Hurricane season catches us early...
We've had an incredible August, that made up for the July that was half-amazing weather and half-winter and rough weather. In August, the Atlantic ocean was like a lake. However, the 4th of September started with a sight of the weather forecast that is not to be forgotten.....Ponta Delgada, is in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, is where we are located, check it in the map below...Its almost like the ocean wants to remind us that it's not so smooth as it can be in August. Ok, ok, we get it Atlantic, you're not a lake, you're super rough!
The weather did not end up well. We had 3 hurricanes/large storms pass by in the first and second week of September. The swell and wind lasted for a few more days after that, so it was not the best start of, what "usually" is considered to be quite, a stable month with amazing weather...but not this year.....Well, at least it was a great moment for me to have a look at the data, which was also much needed! In the meantime, all we could do is dream about flying drones because the days, of waiting on land, were long long ones....
Remember our saviour of our 2021 season? Yup, he's back to strengthen the team! He arrived on the 5th of September, as these storms were approaching the Azores. At least he felt at home, since he just completed his field-season in the coldness of Norway. He arrived safely, but it was a question of whether he would be able to have field days during the month that he was joining us.
4 fieldwork days
So we managed. We had our last trip before the storm on the 1st of September, and there was a small good weather window to do 3 trips in collecting data, and one last trip on the 30th of September. The pods were mostly massive pods, so we were pretty overwhelmed after having such a long break to then go back to the most complicated-never-ending pods of common dolphins! What a great first day back for Sean!
Then? ANOTHER even larger tropical storm Gaston passed by closer and we were stranded back on land. Yes, this was the fourth storm in a single month. Check out the wind and windgusts below, up to 70knots!!! Thats a 129.6km an hour! Plus, 6m waves. So, more data processing and analysis for us.
Sperm whale scale
Luckily, Sean O'Callaghan did not need the perfect weather conditions that we do for Azores delphis project, so we also went on a trip with Sean to collect sperm whale footage for his PhD with the project called Sperm whale scale! Picos de Aventura offered him a boat to capture footage to measure the sperm whales. It was a very successful day for Sean, as he even filmed mother and calf pairs!
My favourite part of the blog is the special guest section! That's because special guests are also specialized in something interesting, that is inspiring to us, and valuable/helpful to us on board. Our other saviour from last year Maria Huaman Benitez helped us for a morning! She was out on a day where we found an injured Cory's Shearwater. Maria is specialized in
bird handling, particularly that of Cory's
Shearwaters as she used to work for SPEA, an NGO about bird protection in the Azores. She knew how to pick up the bird without further injuring it, and we took it back to the harbour. There, Maria called the rangers to pick it up and take care of the wounded animal. Luckily we had Maria on board to save this bird!
Next, we had Carolina Macanita on board to help us. Carolina works for Sustain Azores, which is a branch of the Azorean Government aiming to make the Azores a sustainable tourist destination, along with a certification. Since we are studying the common dolphin responses to a tourism activity, we immediately had a link with Carolina's work.
Then we had a flash-back to how Azores delphis project started. In 2018 I worked at Picos de Aventura, a whale watching company that is currently also collaborating with Azores delphis project. In that year I went on the boat almost daily to guide on swim with dolphin activities with Juan Garcia. It was then when we started noticing that the same individual common dolphins were seen for about 3 weeks in a row, in the same area. After 3 years of Azores delphis project, Juan finally had the chance of joining us on board!! It was a pleasure Juan!
Lastly, we had Martina Trepczyk on board twice, our collaborator, who came as a
photographer and filmmaker on board. She has been a collaborator since 2021 and is also the artist and filmmaker who invited me as a speaker to her exhibition, see the next section!
The exhibition was a success! The night was dedicated to ocean passion, art, and conservation. I introduced the research project to the public and it was an honour to work together with Martina Trepczyk and Kyle Roepke. I presented some videos that have not been posted on social media before and the videos were great on a big screen! In case you've missed it, the videos shown during the exhibition, will be posted on our social media channels soon.
It's been a while since we had drone dramas! So here, we share one with you. This was one that was of my worst nightmare. We are currently piloting with 2 drones, and as you can imagine, it is sometimes difficult to know where the drones are....But this time we had a drone on top of the boat, that was not ours!! 3 drones in the same airspace....We have no
idea where this drone came from, and the nearby boat did not have one either...we were at least 1 mile offshore, so that means that the drone must have been flown from land?! This drone would have absolutely been out of the Visual line of Sight of whoever this drone pilot was....So TOTALLY ILLEGAL according to the Aeronautical regulations. Well, besides this being illegal, we were lucky not to have any in-air collisions...
So what do we do now?
Well, that's all folks! What can we say, 4 fieldwork days in a month was not a lot.....This was supposed to be the last month of fieldwork...however, due to the low amount of data collected, and the (thankfully!!!) the availability of the team in October, we will extend our fieldwork for a few more weeks into October.....The season is not over yet!
In the meantime we are working with our co-founder Dr. Laura Gonzales on the Whale Heritage Site by the World Cetacean Alliance. Laura is organizing a meeting on the 8th of October, from 10am-12pm Azores time (UTC+0). I will be presenting the Azores delphis project there, in English. See the program below. Link for more information about the WHS: https://sites.google.com/view/azores-whs/
Link to the online meeting 8 October 10AM Azores time: https://bit.ly/3M0a5tg
Fieldwork is funded by KNAW Ecologie
Author: Fadia Al Abbar