Sunday, 20 July 2014

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Week 1

It's been one week since we arrived in Vestmannaeyjar to start the summer field season of 2014. We arrived to stormy days but as we needed a few days to work on the equipment and Tango this gave us the time to be ready for the good weather when it arrived. And Sunday was the day! Beautiful weather, the kind you rarely get in this part of the world. Flat seas, blue skies, sun shining and no wind. Perfect!

Back in the beautiful Westman islands. The view from the top of Eldfell on Heimaey island, showing most of the other islands of the archipelago in the distance.
We started heading West to where we had seen killer whales in previous years while the land team was searching the area southwest of Heimaey, all the way to Surtsey, where we know the whales are seen regularly too. This way we covered most of the area where we were likely to find them. After about 2 hours of sailing and searching we get the call from the land team: whales near Geirfuglasker. We were close so it was perfect timing!

Herring laying at the surface of the water (after being stunned by the whales tail slaps) is snatched up by the many seabirds flying above feeding whales.
When we arrived we saw this was a large aggregation of whales and we stayed in the area the whole day. We recognised some individuals right away and particularly one whale which we knew only from a picture donated to us by one of the tour guides of the Viking Tours boat. Sighted in 2010, the whale we numbered IS118 was easily recognisable due to the shape of its dorsal fin. It was like seeing someone you know but haven't seen in a really long time although we had actually never seen him ourselves! What an amazing sight!

IS118 seen in Vestmannaeyjar.

It was a perfect day that ended with an unexpected sighting of pilot whales! We had never seen pilot whales in these waters and talking to some of the locals they had neither, so it was quite a rare event. We saw a group of about 12-15 individuals swimming fast, but the report of one of the Ribsafari boats suggested there was another group also swimming fast nearer to Surtsey so there may have been different groups in the area. We didn't stay for long as we had to start heading home but we still managed to grab some pictures of this unusual sighting.

Over the next 2 days the weather got progressively worse but we still managed to work for half a day on both days. The whales have been consistently in the same general area and it looks like it has been mostly the same groups that are around. Week 1 has been eventful and we have been extremely lucky to find so many whales and get so much done already. We will keep you posted how the rest of the month progresses and in the meantime keep our fingers crossed for good weather and plenty of whales!