26 September 2007

Pelagos, 20-26 August 2007

The fifteenth course of the CSR research project was full of emotional encounters, despite the fact that rain kept the whole team in port on the first day. A beautiful sighting of Risso’s dolphins was the start of the week’s encounters and these continued with as many as three fin whale sightings.

During one of these occasions, our enthusiasm was quickly transformed into grave concern because of a ferry approaching fast, right on a whale’s route. Luckily, collision was avoided by a few meters and the whole team let out a sigh of relief. We cheered up when the return to port rewarded us with another Risso’s dolphin sighting.

The other days were even better…

One day we were involved in collecting data for fin whale and sperm whale and we ended with a great sighting of striped dolphins in the sunset.

The following day we had two more fin whale sightings. As evening fell, around 30 miles from the French coast, the hydrophone revealed the clicks of a sperm whale in the distance, and we were able to follow the animal and photo-identify it. We thought this animal was the last of the day, but we heard other clicks and suddenly, a sperm whale breached. At the same time, right next to our astonished team, two more individuals emerged. Their heads rose up out of the water, looked at Pelagos (our boat) using impressive spy-hopping. Then the animals swam alongside each other, showing tails and dorsal fins.

They repeated this magical “dance” whilst the sun set behind the mountains of Provence. In the meantime, Pelagos remained still, with her audience of silent and awed spectators watching an opening night performance.

During the two hours spent in the company of sperm whales at the surface, the team continued to collect behavioral and acoustic data, minute after minute, without missing a moment of what was going on in front of their eyes. No one had expected such a spectacular show!

The CSR team

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