Searching for beaked whales off Ireland #beakquest17

Beaked_whale_credit_Ash_Bennison
Beaked whale breaching in poor weather close to R/V Celtic Voyager. Photo (c) Ash Bennison.

 

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 conditions were typical for an autumnal survey, the team encountered common dolphins, pilot whales, sperm whales and beaked whales, the last three species being considered deep-diving toothed whales. We were fortunate enough to have several encounters with breaching beaked whales, a rare sight as many species of beaked whale are extremely elusive. When in deeper waters, we could hear the characteristic echolocation clicks of pilot whales and sperm whales almost continuously; although much less regular, we were also able to detect the distinct very high frequency vocalisations of beaked whales. The team will now pull together the different strands of the research to investigate the behaviour and ecology of these majestic and little known creatures in an offshore habitat 400 km from land.

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