Marine Conservation Research International is a unique not-for-profit organisation conducting practical conservation projects on vulnerable marine wildlife and habitats, and investigating human impacts including threats such as underwater noise, disturbance and marine debris. R/V Song of the Whale is the team’s purpose built sailing research vessel.

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North to South (3) – Gran Canaria, batteries and on towards Cape Verde

 

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Having been removed from the Engine Room the service batteries on the aft deck before being put ashore.

Our journey south continues onwards towards the Canary Islands and our next landfall. We all enjoy a handful of calm, sunny and increasingly warmer days but sadly the sightings have been less frequent. Striped dolphins made an appearance and delighted those on night watch as they played at the bow, triggering bioluminescence in their wakes. We approached Las Palmas, Gran Canaria at midday on the 23rd November having being treated to a fantastic sighting of a large pod of pilot whales. They approached close to the vessel in calm and sunny conditions making for a good photo opportunity.

Due to some battery issues, our stay in Las Palmas was extended but all on board enjoyed some time off to explore and recharge after the stint at sea. The team worked well together to make short work of the chores to be done, including shifting over a tonne of batteries from the engine room and off the boat! Two shopping trips and a laundry trip later and the crew were eager to get back out to sea. This time, joined by a new member of the team, Louiza. Welcome aboard!

The temperature had really increased on leaving Gran Canaria and with that came the emergence of the sun cream and the shorts! The sea state remained calm and we have been rewarded with a handful of great sightings. The first came on day 18 of our trip with a good view of a large pod of Risso’s dolphins, including one breaching and creating a lot of splashing! The sea state continued to drop that day to almost mirror like conditions. Lynsey and Thea were up on the A frame when something strange appeared to be happening ahead on the surface of the water. We slowed the engine and noticed what looked like footprints created by a large whale, but we hadn’t seen the whale yet?! After a few minutes, small fish approached the surface, shortly followed by said large whale. After a handful of submarine-like surfacings we could confidently say that what we were looking at was a sei whale- a new species for many of the team.

It was clear that these waters are home to many animals, and we seemed to be continually accompanied by the sounds of dolphins, pilot whales and sperm whales as we monitored the hydrophone. The team were increasingly desperate to actually spot a sperm whale and every time we heard the distinct clicks of these mammals, the excitement on the boat grew. Following the loud clicks heard in calm conditions at around midday, Kerry spotted the first few blows from the surfacing animal approximately 3km away and we altered our course in the hope of getting a closer look. We carefully tracked the clicks on the hydrophone and after an hour of hearing them getting louder and louder we slowed the engine to wait for the silence which occurs when the whale stops clicking at the surface.  It was Lynsey that spotted then animal again, this time only 400m away from the vessel and there was suddenly a mad scramble for cameras and to alert all on board. The sperm whale remained at the surface, creating a blow which rises at a 45° angle for about 10 minutes.  All aboard were poised and ready for the money shot when the animal lifts its fluke and dives back down into the depths. An amazing sight, and one that the crew will remember for a long time to come!

 

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As the weather has grown increasingly warmer the crew have searched for new methods in which to stay cool, including throwing a bucket of water over the head before spending an hour on the A frame. The morning that Brian suggested a swim stop was a good morning for all! At midday, after the mantra trawl we pulled in the hydrophone and slowed the engine. Charlie, Thea, Kerry and Edd were the bravest and took a plunge into approximately 2875m of water from the A-frame whilst all others hopped (or fell, in Lynsey’s case) from the swim platform. A swim around the boat was enjoyed by all before we continued our journey south and crossed the Tropic of Cancer. Next stop, the Cape Verde islands in a few days time.

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Lynsey

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North to South (2) – Off the coast of Portugal

North to South (2) – Off the coast of Portugal

It is nine days since we left Endeavour Quay, Gosport, for our two month journey to the Falkland Islands. After the stormy first few days, we are all overwhelmingly grateful for the continuing good weather we are now experiencing. The sun is out, the seas are calm, spirits are high and cetaceans are about! Over… Continue Reading

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North to South (1)

North to South (1)

On Saturday 11th November, we left Gosport’s Endeavour Quay on a calm winters evening, as fireworks lit up the sky along the coast. Our North to South survey will cut through #100degreesoflatitude as we sail to the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic, via the Canary islands and Cape Verde. Onboard we have Brian the… Continue Reading

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Searching for beaked whales off Ireland      #beakquest17

Searching for beaked whales off Ireland #beakquest17

  Last week MCR participated in a multidisciplinary project studying deep-diving whales in the offshore waters to the west of Ireland. The team of seven scientists were aboard the Irish Marine Institute’s R/V Celtic Voyager to conduct the study which incorporated visual and acoustic surveys, CTD casts, plankton tows and deep-water trawls. Although the sea… Continue Reading

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