13 Nov 2014

13 Nov 14 - Mystery Beaked Whale In French Polynesia

Having finished the snorkeling with the Green Turtles off the beach at Tenararo, we were leaving this incredible island around late morning. The next island to visit was Morane, but that was the rest of the day & the night away. We spent the rest of the day seawatching as we were sailing, but it was very quiet, once we left Tenararo. A few Murphy's Petrels were the highlight of the Seabirds.
Murphy's Petrel: The only Bird highlight of a long, quiet seawatch
The highlight of the afternoon was the appearance of two Whales. But frustratingly they were only briefly seen and I managed to get the only photos of them. Being brief views, it is difficult to be sure about the species involved. But they appeared smaller compared to be Humpback Whales we had earlier in the trip. Also some of the group who are more familiar with Humpback Whales and Minke Whales, didn't think they were either of those species. They also seemed larger than the Blainville Beaked Whale we saw later in the trip. At the time, Chris though they might be Tropical Bottlenose Whales, which is also know as Longman's Beaked Whale. This is a species which is very poorly documented in my copy of the excellent "Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises" by Mark Carwardine: one of my all time favourite "non Bird" Wildlife books. Not Mark's fault, but because there had been virtually no strandings or sightings of this Whale up to 20 years ago. In the last two decades, there have been more sightings in the Tropical Pacific especially around Hawaii, as well as, sightings at various parts of the Indian Ocean. Looking at the photos, later that evening, it just hasn't been possible to confirm the species. If anybody has any suggestions as to the species involved, then I would appreciate a Comment being left on the Blog along with the reasons why.
Beaked Whale sp: Could this be a Tropical Bottlenose Whale or another species of Beaked Whale?
Beaked Whale sp: Starting to dive
Beaked Whale sp: The final photo
It was a fairly calm journey & I stayed on deck till dusk. I was hoping to see the infamous green flash as the final point of the sunset, but nothing happened. Frustratingly, some of the group did see it on another evening when I wasn't on deck. But there were some opportunities for some dramatic sunset photos.
Initially, it didn't look like the sunset would be very special
Then it started to get more interesting
More dramatic still
Suddenly amazing, before reverting back to a dull sunset as the sun disppeared before a dark band of low clouds