The Right Whale

A recent trip to the Southern Cape in search of of the Southern Right Whales which visit these waters from thier summer feeding grounds down south. Its interesting that the animals on this day were clearly hugging the surf line even though the swell was quite big. Often the calves were on the inside too, perhaps a statergy to defend against potentual attaks from Great White sharks which are prevalent in the area?

Seychelles Cetacean Expedition

Mid October is traditionally end of the SE trade wind in the Seychelles, and thus we chose this time to do some exploration offshore of the Seychelles in search Sperm Whales.  These animals are prolific in Mauritius and Sri Lanka and a whaling industry targeting them used to operate in main Islands of the Seychelles. A recent discovery of a floating dead adult, motivated me to organize a trip in search of an  aggregation of these animals.

After some delays with our mothership the allocated 2 week trip was cut down to just 6 days on the water. Leaving Mahe to begin the search on the Amarantes Bank the weather was looking ideal.

Joining us on the trip was Fabrice Schnoller founder of the Darewin project who are doing fascinating research and education projects using VR and 360 sound  experiences to unlock the mysteries of cetacean communication and instill a love of these animals in the public.   www.darewin.org

Vincent Mahamadaly, www.geolab.re  took time out from his underwater and terrestrial mapping day job to help out operating some new towed hydrophone equipment we were testing out on the trip.

To cut a long story short for the first 4 days we surveyed the numerous ares of suitable Sperm Whale habitat with  little activity. The sea was rough, the ocean was quiet on the hydrophones and the most excitement was some brief in water encounters with a pod of Risso's Dolphins hunting Bonito and Yellowfin Tuna.   10 hours a day on the tenders nothing but Blue desert was breaking the most ardent of modern day whalers.

Day 5 dawned, my 32 birthday, jokes were cracked about 32 whales instead of candles and we headed off for another day on the water, this time back on the edges of the Mahe Plateau. After some early activity with some spinner Dolphins and tuna co-feeding we saw our first blow at around lunchtime in mirror calm seas. Fin Whales, a few feeding on scattered  patches of krill on the 2000m mark.  After a few brief in water passes we moved on as the afternoon was wearing on and we still had 60NM to cover to meet the mothership at our overnight spot.

Not a mile down the contour we came across more blows, Blue Whales, 4 animals were scattered feeding on patches of krill, unmistakable in their size this was a truly special animal to encounter. After unsuccessfully trying to get close to these animals in the water shot a few pics for ID and then headed off up the drop in search  of Sperm Whales.

Not 5 miles after the Blues we saw a blow in the distance and stopped for a listen, the clicks were loud and numerous, Sperm Whales, a pod! The next 2 hours until sunset was pure magic, Sperm Whales were surfacing after a feed all over the place and a super-pod of spinner dolphins was charging around like crazy things.  One brief in water encounter with a male Sperm  at sunset sealed off the day.  Running the  30nm back to the position of the mother ship in the dark across a glassy ocean we all savored the rewards of some hard days at sea. 32 Whales for my birthday!

The next day we headed  back to the same area and were once again treated to cetacean AGM, 100s of pilot whales, pod of sperm whales and scatterd Fin and Blue whales still feeding on the scatters patches of krill.  Once again in water encounters with the Sperms proved hard as they we feeding deep and only breathing up on the surface for short periods.

With our allotted time up we had to steam back to Mahe,  although we had no really prolonged in water encounters this trip was a great proof of concept for  future cetacean  trips in the Oceanic  waters of the Seychelles Islands.