Cape Verde 2006: Third expedition update

7th Mar 2006 We sailed south from Boa Vista to Maio on March 2nd without any sightings, but the following day the 3rd was to see our 2nd encounter as skipper Joe Aston picked up some activity ahead of us. We spent the next two hours with this group of 3 humpbacks, in what can only be described as challenging conditions! Taking pictures of fast moving animals, prone to sudden directional changes is in itself frustrating, but add to this the deadly trio of strong winds, an unstable platform and frequent waves breaking over the bow and you begin to appreciate just how difficult working with these animals in the Cape Verde can be and goes some way to explain why so few cetacean researchers have worked on humpbacks in these waters; preferring the calmer Caribbean waters on the other side of the pond they call the Atlantic. That said we did secure our 2nd photo ID image and if we can obtain one such image for each humpback encounter we'll be doing ok.

March 4th..We left Maio at 1st light for deep water in search of sperm whale recordings, but they proved illusive for Ricardo Antunes our Portuguese researcher, but on our way back in shallow waters we did encounter another 2 humpbacks one of whom breached repeatedly out of the water, providing wonderful views of what must surely be one of the most spectacular sights in the animal kingdom. We obtained our 3rd photo ID image during this encounter.

March 5th, was our last day around Maio and although we had many interesting sightings of a diversity of species, we unfortunately obtained no Photo ID images. But during the day we did have sightings of loggerhead turtle, one distant humpback whale and both Rough toothed and short-snouted spinner dolphins, which were a new species for most of us Cape Verde virgins. The longer we are here the more apparent it's becoming that these waters can be best typified as being of “high diversity but low abundance”.

March 6th was one of those bizarre days where our plans changed as frequently as the depth contours in these waters. We left Maio with a view to crossing over the deep waters to our west that would bring us to the island of Santiago, but after a brain storming by the combined brains of expedition leader and skipper, it was decided that we'd give Santiago the skip and keep heading north back towards Sao Nicolau, which we left over a week ago. This decision was based our need to repair a damaged anchor and to both refuel and refill on drinking water.

This plan was on paper a good one, but meant we had a fairly torrid time getting to our destination, which was an 80 mile trip across some very exposed waters which offered no protection from the prevailing north easterly which produced a swell, that really tested our sea legs. This was our first night-time passage, and meant we had to work in shifts at the helm and on watch. Throughout the long transect Ricardo detected sperm whales acoustically on the hydrophone (underwater microphone) and interestingly could establish from the lower click rate and metallic “clanging” characteristics that one of them was an adult male, which is noteworthy, as most sperm whales found in these latitudes are females and juveniles, the adult males having a preference for higher latitudes.

We arrived into Tarrafal at around 05:00am, everyone feeling suitably wrecked after the bashing we received during the night. There is a sense that the 1st leg of this expedition is drawing to a close as in a few days we'll be losing skipper Joe Aston, and film maker Tony Whelan, both of whom fly home on Saturday from Sal. No doubt the lads coming out to replace them: Fiacc, Mick, Jim and Liam are packed and psyching themselves for the adventur

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