4th May 08 Out to Challenger and close encounters with a small calf, mother and escort Print
Written by Andrew Stevenson   

 

Still frames taken from the high definition video of the mother and calf. Each second of high definition video has 30 of these still images at 25-45mb each. The lens (dome port) on the 55-pound underwater housing is a fish eye lens of 120 degrees which perfectly frames the baby whale about ten feet away. In the background you can see the 45-foot escort who was never too far away.

And here's the link to the video footage taken today: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-bMpvYBAEiQ 

A magical day on Dom Perignon with Bob Steinhoff, ex-president of the Bermuda Zooological Society, Dr Dorte Horsefield (marine biologist), Lynne Thorne from the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo. It was however a rough start with large ocean swells as we made our way from Chubb Heads to Sally Tuckers and then across to Challenger. Two of the four crew members (no names) chummed for whales and after some searching we found them on the crown of Challenger. One on his own and a pod of four, and another breaching on the southern edge. On the eastern edge of Challenger we found a calf, mother and escort and got some remarkable footage of a fearless calf and an indulgent mother and escort. Over and over again the whales came over to take a look and the calf came by very close. He looked very small in the water until he breached. Magnificent! A breaching calf! Why would he breach? His mother was right there so he wasn't asking for her attention. For joy? To show off to this strange creature in the water? Maybe he breached just because he could. What a wonderful thing to see a small whale like that and to know that he will be on this earth longer than most of us. Don't know why I find that so satisfying, but I do. By the end of the day the water was very calm, a beautiful evening and even the chummers were smiling again. But they never gave up handing over camera equipment or hauling it out, even if it meant chumming on one side of the boat and helping on the other side. Here are some preliminary photos until I get more time. Detailed log to come from Lynne Thorne as I prepare the equipment for another day at Challenger tomorrow. Video footage will come later in the week.

 

  

  

 

Following notes taken by Lynne Thorne:

 Sunday May 4th 2008

10:00   Departure (near high tide) from Robinson’s Marina, Somerset Bridge, on Dom Perignon

Captain & Crew: Robert Steinhoff, Andrew Stevenson, Lynn Thorne and Dörte Horsfield

All aboard on top deck we navigated our way, heading southwest, slowing to thread our way through areas of shallower depth.   This proved to spark individual imaginations, provoking spontaneous comments about the unique character of our reef and the potential for treacherous conditions, particularly prior to modern navigational tools.

10:30   Hydrophone (track #1)

  • No detectable sound

            Approach to Reef 8, SW Breaker/Chubb Head Marker

            Depth of 40 feet heading to 60-70 feet in search of whales

10:45   Hydrophone (track #2)

  • No detectable sound

            Depth of 60 feet

            Distance from Bermuda 7.3 nautical miles

 11:45   Hydrophone (track #3)

  • No detectable sound

 12:00   Reached Challenger Bank at a depth of 180 feet

            Distance from Bermuda 13.22 nautical miles

 12:20   Upwelling observed with surface drifters of Sargassum/Gulfweed (Sargassum natans), Portuguese Man-o’War (Physalia physalis) plentiful early to mid morning and towards mid afternoon intermingling with By-the-Wind Sailor (Velella velella), numerous air bubbles, and various forms of plastic all nestled within the strand line - observational trend noted of reoccurring whale sightings in areas of upwelling 

 12:25   Hydrophone (track #4)

  • East edge of Challenger Bank singing heard; however, not loudly

 12:55   Crown of Challenger Bank – 1 blow

 13:05   Hydrophone (track #5)

  • No detectable sound

 13:10 – 13:20

            Humpback Whale sighting – 7 blows and 1 dorsal fin

 13:30   Call from Michael Hayward on Explorer in same vicinity reporting Humpback Whales around his cabin cruiser

 13:40   2 blows and dorsal fins breaking surface

 14:00   1 blow

            Depth remaining at 180 feet

 14:15   Hydrophone (track #6)

  • Barely able to hear sound and see active behaviour

 14:25   Staying in same area observed 2 blows approximately 500 feet from boat

 14:45   Hydrophone (track #7)

  • No detectable sound

 14:55   Moved to Challenger mooring buoy

 15:05 – 15:25              3 Humpback Whales including mother & calf sighted on Crown of Challenger Bank

 15:40   Hydrophone (track #8)

  • Amazing array of singing from moos and purring to squeals and melodious chatter

 15:45   Fluke sighting

 15:47   Hydrophone (track #9)

  • No detectable sound
 16:10 – 17:55

            Homeward bound encountered mother & calf with male escort (in the Canyon) and employed parallel heading strategy at a greater speed than the whales to allow for smooth interception ahead of their path. Andrew gets in the water several times and gets underwater high defintion video footage of mother and calf, an escort and a challenger.

 Magical day filled with awesome suspended moments in time interacting with these magnificent beings!

And here are some more still frames taken from the video: