Saturday, 8 March 2014

What a day!

It was around 8:15am when we got the call from Cathy Harlow, one of the Discover the World guides. Whales had just gone under the bridge and were in the inner part of the fjord! The news we had been waiting for. Just the previous day Julie and Miguel from our team had been onboard the Laki Tours boat and saw a group of whales outside the fjords. So it looked like after a short trip outside the whales were back in Kolgrafafjordur.

Check out this video taken by team member Miguel Neves of the whales going under the bridge.

We got ready to go out and soon were deploying the Tango. Bjarni, the farmer from Eidi farm, has been helping us this season picking up and deploying the Tango every day we go out with his tractor. With his help we were out in the water and ready for some work again! Conditions were good, not so much wind and no rain or snow. So we start by doing some photo-id to identify which whales were around. The whales seemed spread out, with smaller groups in different locations, so we took the opportunity to do some acoustic recordings with a hydrophone array that allows us to locate where sounds come from. This way we could tease apart which of these smaller groups was producing sounds. Between photo-id and recording sessions the morning went by and with the sun out and warming us (slightly!) we had lunch. It was a quiet and perfect morning, just what we had been craving for after some days without whales.

The Tango being deployed in Kolgrafafjordur by Bjarni.

Out of the water and ready for the next time the whales show up!

After lunch the whales started travelling and moving out of the fjord. We followed them, the weather was not too bad on the other side of the bridge and we could attempt some biopsying. This year we are trying to collect biopsies of identified individuals to investigate their genetics, diet and pollutant levels. It is incredible the amount of information we can collect with such a small sample of their skin and outer blubber layer. We try to be very careful to only biopsy whales we haven't sampled yet and soon we managed to sample one of the adult males we needed. The whales kept travelling slowly out of the fjord but the weather was deteriorating. Wind increased, it started snowing and continuing work was becoming a challenge. Even seeing anything was a challenge when snow was hitting our eyes! We managed to get one more sample and we decided to stop then and come back home. It was the right decision; the weather kept getting worse and worse and for the rest of that day and the following day it was impossible to work even though the whales were back inside Kolgrafafjordur.

These two days have lifted our hopes that the whales are around and maybe we will get some more chances to work before the end of the there have been no sightings but the weather is not very good and a storm is expected tonight. So again we wait for nature to give us one more chance to have another incredible day.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Waiting for whales...

For the last few days whale sightings have been few and far between...we occasionally have seen a small group towards the end of the day but nothing like earlier in the season when whales could be seen most days and earlier. 

Is this a sign of the end of the season? We don't know, but things do look different. There have been a few reports of whales further out, nearer Olafsvik and just two days ago we followed a group of 3 whales heading in the direction of Stykkishólmur so it could be that there are plenty of whales out in the bay of Breiðafjörður but we just can't get to them because they are too far. When weather allows members of our team still join the Láki Tours boats which can go further afield than we can on the mighty (albeit small) Tango. So if they are around we will certainly find them!

One of the 3 whales we followed two days ago out of Kolgrafafjordur and heading East. This group was composed of this adult male and two females.