We departed on the Hunter/Manhattan College students’ and Garion/Mathew’s final boat trip at 1400. Before beginning our search for dolphins we made a stop at Bimini Road, a popular snorkeling destination famous for being thought to be the road to the lost city of Atlantis. The snorkelers enjoyed the clear waters and saw many interesting species on the reef. After enjoying the natural wonders of the reef for about 45 minutes we began our dolphin search. We quickly came upon a group of three bottlenose dolphins. This group seemed to be feeding and did not show any interest in the boat so after Nicole snapped a few surface photos we continued on our way. Not long after seeing the bottlenose dolphins we came across a pair of Atlantic spotted dolphins. Nicole easily recognized Seabeagle (#106) by her distinctive fluke. Once we had observed these two for a little while we entered the water to collect some observations and saw that the second dolphin was also a juvenile female. We will have to check the catalog to see if we recognize her! The two females were very interactive with each other, sharing a piece of sargassum and passing it between their pectoral fins and flukes. Our encounter lasted about 10 minutes before the dolphins swam away and we piled back on the boat.
Less than 15 minutes later we came across another Atlantic spotted dolphin, but this one was all on its own. It seemed to be travelling so we followed along its path and observed as it slapped its fluke against the water and leaped and splashed all over. From the boat it seemed as if the dolphin might be agitated and once we were able to see it underwater we quickly discovered the reason why—it had a remora stuck on its body! These suckerfish can be rather pesky and the male juvenile dolphin seemed to be trying to remove it. After a few minutes of underwater observations six dolphins joined us seemingly out of nowhere! The group included a bottlenose dolphin who came up to investigate Dr. Kaplan before swimming out of the human swimmers’ view. The end of the encounter was just the male with the remora and a juvenile female that Nicole recognized from previous field seasons. They were very interactive, with lots of pectoral fin rubbing. We wonder if the male dolphin was trying to get some help getting the remora off of him!
Once these dolphins finally swam out of sight we climbed on the boat and Captain Al brought us home. Despite some rough weather and days without dolphins over the past two weeks, we could not have asked for a better last day! We are so appreciative of everyone’s help and enthusiasm. The Hunter and Manhattan college students will make their way home on Friday but we hope you’ll tune in to the final thoughts from Garion and Mathew after they head back to the States on Saturday.
Garion, Mathew, Kel & Nicole