Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Unscheduled Stop -- Bumpy Seas

Last night we ran an all-night passive acoustic survey on our way back toward the Spanish coast through the dark. We needed to make a brief, unplanned return to enable some medical assessments and crew-changes. Safety comes first and everyone is well and on the ship ready for action. Nevertheless, it took much of the day away from our efforts to tag beaked whales, though we did return into deep water in search of them by late afternoon. However, our return to what we believe (based on previous observations) to be good beaked whale habitat largely confirmed the earlier weather forecasts of conditions that would be unsuitable for sighting and tagging beaked whales; none were sighted or heard on the acoustic systems today.

Multiple dolphin groups were sighted, and at one point several large groups of dozens of common dolphins were swimming and socializing on all sides of our vessel. We weren't traveling fast enough for them to want to ride on the bow wave, but they streaked gracefully around and by us for 20 minutes. A group of Risso's dolphins was sighted just after dinner, but by about 2000 the wind and swell were at unworkable levels. Tomorrow we plan to work through a deep canyon where many previous sightings of beaked whales have been made. The forecast is for marginal conditions much of the day but calming in the area where we will be operating in the afternoon.