You might think that getting up at 6 (4 a.m. UK time) would seem daunting but with the possibility of viewing wild dolphins, the time presented no obstacle. Already warm at that time of day, we piled into the research van, opened every window and headed off to Kàlamos, 1 hour away from our current research station.
Jumping into the inflatable boat, we maintained our ‘positive’ position (which just basically means, eyes alert and searching for dolphins). As dolphins can be rare in this area, we followed no set map, but rather scanned the sea for any possible non-human movement. As common dolphins no longer visit this area, our hope laid in finding bottlenose dolphins. I will have to admit (shhhh don’t tell Joan or Ioannis) that I was mesmerised by the view and at times forgot what I was suppose to be looking for. Beautiful rolling hills and clear water – an absolute paradise!
Almost an hour in, Sho, our fellow teammate from Japan and studying to be a vetrinarian, caught the first sighting. I guess I don’t have to tell you how excited everyone was and how difficult it was to stay seated. No fear though, as we met up with a group of almost 20 dolphins! And wait for it, not the expected Bottlenose Dolphins and not even the Common dolphins that use to visit the area – oh no. A rare species, only sighted once before in this area…the Striped Dolphin! Well, Joan was ever so excited, never mind us, and two zoom lens cameras came out with calls to record, record!
Now those of you who hate ‘recording’ in Science, may begin to see its value as these are new to the area and we needed proof. At 9:18 I, with the help of Ioannis, began recording the behaviour of our new ‘friends,’ every 5 minutes. Mostly, they travelled in a straight path, but often visited the front of the boat to ‘bow ride’ (play in front of us). They occasionally ‘socialized’ (rubbed against each other) and jumped out of the water. When their body is part way out of the water it is called ‘percussive’ behaviour and when it is fully out of the water it is called Ariel. Look at how close we got to them! Can you notice the sea? What number do you think it was on the Beaufort scale? Miss Gilingham recording, Mrs James watching location and Ioannis timing
Photo with permission fro Tethys Research Institute
Video from Miss Gillingham
Now we are back at the research station, and will begin to look through Joan’s photos for unique markings on the dorsal fin of these dolphins. Hopefully, we can start a data base to keep track of how often they are found here. I wonder what we should call them? Do you know of any good names for a dolphin? Photo with permission from Tethys Research Institute