Monday, August 31, 2009

Fins, Brief Winds, and then Ziphius

The weather was good for the most part today as we worked through an area where Cuvier's beaked whales had been seen from ferries and a few sightings from other researchers. We covered a lot of water during the day and found a lot more marine mammals than the area covered yesterday.

Our first sighting was a group of three fin whales and throughout the day we would have more than 20 sightings of other groups or individuals. We saw several fin whales breaching, which is an impressive sight, and had several within a mile or less from the boat. There were also several large groups of dolphins leaping and skimming the water around us several times. The speed and maneuverability of these sleek animals never ceases to be amazing. After seeing the fins in the morning, the middle of our day was briefly interrupted by a small storm cell that we watched form over the sea and then move past us. The wind kicked up for about an hour and we had to stand down our visual team briefly. It actually rained for a few minutes, which we haven't seen for a long time, but it passed quickly and we could again work.

By mid-day the conditions were workable again and we continued searching for beaked whales. We found a group of three and our visual team guided the tag boat toward them. It was good for all to be back on our focal species again after the transit over and two days of searching here. We followed them through a number of surface intervals and the tag boat had two close approaches with reasonably good chances at tagging, but the animals then went down for a deep dive and again we ran out of daylight. The weather predictions for Tuesday look outstanding and we will begin in the same area where we had our first successful focal follow here.