05 August 2017

Gratitude

300

When your office is next to a beach in The Bahamas, sometimes your lunch break includes a snorkel. (For which we are VERY grateful.) That was the case for us (Patrick and Kaiya), while Tori was on her boat trip. We grabbed our gear, jumped off the rocks, and cruised through the refreshing water towards the Gallant Lady, a sunken ship right along the rocks. It was fun to watch the fish (mainly sergeant majors of all sizes) drift back and forth with the incoming tide as they went about their business. As we came around the ship Patrick was shocked to find a very large stingray nestled into the sand! It was the first of three big stingrays that we saw as we snorkeled around North Bimini's southern point. We also saw a very large barracuda, a smaller barracuda eating a blue tang, male sergeant majors valiantly defending their nests of eggs, a needlefish opening its mouth (it looked like it was yawning!), as well as other awesome sea creatures. It was definitely a lunch break that we can put at the top of our lists. Afterward, with our heads clear, we headed back to the office for a productive afternoon and evening.

While that was happening with Kaiya and Patrick, Thursday was a pretty exciting day aboard the Dakota for Tori, with Captain Al and his guests. The trip began with Tori putting her new spotting skills to the test and locating a group of more than ten bottlenose dolphins in the distance. The group was split into three smaller sub-groups, and they headed north alongside the boat for almost an hour, providing ample opportunity to photograph them with the surface camera, for additional data for the ID catalog.  After that, we headed over to North Rock for a quick snorkel stop, where the guests were able to cool off and explore for a bit. Once underway again, we had another bottlenose sighting, except this time it was only a group of two.  Instead of lingering, we decided to push on in search of spotted dolphins, and it wasn’t long before we found them. Three for three with my new spotting skills, I was overjoyed to finally get back in the water with these familiar faces! Making an appearance was none other than Splitjaw (#22), Speedy (#78), Stefran (#82) with a calf, and Lil’ Jess (#35) with a calf. This wonderful cast of characters stuck around for about 30 minutes, giving us quite an exciting encounter. Once they’d had enough, we got back onboard the Dakota, and were off in search of some more dolphins.  About an hour later, four more spotted dolphins appeared off the bow and were taking turns bow riding. Since they seemed to be in good spirits, we decided to get in the water and have a closer look at who it was.  This time it was Romeo (#10) with a calf, and Leslie (#80) with a calf. So many calf sightings today! Unfortunately, right as things were getting good in the water, the video camera battery icon started to blink, indicating it was going to die, and my heart sank right there in the water.  Eventually the camera shut off, and I made my way back to the boat with the intention of swapping out cameras, but once I pulled myself back onboard, Captain Al said the dolphins were starting to break away, and it might be time to go.  The guests returned to the boat, and since it was getting late, Captain Al decided to head back to the marina, and with that we were calling it a night.  There was sporadic bow riding for a little bit after we left the area, and as I chatted with the guests about what we’d seen that day, they couldn’t seem to contain their excitement over their lengthy and wondrous encounters, and honestly, it’s not something I ever get tired of discussing. As the sun set on another productive DCP day in Bimini, I’m overcome with gratitude for this opportunity and experience. 

Until next time,

The Trio

Kelly Melillo Sweeting

Kel is DCP's Bimini Research Manager, and all around awesome scientist.

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