Sunday morning was less eventful for DCP than Saturday had been. Kel and Nicole spent the day in the office working on photo ID and other data processing. At 1500, Nicole set off on the boat with Captain Al and his two guests. This time, the pair wanted to stop at "Bimini Road", or the road to Atlantis, for some snorkeling. They loved the spot as much as they did "Three Sisters" on Saturday. After enjoying the sights for a bit, they climbed back on the boat.
Given the amazing and unbeatable dolphin encounter we had the day before, Captain Al decided that we should head towards another, less-visited snorkeling spot instead of spending the entire day searching for dolphins. This unique spot is part of our regular searching trajectory anyway so we could be on the look out and stop if we found a group of dolphins, but if we did not find any at least we would see some other cool creatures. Just as we were making our way in that direction, one of the guests spotted dolphins at 10 o'clock! It turned out to be a group of at least 30 Atlantic spotted dolphins including Romeo (#10), Swoosh (#36), Cerra (#38), Leslie (#80), Stefran (#82), un-named #102 and lots of calves! We observed these dolphins for almost an hour from the boat, taking surface photos and watching them play and leap around. They were being quite social at the surface! We even saw some dolphins playing with orange leaves that had drifted into the open water from North Bimini.
At this point, we decided to try some underwater observations. When we entered the water we saw a group of about 15 dolphins and Nicole noticed that Buster (#04), Inka (#93) and Noodle (#94) were also present, as well as at least one White Sand Ridge male. This encounter lasted about 10 minutes before the dolphins swam out of sight. Back on the boat we thought we were going to take a break and observe from the surface for a while. Captain Al surprised us by suggesting we jump right back in, even though the dolphins might swim away again. And it's a good thing we did! Back underwater we saw a group of about 15 once more. Shortly after we got in, most of these dolphins swam away. Inka (#93) and a young juvenile male stuck around, though, and swam with us for almost 30 minutes! This was another incredible encounter, but amazing for different reasons than the one on Saturday. This time, these two dolphins were as interested in us as we were in them. The young male seemed fascinated by making one of the guests spin in circles. And Inka seemed to find it interesting that Nicole would follow her to the seafloor when she dove down to rub her flukes in the sand. They both seemed to enjoy swimming circles around us as we free dove and then came back up for air.
After this amazing experience, we climbed back on the boat only to find a giant rainbow arching over North Bimini. What could be more magical? The only downside, however, was that the rainbow meant rain, which began to fall shortly after we had started on our way home. We raced home to try to avoid the large squall but were still pelted by raindrops. We never stopped smiling, though, after the most incredible dolphin encounters over the past two days.
DCP is sad to see this tourist pair go but we are extremely grateful that they let us share these experiences with them. And as always, we are thankful to Bimini Adventures for including us during their dolphin excursions. DCP researchers will have a break from boat trips for a while but we look forward to sharing them with all of you later in the summer!
Until next time,
Nicole & Kel
Marie’s letter below is in the first person. We include some of her photos, too.
I did a presentation at the Instituto de Investigaciones de la Amazonía Peruana (http://www.iiap.org.pe/). The lead photo shows me after my presentation with team members. I submitted an international grant with groups from Peru, Chile, and France to increase the exchange of technology. Our team has offered to ground truth our acoustic data with drone robotics! Also, we may employ some infra-red cameras to explore cavitation, record individual fish in tanks in an attempt to identify fish species in the river, and automatic data uploads to a server!
Rain is HUGE hazard to electronic recording equipment here (and indeed anywhere!). But, the rainbow is promising a possibly sunny afternoon in the rain forest.
Our research team is developing new ultra-high frequency recording equipment, capable of taking up to 2.5 million sound samples per second and processing it into a .wav file in real time! It can record up to 4 channels simultaneously taking 1 million sound samples per second. Here, I’m becoming accustomed to the prototype equipment.
My research group is also doing a bird biodiversity index based upon audio recordings. We are collecting recordings for an international competition for the development of algorithms that automatically can detect species. Currently, up to 500 species can be identified this way.
Plus, we took the “Flat Stanley Cup” to the top of the canopy (almost 40 meters) to record at sunrise. I’m still accustomed to my night teaching schedule, my face shows it!
Here is an orphaned chachalaca baby bird being cared for and fed by a Trumpeter. My environmental science textbook discusses chachalacas as an alternative food source in the biodiversity chapter. I love saying this little bird’s name, students crack up!