28 Apr 2018

28 Apr 18 - Atlantic Odyssey - Day Thirty: A Frustrating Cetacean Day

On the fourth day at sea between Ascension Island and Cape Verde, we started the day with some close views of Cymene Dolphins & more distance views of Pantropical Spotted Dolphins. Additionally, there had been good, but short, views of Sea Turtles during the morning. We had a good Cetaceans list by the end of the day, but despite seeing most species, it was a frustrating day for me for Cetaceans. There was been a shout for some Dolphins on the port side of the Plancius. I didn't react immediately as I assumed they were more Clymene Dolphins or Pantropical Spotted Dolphins. Then I heard they were Rough-toothed Dolphins. I headed over to the aft side of the top deck & had brief bins views of the small pod heading rapidly down the side of the ship. I had seen them, but briefly. It was the only ones I saw on the Odyssey & there weren't any seen on the follow-on West African Pelagic. Some of the others who were better positioned managed to get some decent photos of the pod. Late morning, there were a couple of Orcas seen at long range on the port side: one of which was breaching. Again, I saw them with the bins, but failed to get any photos other than the splash the breaching Orca made.
Splash from the breaching Orca
Just before lunchtime, we had views of a couple of Dwarf Sperm Whales. One was logging on the surface, while the second slowly surfaced next to it. Again, it was good to get some photos of them, but the views weren't fantastic.
Dwarf Sperm Whale: A second individual starts to surface to the left of the logging individual
Dwarf Sperm Whale
Dwarf Sperm Whale
Dwarf Sperm Whale
Dwarf Sperm Whale: A close crop of the right hand individual
Dwarf Sperm Whale
While everybody was at lunch, I was heading down to the Observation lounge to top up on coffee & biscuits, when I ran into Marijke & several of the Expedition staff who appeared from the staff mess room. Apparently, there was a shout of a close Whale. There wasn't time to head back to the bridge wing, so I headed out to one of the forward decks to see a couple of Short-finned Pilot Whales right next to the bows. There was time to grab a few photos, before we were sailing past them. I then headed back to get the coffee & biscuits. After lunch, Marijke explained the full story. She had gone to the opposite side of the Plancius to me & also seen a Short-finned Pilot Whale go down her side of the Plancius, followed by a large pool of blood. Apparently, some of the Birders who were at the bows had also seen a close Orca, which both Marijke & I had missed. What Marijke thinks is that one of the Short-finned Pilot Whale calves became separated from the rest of the pod and was attacked by the Orca. I ended up getting a good close photo of one of the Short-finned Pilot Whales going down the starboard side. But it was frustrating & sad to hear of the demise of one of the pod.
Short-finned Pilot Whale: This photo shows the blunt head shape and the right-hand flipper can be seen. This is shorter in length than the overall length of the dorsal fin. Long-finned Pilot Whales have a flipper length that is similar to the overall dorsal fin length
In late afternoon, we had brief views of a Gervais's Beaked Whale.
Gervais's Beaked Whale: Quite a few people managed to miss this completely, so getting a record shot photo was doing better than many. Fortunately, Hans or Marijke managed to get decent photos to confirm the identification
Overall, it had been a fairly frustrating day with generally poor photos of the Whales, not to mention the unfortunate Short-finned Pilot Whale.