2009 04 14- Fourteen hours on the water, 14 more fluke ids and underwater footage of fewer whales Print
Written by Andrew Stevenson   

Departure of Michael Smith's Sea Slipper 5.45am to pick up Camilla, Ian, myself and Amber at Darrell's. One person didn't make it (you snooze you lose) so on the way across the Great Sound we phoned Kelly Winfield and asked her to join us at Watford Bridge. She didn't keep us waiting!

   

Beautiful sunrise over Somerset on flat calm seas. Continued along the ledge to the point at Sally Tuckers where we heard some distant whale singing. Crossed the canyon and on the eastern edge of the Challenger platform put the hydrophone over and heard many whales singing. Soon after picked up one whale but lost him. We moved over most of the Challenger Banks obtaining 14 more fluke ids and some underwater footage. It seemed that during the course of the day there were fewer whales than there were early that morning. We had great visibility but the numbers of whales, five days after the full moon, have definitely dwindled. Most seemed to be large females with escorts and even a challenger. There was plenty of surface activity and whales seemed to be milling about, joining other whales and then breaking off again.

 

On three occasions we lost whales (despite the calm wind) and on three occasions discovered them under the boat when we looked at the depth sounder. The first time this happened we just happened to look at the depth sounder and watched as it changed from 170 feet to 95 feet, 76 feet, 43 feet, 19 feet and then 7 feet! A second later a whale breached alongside us. With a 300mm lens on my camera (great for distant fluke shots, terrible for a closeup of a whale trying to get into the boat) all I can see is an eye and part of the curve of its mouth!

Ahead of darkening clouds and increasing winds, we crossed the canyon, picking up a single whale feeding on the western edge of Sally Tuckers. By the time we were back at the dock it was 8pm. We'd spent 14 hours on the water!

 

 As Kelly-Anne Winfield put it later that day: "Dreams are only dreams unless you wake up to accomplish them!"