Our Second Quarantine Expedition – 14/5/20

Despite restrictions in the Azores for whale watching, we could go out to test the waters without costumers thanks to Biosphere Expeditions and Lisa Steiner. Just the crew and Lisa on the boat.

At 9 we met and 20 minutes later we leave the Marina. The day? Rainy. The Ocean? Flat. Pretty much a typical Azorean day… The lookouts were scanning the South of Faial and Pico islands. Rain and no blows. In the North of Faial the weather looks slightly better so Northwards we go.

First stop about 3.7 miles from Faial’s shoreline to drop the directional hydrophone. Pedro says “It’s like a noise behind the wall”. Two more miles towards THE noise and we drop the hydrophone again… But now what we hear is a phone tone… The lookout from the South of Pico saying that he’s spotted two baleen whales. What do we do? Lisa, as the voice of Biosphere Expeditions decides that we stay, they are interested on photo identification of Sperm whales. And for Pedro… if you know him “Baleen whales are not Sperm whales.”

The search continues and the South of the islands now has a dense fog, so we are glad to stay in the North. We drive around the North of Faial, between the channel with Pico, towards São Jorge… Hydrophone, move. Hydrophone, move. We have been a long time on the boat. We are ready to spend the whole day on the zodiac but the mood is fading… Will it be one of those days in which you leave the harbor with high hopes and you can’t spot a single whale? But Pedro is still cheerful. He has the feeling. Sometimes it seems a bit mystic. Two more miles… And suddenly, BLOW! Pretty close. First whale, tail and dive. We collect the data and Pedro drops the hydrophone. CLICK, CLICK, CLICK. São Jorge’s direction, so off we go. And hydrophone again. We hear them very close. And again… two more Sperm whales: Mom and calf. Dive, picture, data. Good news to see healthy offspring! Hydrophone again… they are behind us, very close and again, blow. And again, 4 sightings already.

Calculating the diving times, we know that one of the Sperm whales that we have seen should be at the surface soon, so we start looking for it. And we spot it: a female. She dives and 14 minutes later the pair of the female with the calf surfaces again. We are surrounded, we see one blow 500 meters away, the whale dives, we see another blow… It is a non-stop. The same whales but seen many times.

At 13:30h we start heading back to the harbour and at 13:55h we arrive with a track of 42 miles. Long journey but 100% worth it.

-Marta and Maria from Azores Experiences

Pictures taken by Marta

Thanks to https://www.biosphere-expeditions.org and Lisa Steiner

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