In the morning, our guests had a very nice encounter with a group of Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), which moved full of energy towards Funchal. The animals were interested in us, and there were quite a few situations in which the animals surfed in the bow wave of the boat. After this very energetic interaction, we had a completely opposite experience. Blainville’s beaked whales (Mesoplodon densirostris) roamed the sea calmly. In this small group of four animals, there was a whale calf who stayed by mother’s side. No matter how different these two situations were, both had a wonderful quality.
In the afternoon the situation developed dramatically, tense, exciting. We saw a school of Pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus) that were in the company of some Bottlenose dolphins. In the first sequence of observation, the animals dived quickly. When we saw them appear some distance away after about 15 minutes, we slowly approached. But as we approached, it became clear that something special was happening here. One animal was floating on the surface of the sea, while the other group members blocked us and various animals made syphops (lifting their heads out of the water). I have only experienced such an intense situation once. On that day, the members of the group Pilot whales blocked off a mother with her dead calf to give her the room to grieve. Fortunately, there was no dead calf to be seen today. The animal, floating strangely on the surface, began to move normally after a while. In one photo, you can clearly see the very extensive belly of the animal. So I assume that we got into a situation where a birth was imminent. The rest of the group tried to isolate the mother from us. The cover photo of today’s blog shows a Pilot whale doing a spyhop while the mother can be seen in the background.
When a dolphin is born, the group protects the expectant mother. Female Pilot whales have a calf every 3-4 years. Their gestation period is 14 months. Unlike us humans, a calf is born with the caudal fin first. After a while we left the observation situation. In the next few days, we will definitely be on the lookout for a little Pilot whale calf! So there were maybe two birthdays today. Marion on board celebrated her special day and possibly the offspring of the Pilot whales too.
Then there was another special event because two Tropical whales (Balaenoptera edeni) roamed the sea. In one situation one of them approached and swam close, very close along Ribeira Brava.
What a special day!!
By Fatima Kutzschbach
Sightings of the day
10:00 Bottlenose dolphins, Blainville’s beaked whales
15:00 Pilot whales, Bottlenose dolphins, Tropical whales