Week 4 is complete and with it, the first leg of HICEAS 2010 for the Oscar Elton Sette. Good times were had by all!
First things first: when I left off last time I was in the finals for the dart tournament, and I’m happy to say that I am now the HICEAS OES leg 1 champion!
Ok, enough of that. This week was fairly straightforward. We had remarkably calm weather for most of this week which was a welcome surprise and also probably had something to do with a pretty good sighting rate. Here are some highlights:
Sunrises in the middle of the ocean can be quite spectacular.
Pygmy killer whales can be pretty sneaky. There are a lot of cetaceans out here that need to get the memo that if they just surrender immediately and let us get our photos and biopsies we’ll leave them alone. Otherwise we’ve got to chase them around and nobody likes pictures of splashes and dolphin butts.
We had a couple of red-footed boobies roost on the jackstaff and elsewhere on the ship. While cute and fun to watch, they poop and barf and make whatever surface that’s under them quite disgusting. The spikes are a somewhat unsuccessful deterrent but Ernesto is definitely a threat.
We came across another Bryde’s whale working a baitball along large yellowfin tuna and somewhere around 750 seabirds.
Bottlenose dolphins usually make for satisfying sightings because they’re big, slow, and like to ride the bow. They’re easy pickings for bow biopsy shots.
We also finally got our first Pseudorca sighting! These are the highest priority species for the entire cruise so we were pretty excited. We tried out our new protocol which had acoustics and visual teams working together to make sure we counted all subgroups (spread out over ~50 square miles), then we launched the small boat and proceeded to clean up with biopsies, photographs, and satellite tag deployments.
Here’s a group of spinner dolphins close to Ni’ihau (that’s Kauai in the distance in one of the photos). These guys were under a “chicken ranch” of about 1,500 boobies, shearwaters, terns, frigates, petrels, noddies, and other birds.
We also had a sighting of Risso’s dolphins and a couple sightings of striped dolphins but none of them were very friendly.
Since the weather was so good for most of the leg we never used up our weather days, so we had time to go to the Kona coast and pick up/deploy a HARP.
Sunsets are as spectacular as sunrises.
The final score for Leg 1 for the birders was 39 species. The mammal team had 97 sightings of 14 species, took ~70 biopsies, and somewhere around 7,300 photographs. We also rescued one entangled sea turtle and collected three glass balls. Go Team!
We get to Honolulu on Thursday morning and then I’m off to Kauai for a few days of surfing, relaxing, and a beer or two. There’s a big NW swell out there and Hanalei bay is calling…