After long two weeks of not being at sea I spent my drive to work contemplating on what could await us out on the Atlantic today. On the few trips we had due to the pandemic in the last month we had encountered some groups of Short-beaked common dolphins (Delphinus delphis) and Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). As I arrived in Calheta, for some inexplicable reason, I thought of Sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus). How fantastic would that be?
Sperm whales are, of course, one of the most majestic animals you could ever meet. They break several of the finest records in the animal kingdom; they belong to the deepest known divers, are the largest toothed predator alive and have the largest brain on our planet. Who wouldn’t want see them? Perhaps that explains the hunch I had of seeing Sperm whales today. The species is also no doubt also perfect proof of how things can dramatically improve. Until the mid-1980s they were hunted in the waters of the archipelago, an exploitation that contributed to a massive decrease in the populations roaming the Atlantic. Protective measures and research eventually lead to the gradual recovery of populations, which means that nowadays more animals arrive in larger groups in the islands waters…and to be admired rather than pursued.
Everything that happens, positive or negative, gives human beings the notion of believing in a “bigger plan”. The world around us struggles with a pandemic and we have faith that we’d come out of it stronger and better. People are separated for large amounts of time but tell themselves that their relationship will only grow stronger. We go out whale-watching and dream big; maybe we’ll see dolphins..or maybe a large whale? Thus, it could also be that my hunch came from believing that, perhaps, during these especially difficult times, the Atlantic just might surprise us with a whale.
Whatever the source of my hunch may have been, the first encounter with a group of Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) made me forget all about it. The joy at seeing these animals again and sharing that with our guests was lovely. Every encounter with any of these wonderful marine creatures proves what an incredible place our ocean is and how it deserves to be protected.
Just as I had embraced these feelings of gratitude, Daniel turned the boat out to the open ocean and I knew. “Sperm whales” he said and I smiled out at the generous Atlantic as I prepared to share this experience with some excited guests.
By Paula Thake
Sightings of the day
10:00 Bottlenose dolphins, Sperm whales