Monday, August 17, 2009

Beaked Whales Near Sunset

Our first full day on effort for the second leg dawned windier than hoped. Seas were light, but the 10-15 knot winds made things difficult for the visual teams who came on at first light. Acoustics had a large amount of dolphin activity again before dawn but did not pick up any beaked whales while scanning. We ran a slightly westerly track across promising areas for deep-diving whales in order to keep the glare from the rising sun from making things harder for the visual team. Despite our efforts, there was little action through the morning and mid-day other than some scattered groups of dolphins and our regular oceanographic and ambient noise measurements.

As has been the case for much of the project, however, the weather began to cooperate in the late afternoon and early evening. We came back through some canyon-like areas where beaked whales had been detected previously and found five different groups as the seas began to settle, in addition to several groups of common and Risso's dolphins. Here you can see a Cuvier's beaked whale "spyhopping" to have a look above the surface. Unfortunately we had several groups that were not good candidates for tagging attempts because of their group composition or how they were traveling. The two groups we attempted to tag stayed too far from the tag boats for us to attach acoustic tags before the setting sun ended our efforts for today.

The outlook for tomorrow is for even stronger winds (up to 20 knots) and moderate swell, which will prove very challenging if the forecast is correct. We continue our passive acoustic surveys at all possible times and will conduct these throughout the night tonight.