12 September 2012

CSR 17 (September 3rd-9th)

The seventeenth cruise of the Cetacean Sanctuary Research project got off to a slow start due to unfavourable weather and sea conditions, constraining us to stay in the harbour the first day. Nevertheless, this time was put to good use by having various lectures about the biology and ecology of cetaceans in the Mediterranean sea. After a photo-identification lecture, our participants diligently and valiantly helped us match several sperm whale flukes with the Tethys catalogue, and found out that we have two new individuals. One of them was named “Anonymous”, after a participant suggested that hackers around the world belonging to the ‘Anonymous’ group should help cetologists create a photo-identification recognition software instead of their usual hacking practices. Here goes an appeal! On a more serious note, this anecdote illustrates just how tricky and time-consuming this simple yet multipurpose research technique can be. The other sperm whale, on the other hand, was kindly named Quentin.
Once the weather cleared up, we were able to set off for three long, beautiful, and productive days out at sea. Having reached our required 200m depth range, we deployed our hydrophone array, which instantly revealed that two sperm whales were clicking away right off of Sanremo! They were very close together and clicked in unison – practically synchronously – which made the tracking process more complicated, however we managed to collect data successfully. The following day was filled with sightings of striped dolphins, our most commonly occurring species, and a sperm whale sighting out in the pelagic area. Thursday night was spent offshore, revealing a beautifully dark star-filled sky, until the moon came out and illuminated our hazy surroundings, occasionally allowing us to glimpse striped dolphin splashes. Our acoustic sampling stations recorded during the night watch revealed a teeming sea of activity taking place under Pelagos. While participants and researchers slept, cetaceans were busy feeding and communicating!
Once the sun rose, we resumed our sighting shifts and were later delighted to have two fin whale sightings. The first one was a very small individual, leading us to think it might have been a juvenile or a calf that had been separated from the mother. The second sighting was composed of two large adults that were slowly travelling at a speed of around 2 knots, and surfacing quite close together. At the end of the day we decided to moor in the quaint little bay of Villefranche su Mer, where the participants ventured ashore for a short wandering.
The final day included a close encounter with another sperm whale, for which we took the opportunity to make an underwater video – a great end to a fantastic week!

Viridiana, Eva, Martina and Luke

Following link is for participants of this week's expedition, showing the ship's route, pictures of some of the sightings and of some moments of the cruise which were memorable (or even not so...)

Ai partecipanti al turno è dedicato uno spazio con il percorso effettuato durante la settimana, le foto di alcuni avvistamenti e qualche immagine dei momenti da ricordare - importanti e non

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