Latest News From the Song of the Whale

Song of the Whale. a global ambassador for IFAW's whale conservation campaigns, is a state of-the-art education and research vessel. Designed to provide a flexible working platform for whale research, public education and advocacy, the Song of the Whale team carries out studies of threatened and endangered marine mammals and their habitats, educates students, trains scientists and develops and disseminates non-invasive research techniques around the world.

This digest of recent Song of the Whale activity was written by various crew memebers...

Monday 14th May 2007
Written by Tim

The day dawned with a flat, calm, glassy sea as we headed south towards Libya.  On reaching Libya’s 12-mile territorial limit we turned SE and skirted the coast until we picked up our next survey track heading from north of the Gulf of Sirte towards Crete.  Despite the perfect sighting and good acoustic conditions, we only saw a single loggerhead turtle and only heard distant ships, though we passed several miles of buoyed fishing gear – probably long-lines.

During the day we were visited by an eclectic mix of land birds including a redstart, a large raptor and three racing pigeons on a pit stop.  The pigeons left us with a white-polka-dot bimini – and nearly a song.  We sat out on deck for supper and watched as the sun set hoping for a glimpse of the “green flash” phenomenon – but it wasn’t to be tonight.  The task of hauling myself out my bunk for a late-night watch was rewarded by spectacular views of the stars.  The Milky Way was incredibly beautiful with bright billowing clouds of stars – humbling when seen through the binoculars.  Sirius twinkled red and green and shooting stars flashed overhead.  We left a bright-green trail of bioluminescence behind the boat as we headed off the continental slope and out over the abyssal plain - hopefully to find some sperm whales tomorrow...

Tuesday 15th May 2007
Written by Veronica

Another amazing day sailing in the high seas, but no sight of sperm whales YET.  We are en route towards Crete in very deep (over 3000m) waters and we are getting closer to some hot spots.  We are confident to find some whales very soon.  We can clearly hear a group of pilot whales from the hydrophones, but also very loud seismic activities and big tankers/cargo ships.  They must be miles away, but the sound is still so loud.  Human activities have turned the ocean in such a noisy place!  This gives me an extra motivation to keep on campaigning for more silent oceans.  The weather is fantastic and the wind allows us to put the spinnaker up and sail. We also have the chance to stop for a jump in the deep blue whilst Matt checks the engine oil.  Even though we haven’t seen any sperm whales, this is really a wonderful experience.

Wednesday 16th May 2007
Written by Mark

As the day started the sun was shining for another scorching day of surveying.  After motor-sailing for 24 hours, we stopped for an oil check and swim stop.  The swell is getting noticeably bigger and the previous calm conditions are sliding away.  After sunset there was enough wind to sail for some of the night.  Unfortunately there is still no sight (or sound!) of any sperm whales.  On the brighter side, the seismic survey noise which could have been chasing the whales away has stopped and the constant sound of the propellers of other vessels has died away.  Does this mean as we cruise out over even deeper water our chances of finding the ever elusive eastern Mediterranean sperm whale may improve?  Fingers crossed!!!

Thursday 17th May 2007
Written by Claire

This morning the sea-state is much higher than it has been since we left. There are many white caps, reducing the likelihood that we will see any whales or dolphins unless they come right up to the boat.  There is still no sign of any animals on the hydrophone either – the only sound to be heard today is the sound of the waves.  The windier weather continues all day and on into the night, although as Crete comes into view we do hear some dolphins.  Maybe tomorrow we will find something?

Friday 18th May 2007
Written by Anna

Unfortunately the sea and windy conditions continue to build overnight, as we hug the west coast of Crete, heading north to the start of our next track line. We are aiming to reach the beginning of the next section of track, which heads east through the deep water trench south of Crete, at day break. However, a gale warning comes through on the Navtex early in the morning, and we decide to seek shelter in an inlet on the NW corner of the island. Buffeted by the waves and wind (is this really the Mediterranean, it looks more like a wintry North Sea at the moment!) we drop anchor off a place called Kissamos and spend a windy wet day catching up on other work, emails etc and mending things, including a reefing point in the sail which ripped out, and worse still our new hydrophone, which has been damaged by a long line and hook caught around it which has somehow cut through the outer cable exposing the bare wires beneath.  The weather forecast is not great for tomorrow either, but we are hopeful of being able to leave here to continue working our way east in the morning.  Veronica’s deep pan pizza and Evelyn’s banana cake are the high points of an otherwise rather grey day.

Saturday 19th May 2007
Written by Matt

After a late start from Kissamos after waiting for the repair on the hydrophone to set, we left our anchorage in fair winds and sunshine after a long nights sleep.  The spirit of the team was soon lifted, as Tim, keenly listening, tracks our first sounds of a whale.  Shortly afterwards we broke away from the passage in order to gain our first sighting.  We were not disappointed as Magnus saw, first a long way off and then Veronica much closer, our first sighting of sperm whales.  Following Veronica’s whale, ‘she’ as we were informed, lifted her head at regular intervals.  She swam slowly backwards and forwards in front of the boat until she was joined by a second whale, up from a long dive.  They joined us until dark, lifting their heads as they investigated us with loud clicks, and were heard on the hydrophone for hours after we left the area to resume our track line.

Post a comment