Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Pilot whales- up close and personal.

We have moved south to a newish survey area- further from land and in water circa 2500 metres deep. Seabird activity is much lighter here as we are away from the shelf edge and there appears to be little or no upwelling- just the occasional surface 'slick'. The only birds have been an occasional arctic skua and a couple of Leach's petrels- always good to see as they work their way erratically across the waves, careering drunken-like ahead of the ship. 

We had a very close encounter with a pod of 15 or so short-finned pilot whales this morning. I first saw a large dorsal fin approximately 350 metres directly ahead of the ship as we were doing a slow turn to port. The animals were in classic pilot whale mode- just 'logging' or gently resting at the surface. As we approached they appeared to wake up from their late morning snooze, gave a couple of deep blows then swam to the bow for a brief bow-ride before they undertook a deep dive and disappeared from view. These delightful and often gentle animals appear to be very inquisitive and readily approach vessels- I suppose that is why they got their name. I also had distant views of a Bryde's/Sei whale- with these two species being very similar in size and structure, the dorsal fin is often the only key to their ID but as this animal was so distant it was impossible to pin it down to species level. It made a spectacular start to my morning watch as it breached three times in quick succession. 

breaching Brydes'/Sei whale

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