar experience on our next trip.

Until next time,

J.P.

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Stay calm and log on
20 February 2019

Stay calm and log on

Monday starts with some work before I head over to the Sea Crest to hear about Nicole’s research.  During the talk many of the group members ask welcomed questions that are happily answered.  The talk ends and I am left wanting to hear more about interactions between dolphins.  I will have to wait until Nicole publishes her research to quench that thirst.  We discuss afternoon plans and agree to meet later with the expectation to go on the boat.  I head off to eat a bite and continue my work for the day.  As it gets closer to the outing time I get ready to meet back up with the group.  I arrive and it is confirmed that we will go out today.  I read a little on the island culture from one of the information filled binders in the suite before heading to the docks.  I proceeded to the docks shortly after with one of our group members as Kel waits behind to make sure we get everyone.  I arrive at the boat and ask for permission to board.  I am granted and proceed to secure my belongings.  Kel arrives shortly after with the rest of the group members and we get ready to set off.

Nicole informs me that since it is not raining I will be in charge of the logs.  I internally panic as I had not mentally prepared to be the log keeper for the day.  I start the log proceeding to forget everything I learned about logging last time I was on the island and moreover the information I had recently digitized.  Nicole patiently helps me get through the basics and shortly after I am saved by boat duties.  I proceed to the bow to remove the bow line.  After a brief moment of being free from the logs I am again entrusted to the duties of the pencil and paper.

I log the start of our venture in search of dorsal fins as we head out.  Shortly after leaving the dock we enter rough waters.  Our captain informs us that due to the nature of the water we will only be viewing sightings from the boat today.  With the surf at our stern we are constantly pushed faster than intended towards our heading.  Again we gaze into the horizon looking for any signs of the playful creatures we seek.  The captain predicts we are about a mile away from where they normally are seen during similar conditions.  Some time passes and we approach that one mile mark.  I see something on the surface of the water dead ahead of the boat.  I alert the captain and we slow.  It does not seem to be anything containing life but rather a large garbage can or plastic barrel.  The captain informs us that large storms can cause such things.  Without the resources or room to store it we have to proceed with our trip.  We venture out and see nothing but whitecaps and birds flying above.  We alter course in hope to change our luck.  Hours go by and although our eyes are peeled with intent we are left to enjoy the ride and view without a dolphin sighting.  I log our course adjustment as we head back to port hoping that adjustments will not be the only thing logged by the time we reach the dock.  We arrive at our final check point prior to ending our venture and the most action we have seen today is at the end of the pier.  A man seems to have a fish on the hook and is being cheered on by what appears to be his family.  The birds above are hopeful to get a piece of the action.  We pull back in the slip and I hand off the log as I am back on bow line duty.  I miss the first catch but grab the second one and proceed to help pull the boat to the dock.  I wait for other lines to be attached before proceeding to attach mine to the cleat.  The group leaves the vessel and I follow as I think to myself, the logs are not that bad if you stay calm.

Until next time,

J.P.

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Dolphin Communication Project
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